Here we are in week 15 and the Rams are still in the playoff hunt. I can honestly say that this was not on my radar screen at the beginning of the season. Under the coach favorite “take one game at a time” theory, this is an important one game. Currently there are nine teams with a better record than the Rams and only six teams make the playoffs. Minnesota is one of those teams. Therefore, a win today, moves us up one in the playoff position and that is all we can control.
Without looking ahead in any fashion, it should be noted that two of the teams ahead of the Rams in the playoff race play each other (Washington and Dallas). Barring a tie, that would be another team the Rams will pass by winning out. Finally, the last game against the season is against Seattle, who currently has a two game lead on the Rams in the playoff race. If they lose one game against San Francisco or the Bills, then there is a possibility of a “Win & UR In” situation in the last game of the season.
So what do the Rams need to do to win? This is one of the easier previews to write:
1. Control All Day All Game
We have played Frank Gore and Jackson/Spiller in the last two weeks and still controlled the run. However, Adrian Peterson is on another level this year. Moreover, there is no other team in the NFL that needs their running back as much as Minnesota. How important is Adrian Peterson? Minnesota is 3rd in the NFL in rushing yards per game, and Adrian Peterson has almost all of the rushing yards. The only two teams above Minnesota in total rushing yards are the two teams that have a rushing game and a rushing quarterback.
When Minnesota isn’t rushing they are not doing much. They are last in the NFL in passing offense. They average 172.6 yards a game passing, which is only 16 yards a game above their rushing average.
Thus, the plan is simple. If we keep AP to 100 yards or less, the Vikings should end up with less than 300 total yards. This should lead to a victory as long as we don’t blow any of the following factors.
As a final note, I will ask all fans to watch our tackles. The Vikings have run the same play for a large gain in each of the last three games. It looks like a sweep, but Peterson cuts back through a hole that is generally created inside the tackle. The best way to stop that play is to have the end keep contain and have the tackles get off the block to stop Peterson as he is cutting back through the hole.
2. Pearson’s Product-Moment Correlation Coefficient (Turnovers)
We don’t need to win the turnover battle; we just need to stay even. Turnover differential has been proven to be a key factor in wins and losses in the NFL. If you don’t believe me try to read through all of this: http://www.scribd.com/doc/57023757/The-Correlation-Between-Turnover-Differential-and-Winning-in-the-National-Football-League . To give you a preview of this fascinating reading: “The Pearson’s product-moment correlation coefficient of .646 obtained from the two-tailed p-test, suggest a strong positive correlation among turnover differential and winning percentage.”
3. Pass/Run Ratio
The Vikings are fairly even on defense. They are 18th against the pass and 14th against the rush. For one of the first times this year, I do not care about the pass/run ratio. Everything will be dependent on the game circumstances. Some people may suggest that you have to run to keep Peterson off the field. I disagree. A short passing game also keeps the clock moving. The primary way to keep Peterson off the field is to keep moving the chains. Whatever is working to do that, I support it.
The Rams were amazing last week regarding penalties. They are at home this week, and they should be able to keep the penalties down. A key way to sustain drives is to avoid stupid penalties. Execution matters.