A Christmas week trip to Minnesota sounds daunting for a warm-weather team like the Rams, but the beauty of U.S. Bank Stadium is that it is an indoor facility in downtown Minneapolis. That means the 30-degree temperatures and the wintry mix outside won’t have any bearing on what happens inside for this Week 16 contest against the Vikings.
It is still a long trip on a short week for the Rams, but the team is flying high after a couple of nice wins and has the chance to clinch a playoff spot.
Rams (-3, 49) at Minnesota Vikings, 10 a.m. PST, FOX
The next two weeks are going to be interesting for the Rams. They’ll face desperate opponents in the Vikings and Baltimore Ravens and have to travel long distances for those games.
The Vikings are clinging to the final wild-card spot in the NFC with a 7-7 record. Given that the Vikings have had a lead of seven or more points in 13 of 14 games, you could make a strong argument that they should be a lot better. Dalvin Cook was placed on the COVID-19 list Thursday afternoon, which is a big loss for Minnesota.
Cook’s potential absence means the Vikings probably will be throwing more. Kirk Cousins has a 29-6 TD/INT ratio and should get Adam Thielen back as his top complement to Justin Jefferson. Cook is a 1,000-yard rusher, but the Vikings rank seventh in Pass DVOA and 25th in Rush DVOA. They are much more effective on offense in the passing game and Cook’s absence will alter the game plan for this one, likely in a positive way.
Nobody has been able to cover Cooper Kupp, and a Vikings defense in the bottom half of the league in Pass DVOA defense probably won’t either. Between Kupp and Matthew Stafford, the Rams have a top-five pass offense. They’ve adjusted to the loss of Robert Woods with the addition of Odell Beckham Jr., who could return this week, and Van Jefferson, who had a touchdown in three consecutive games before being shut out last week.
Minnesota ranks third in red zone efficiency, but also 22nd on defense. The Rams are middle of the pack in both areas and could use some better returns. With two offenses that should move the ball through the air, plenty of points are a possibility in the climate-controlled environment.
Pick: Over 49
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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.