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Rams, Vikings enter key matchup off short weeks

Sportsnaut
Dec 21, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) throws the ball against the Seattle Seahawks in the second half at SoFi Stadium. The Rams defeated the Seahawks 20-10. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 21, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) throws the ball against the Seattle Seahawks in the second half at SoFi Stadium. The Rams defeated the Seahawks 20-10. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings face a short week as they prepare for a big game with playoff implications, but they won’t be getting any sympathy cards from their upcoming opponent, the Los Angeles Rams.

The Vikings played on Monday night this week, while the Rams took the field for a rare Tuesday night affair, leaving both teams scrambling to get ready for their Sunday tilt in Minneapolis.

Minnesota (7-7) has won consecutive games since losing to the then-winless Detroit Lions. The Vikings defeated the Chicago Bears 17-9 on Monday in a less-than-inspiring performance against one of the NFC’s more anemic teams.

The Vikings produced just 193 total yards against Chicago and converted only 5 of 17 third downs. They cashed in on three Bears fumbles to stay in the thick of the NFC playoff picture. Entering the weekend, Minnesota is tied with the Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints for the conference’s seventh and final playoff spot.

“I think we have work (to do),” Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “I think there is a lot to improve upon. We’re playing three really good opponents up ahead. We’re probably going to need everyone, so there is not a lot of room for error and we have to tighten the screws here and play our best football down the stretch.”

The good news for the Vikings is that two of their final three regular-season games are at home. The bad news is that the Rams (10-4) have won three straight to move into a tie with the Arizona Cardinals atop the NFC West. Los Angeles can clinch a playoff berth this weekend with a win over Minnesota (or with a loss to the Vikings plus help elsewhere).

Cooper Kupp hauled in nine catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns on Tuesday in the Rams’ 20-10 triumph over the Seattle Seahawks. He has 10 straight games with at least 90 receiving yards, and he leads the league by a large margin with both 122 catches and 1,625 receiving yards.

“He’s a great player, (and) he’s having a fantastic season,” said Los Angeles quarterback Matthew Stafford, who has 11 touchdown passes in the past four games. “He’s such a huge part of what we do as a team, not only on offense.

“I’m just happy that I get a chance to play with a guy like that. I know a lot of other guys on our team feel the same way. We’re just proud of him, watching him do his thing.”

The Stafford-Kupp connection could be in line for a big day against a Vikings defense that allows 252.1 passing yards per game — fourth most in the NFL.

Additionally, Los Angeles will be getting right tackle Rob Havenstein back from COVID-19 protocols after he missed the Seattle game.

Minnesota might have the services of wideout Adam Thielen (ankle) on Sunday, although he did not participate in Wednesday’s walkthrough. Cousins (ribs) was a limited participant, as well, while running back Dalvin Cook (shoulder) was a full participant.

The Vikings lead the all-time series 22-15-2 and had won five in a row against the Rams before falling 38-31 in September 2018. Kupp racked up nine catches for 162 yards and two scores in that contest.

–Field Level Media