Perfect football weather remains with us as the Vikings play host to the Rams outdoors today. As we anticipate a battle between Adrian Peterson and Todd Gurley on the plastic tundra of TCF Bank Stadium, here are six bold predictions.
MATT VENSEL, Vikings beat writer
No NFL running back is hotter right now than Rams rookie Todd Gurley, who has topped 100 rushing yards in four straight games. He is suddenly fifth in the league in rushing, not far behind Vikings star Adrian Peterson. But look for Peterson to pull away from Gurley, at least for this week. The Vikings will load up to shut down Gurley and take their chances with Rams quarterback Nick Foles. And once they get a lead, they will ride Peterson to victory. That’s why I think Peterson will end up getting twice as many rushing yards as Gurley, though the rookie will find the end zone.
MARK CRAIG, On The NFL columnist
Like he did in Green Bay in 2013 (18 tackles, one sack) and against the Bears last season (14 tackles), Audie Cole will lead the team in tackles while not looking out of place as a starting linebacker. The Vikings will use the home crowd to its advantage, pestering Nick Foles while protecting Teddy Bridgewater adequately in a 19-17 win.
CHIP SCOGGINS, columnist
Adrian Peterson and Todd Gurley spend the afternoon trying to one-up the other in a running back duel. The two combine for 300 yards rushing and four touchdowns. Vikings win on a field goal.
JIM SOUHAN, columnist
Todd Gurley rushes for 137 yards and two touchdowns as the Rams defensive line and running game make the difference. Rams win, 24-22.
MICHAEL RAND, Randball
Everyone is expecting this to be a grind-it-out game full of field goals and both teams scoring in the teens. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer alluded to it Friday, but sometimes the way we think a game is going to go ends up being the opposite of the reality. I think that happens Sunday, in a game that won’t quite be a shootout but will boost both teams well above 20 points.
CHRIS MILLER, sports team leader
Veteran columnist Sid Hartman took a moment from his busy schedule to stop by for a chat on Friday, during which he sternly lectured me on the distinct possibility of a Vikings defeat. His reasoning: a banged-up Vikings linebacker corps won’t be able to slow down Todd Gurley, and the Rams would be better offensively than any of us geniuses think. I’m going to boldly defy he who drinks from the fountain of youth and predict Audie Cole will have a pick-six of Nick Foles and the Vikings will win a squeaker.