Two NFC playoff teams from a year ago will square off on Thursday Night Football this week as the Vikings travel to Los Angeles to play the Rams. Thursday night's game marks the Vikings first trip to Los Angeles since they faced the Raiders in 1993 and their first game against the Rams in Southern California since 1992.
Here are five storylines to watch in this week's Vikings-Rams matchup.
1. Vikings look to rebound versus undefeated Rams
No one thought the Vikings could lose to Buffalo. But they did. Now, no one thinks they can beat the Rams. But they'll try. After an uncharacteristic performance last week against the Bills that resulted in a lopsided 27-6 loss, the Vikings will try to right the ship against the Rams, albeit under tough circumstances. They'll attempt to do so on the road on a short week against a team averaging 34.0 points per game and allowing 12.0 points per game.
2. Familiarity between Vikings QB, Rams head coach adds interesting wrinkle to matchup
The relationship between a quarterback and his head coach is analyzed frequently. In this year's Vikings-Rams matchup, though, it's the relations between Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins and the head coach of the adversary that bears mention. Cousins spent the first six seasons of his career with the Washington Redskins, where he worked with current Rams Head Coach Sean McVay for the first five seasons. McVay was the Redskins tight ends coach from 2011-13 and then was the offensive coordinator from 2014-16. Those three seasons coordinating the Redskins offense put McVay in a position to learn everything about Cousins, and vice versa. Both men will use their shared experiences this week to help their teams prepare for Thursday's game.
3. Plenty of star power on the injury report
The Vikings started their Week 3 contest without important contributors Dalvin Cook, Everson Griffen, David Morgan and Marcus Sherels, then they saw Rashod Hill, Sheldon Richardson and Trae Waynes all leave the game with injuries. The status of all those players plus others bears monitoring on a short week. For the Rams, both starting cornerbacks – Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib – are among the players who will be listed on this week's injury report. The short week gives each team less time to recover and the travel schedule adds another layer of difficulty for the Vikings.
4. Thielen looks to continue hot start
It's been an uneven start for the Vikings, who enter Week 4 with an unusual 1-1-1 record. There's been nothing uneven about Adam Thielen's three-game run to open 2018, though. Through three games, Thielen has 32 receptions for 338 yards and a touchdown. His 338 yards rank second in the NFL and also ranks second in Vikings history for most receiving yards through the first three games of a season, while his 32 receptions ranks third all-time in NFL history for receptions through the opening three games of a season behind New Orleans' Michael Thomas (38 in 2018) and Atlanta Julio Jones (34 in 2015). The injuries to Peters and Talib will not help the Rams in their charge to cool off the red hot Thielen.
5. Elflein getting closer to full-time return
Vikings center Pat Elflein made his 2018 debut on Sunday against Bills and called his appearance a step in the right direction on Monday. Elflein, an all-rookie performer in 2017, was inactive for the first two games of the season as he finished recovering from ankle and shoulder injuries sustained last season. He played in 22 snaps against Buffalo, sharing time with recently-acquired Brett Jones.