The Rams might be without both of their top cornerbacks. But the Vikings won’t have Everson Griffen, and with Riley Reiff and Dalvin Cook both questionable for the game, they’ll have a tough time handling the Rams’ formidable front. Mike Zimmer will have his bunch fired up to beat the odds on the West Coast, but the Vikings will come up short.
THREE BIG STORY LINES
Lining up without Griffen
With Everson Griffen out for the game, the Vikings will try to slow down the NFL’s third-ranked offense without their most accomplished pass rusher. Stephen Weatherly, who had his first career sack Sunday, figures to start at left end once again.
Tough task for Elflein’s return
Center Pat Elflein will start for the first time this season, after returning from offseason shoulder and ankle surgeries. Elflein will face one of the league’s toughest defensive tackle tandems, with reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald lining up next to Ndamukong Suh.
Hitting the road on a short week
The Vikings have played a Thursday road game after a Sunday game in each of Mike Zimmer’s five seasons as head coach. They flew to California on Tuesday night to get used to the two-hour time difference before Thursday’s game.
TWO KEY MATCHUPS
Vikings LBs/DBs vs. Rams RB Todd Gurley
As much as running backs and tight ends have tested the Vikings’ coverage rules in the first three weeks of the season, containing Gurley in the passing game especially will be a challenge on Thursday. He has 11 catches for 121 yards this season, after catching 64 passes for 788 yards last year.
Vikings WR Stefon Diggs vs. Rams CB Sam Shields
With Aqib Talib heading to injured reserve this week, Diggs figures to see plenty of the former Packers corner, who started 12 games for Green Bay during Diggs’ rookie season. Injuries have limited the 30-year-old Shields to one start since that season.
ONE STAT THAT MATTERS
1-7 The record for teams from east of the Pacific Time zone, when playing a Thursday night game on the West Coast, since the league launched its Thursday package in 2006.
THE VIKINGS WILL WIN IF…
Kirk Cousins can rediscover his timing with Adam Thielen and Diggs after a rough game Sunday, the Vikings’ defense can show the same kind of mastery over Jared Goff it displayed last year and the team is prepared for the jarring effect of a West Coast night game.
THE RAMS WILL WIN IF…
Their secondary holds up with Talib out (and Marcus Peters questionable for the game), and their defensive front can exert its will on a Vikings offensive line that’s struggled this season and could be without Riley Reiff on Thursday.
Prediction: Rams 24, Vikings 20
Win Probability: 40 percent