Game Predictions & Player Projections - MIN vs STL

Game Predictions & Player Projections - MIN vs STL


Game Predictions & Player Projections - MIN vs STL


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Prediction: MIN 20, STL 23 (Line: STL by 5)

Both teams are coming off bad seasons. The 5-10-1 Vikings were an impressive 0-7-1 on the road last year. The 7-9 Rams were 5-3 at home but did recently lose their starting quarterback in an offense already considered shaky. But the Rams bring a formidable defense to bear in a home game and that should be just enough to start the year out right.

Minnesota Vikings

1 @STL —– 10 BYE —–
2 NE —– 11 @CHI —–
3 @NO —– 12 GB —–
4 ATL —– 13 CAR —–
5 @GB —– 14 NYJ —–
6 DET —– 15 @DET —–
7 @BUF —– 16 @MIA —–
8 @TB —– 17 CHI —–
9 WAS —–  
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The Vikings start anew with the Bengals old defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer now leading the show in Minnesota. He tabbed Norv Turner to run the offense and that usually brings good things to bear for running backs and tight ends if not the entire team. But the personnel remained the same other than drafting Teddy Bridgewater with their 1.32 pick.

Christian Ponder dropped to #3 on the depth chart – likely a very prudent move – and Matt Cassel is the starting quarterback for now. Bridgewater is a rookie but he was genuinely impressive in preseason and will become the starter at some point. That makes Cassel a lame duck of sorts but expect Bridgewater to get the call once the season starts to head the wrong way. Maybe earlier.

Adrian Peterson was limited to only 1266 rush yards and 11 touchdowns because he was not coming off major knee surgery apparently. Peterson now becomes yet another study under Turner who has also worked with Emmitt Smith, LaDainian Tomlinson, Ricky Williams and Frank Gore. At 29 years old, Peterson is certain to hit the wall at some point soon but seems ready for at least one more monster season.

The same set of receivers are back but not using Ponder is like an upgrade all the same. Greg Jennings first year in Minnesota ended with 68 catches for 804 yards and four scores. Cordarrelle Patterson was the 2013 first round pick but only managed 469 yards on 45 catches with four scores last year during the musical chairs at quarterback. He added 12 runs for 158 yards and three more touchdowns. The team is very optimistic that Patterson will have a breakout season in 2014 and with the quarterback change it is certainly possible. He has all the physical size and skills needed and now a season of learning NFL defenses. Notable too was his scoring three times over the final four weeks.

Jerome Simpson will play as the #3 but has been suspended for three games and allows Jarius Wright to fill his spot at least in the interim.

Turner has a history of success with tight ends and that gives promise to Kyle Rudolph. He already broke out in 2012 when he scored nine touchdowns on his 53 catches for 493 yards but last year fell back to just three touchdowns and 313 yards. Rudolph is 6-6 and has lost some weight to become a better receiver. That doesn’t mean he’s a lock to be the next Antonio Gates but it should mean he will be more productive and has upside to do something special in this offense.

MATCH TO THE DEFENSE: All new offensive scheme means the first road game is likely to be a challenge particularly against a solid defense like the Rams. No quarterback passed for more than two scores there last year and only top talent had more than 200 pass yards. But the rushing defense was weak and that is where the Vikings live anyway. Always start Peterson and this venue is not as bad as it may seem for him. The passing game elements are tougher to recommend. The Rams were very tough on tight ends all year and gave up just 260 yards to over eight home games to the position. Better games will be coming down the road but this is a tough start for a team that hasn’t traveled well.

Gaining Fantasy Points MIN 24 13 15 18 15 20
Preventing Fantasy Points STL 10 27 14 2 3 13

St. Louis Rams

1 MIN —– 10 @ARI —–
2 @TB —– 11 DEN —–
3 DAL —– 12 @SD —–
4 BYE —– 13 OAK —–
5 @PHI —– 14 @WAS —–
6 SF —– 15 ARI —–
7 SEA —– 16 NYG —–
8 @KC —– 17 @SEA —–
9 @SF —–  
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The Rams come off a 7-9 season and were ready to go to war with mostly the same crew from 2013. Tre Mason was the rookie running back that was added and Kenny Britt came over from Tennessee where he finally wore out his welcome after seasons of injury. Just when the offensive shelves looked stocked, Sam Bradford is lost for the season with a knee injury. And this has not been a very good offense with him.

That sent the Rams scrambling but finding no one – gasp! – that attractive in free agency. They are now relying on Shaun Hill who is on his fourth NFL team at the age of 34 and in his 14th year, he has only two seasons in the past where he played either nine of 11 games. In the last three years he has thrown only 16 passes. HC Jeff Fisher says he is committed to Hill but mostly from a lack of alternatives. Austin Davis is the #2 quarterback but has no NFL experience in his two previous years in the league.

That has to cast a negative light on what seemed to be a slightly improved set of receivers. Chris Givens and Brian Quick both garnered accolades while in camp and Kenny Britt seemed to impress until the pads went on (standard for Britt). Tavon Austin was the 5-8, 175 lb. rookie who never remotely looked like the top of the wide receiver class with just 40 catches for 418 yards and four scores. He’s said to be understanding defenses better now and looking more refined in that way they always say about early draft picks that are struggling.

At tight end, Jared Cook blew up for 141 yards and two scores in the season opener and then did almost nothing else the rest of the way. This has the look of another year of sub-standard passing from the Rams with an aging journeyman suddenly thrust into a starting quarterback role and a set of receivers who seem far better in potential and in practice than they end up in actual games.

The lone bright spot from 2013 was Zac Stacy who ran for 973 yards and seven scores after becoming the starter in week five last year. He added 26 catches for 141 yards and a score as well. Tre Mason came in as the Auburn stud who had all the pedigree to be a great back and came no where close to beating out Stacy for the job. Benny Cunningham even kept a firm grip on the #2 spot.

Stacy will once again get a heavy workload and four of his last five home games saw him receive at least 25 carries in each. There may be a lot of potential on this roster but until some one steps up, Stacy remains the only safe fantasy play from this offense.

MATCH TO THE DEFENSE: Fortunately this is a home opener and the Vikings defense was one of the very worst last season. Hill is too unknown to merit a fantasy start but at least the Vikes gave up a passing score (or four) in each game last year. Consider Stacy a strong play this week and a good shot at scoring. Beyond that is all unknown with the sudden loss of Bradshaw in an offense that already struggled.

Gaining Fantasy Points STL 28 24 28 4 21 2
Preventing Fantasy Points MIN 32 23 31 31 26 29

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