Vikings vs. Rams 2012 game preview: Rams, Vikings battle to keep playoff hopes alive

Jamie Squire

Sunday's game in St. Louis could have an elimination feel as the Rams and Vikings attempt to stay alive in the NFC playoff race.

The Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Rams are still in the NFC playoff picture, but Sunday's game in St. Louis may leave one team on the outside looking in.

If the 6-6-1 Rams lose on Sunday and teams ahead of them in the standings win, St. Louis could be eliminated from playoff contention. The 7-6 Vikings would still be alive with a loss to the Rams, but their chances of making the playoffs would take a major hit. With the stakes high for both teams, Sunday's contest could have the feel of an elimination game.

Meet the Rams

Three weeks ago, the Rams looked like they were on their way to a top-10 draft pick, but after three straight wins, St. Louis is still alive in the playoff race. They managed to keep those hopes going with a comeback 15-12 win against Buffalo last week. Sunday's game will be its final home game of the season.

While the Rams have stayed alive, it hasn't been easy. They've needed second-half comebacks in each of their last three wins. The Rams defense has played better during the recent winning streak as St. Louis has not allowed more than 17 points in any of the three games. The defense will likely need to continue to play well as St. Louis' offense is 28th in the league, averaging 18.2 points per game.

Meet the Vikings

After losing two straight games, the Vikings moved closer to contention with a key 21-14 win against the Chicago Bears. With games against Houston and Green Bay looming, Sunday's game in St. Louis could be pivotal. As he has been all season, Adrian Peterson will likely be the key for the Vikings on Sunday.

Peterson leads the NFL with 1,600 rushing yards and has been at his best in recent weeks. He's rushed for at least 100 yards in seven straight games. Peterson racked up 364 yards and three touchdowns over the last two weeks. With three games to go, Peterson has a chance to set the NFL single-season rushing record.

Local Takes: Rams

In previewing Sunday's game, Tyler Bishop of Turf Show Times took a look at how the teams have performed against common opponents. As his research shows, St. Louis has an advantage in most areas.

The numbers actually surprised me. Sam Bradford clearly makes me more comfortable than someone like Christian Ponder. The Rams have actually ran the ball more than the Vikings in these games. And finally, Greg Zuerlein - who was selected after Blair Walsh in the draft - has actually outperformed Walsh against common opponents. So while there is no doubt this will be a difficult game, the numbers cleary favor the Rams - just slightly - in 3 of the 4 major areas on the game.

Local Takes: Vikings

The Vikings are in need of a win Sunday and Eric J. Thompson of Daily Norseman broke down the formula for victory. Here's a hint, it involves a lot of Adrian Peterson.

Naturally, it all starts big heaping dose of Adrian Peterson. Then you sprinkle in a solid, opportunistic, bend-but-don't-break defense. Throw in sound special teams and a pinch of Christian Ponder competency*, and viola! An 8-6 record. (* = If you're out of this ingredient, just throw in a lot more AP. It can cover up a lack of competence, like it did last week.)

Follow the Fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Turf Show Times and Daily Norseman, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@TurfShowTimes

@DailyNorseman

@jthom1 - Rams beat writer

@StribDW - Vikings beat writer

Prediction

From the Week 15 picks:

Both teams have an outside shot at the playoffs. The real story in this game, though, is how many yards Adrian Peterson can pick up. He's at 1,600 right now, which means he needs to average roughly 134 yards per game the rest of the way to hit 2,000 yards. Or nearly 170 yards per game if he's trying to match Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record (2,105 yards).

The pick: 13-10, Vikings

Odds

The Rams opened as a 3-point favorite, although that number is down to as low as 1 point, according to the latest odds from OddsShark.

Next Week

The Rams will go back on the road next week to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Minnesota will also be on the road, traveling to Houston to face the Texans.

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