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Vikings Keys to the Game: Week 16 vs. Los Angeles

The 7-7 Minnesota Vikings host the 10-4 Los Angeles Rams, who are on a three-game winning streak.
Credit: AP
Minnesota Vikings defensive end D.J. Wonnum (98) celebrates sacking Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff during an NFL football game in Detroit, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

MINNEAPOLIS — On Sunday, the 7-7 Minnesota Vikings host the 10-4 Los Angeles Rams, who are on a three-game winning streak. 

The Vikings' win over the Bears certainly wasn't pretty, and surely didn't inspire confidence in the fan base. Just look at the reactions to this tweet:

The win was their second in a row, and good enough to move the team into 7th, and final spot, in the NFC playoff picture. A slip up could mean losing out on their postseason hopes. It won't get any easier with the next two games against Los Angeles and at Green Bay. The Rams have weapons all over the field on both sides of the ball. The offense put up 332 yards against Seattle on Tuesday. That unit features Odell Beckham Jr. and NFL leading receiver Cooper Kupp. Von Miller, Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey form an All-Pro trio on the defense, so it could be a long day at the Bank Sunday.

Here are three keys to the game:

Get Kirk going. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins showed up on the injury report for the first time since 2013 with a rib injury after enduring four sacks against the Bears on Monday. Up until that game, the Vikings had allowed the second-fewest sacks in the league. The unit needs to get back to keeping Cousins clean to help him avoid another lackluster performance through the air. He only passed for 87 yards and threw one of the worst interceptions of the season – granted, Justin Jefferson fell down on the play, but it still looked like an arm punt – and Twitter had all the jokes. The Vikings offense looks strong when Cousins is playing confidently and aggressively taking shots down the field. They'll need the best version of Cousins to have a chance on Sunday.

Pressure Matthew Stafford. Before the Rams' three-game winning streak, they actually lost three in a row and quarterback Matthew Stafford looked average. He threw 5 interceptions during the skid and teams routinely put pressure in his face. Now that Stafford and that offense is humming again, the Vikings need to do what they've done so well this season: get after the quarterback. Stafford is no stranger to the guys in purple after playing for the Lions for 12 seasons. He's 8-13 in his career against Minnesota and was sacked 68 times during that stretch, which is the most by any of his opposing teams. After D.J. Wonnum's three-sack performance on Monday night, the Vikings still lead the league in sacks. Making Stafford uncomfortable will be the key to slowing down that all-world offense.

Be aggressive early and often. The Rams are really good, but they can be beat. We've seen the Vikings slow down and/or hang with big play offenses this season. We can point to games against the Chargers and Packers in back-to-back weeks. Minnesota needs to come out and play with that similar type of fire. Play to win. Don't play not to lose, because we've seen that strategy backfire several times in 2021. The Vikings have shown that they are talented enough to beat any team this season, while simultaneously showing they can lose to any team. Head coach Mike Zimmer and his staff will have to pull out their best coaching performances these last three games, and they can't afford to be conservative against the Rams. 

Adam Thielen is questionable for Sunday, but his return would give the sputtering offense a jolt.

Let's enjoy the action together. I'll be live tweeting from U.S. Bank Stadium. We'll have all of your game day coverage throughout the evening on KARE and make sure to stay up for Vikings Extra after Sunday Night Football.

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