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The Skinny Post: Vikings Facing High-Octane Rams

EAGAN, Minn. — This might be the toughest game on the Vikings challenging 2018 schedule.

Minnesota is on the road on a short week and will face one of the league's best teams tonight.

The Rams rank third in offensive net yards, sixth in defensive net yards, are tied for third in points for (34.0 per game) and lead the NFL in points against (12.0).

No sweat, right?

Minnesota is 1-1-1 on the season, and Los Angeles is the NFC's lone unbeaten team at 3-0.

Kickoff at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is scheduled for 7:20 p.m. (CT).

Here are three areas to watch in Thursday's contest, plus some noteworthy stats on both teams:

Can the Vikings start faster? | By @Eric_L_Smith

The Vikings got smacked in the mouth and couldn't respond last Sunday against the Bills.

Buffalo scored on its first three possessions, two of which came with the benefit of short fields, to race out to a 17-0 lead before some people had even settled into their seats at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Minnesota's offense couldn't stay on the field, and its defense couldn't get off the field in the first half. The Vikings special teams didn't provide a spark.

That's not the recipe for success for any team in the NFL, and a slow first quarter certainly won't cut it tonight against a high-powered Rams offense. Los Angeles is averaging 34.0 points and 439.3 yards per game.

The Vikings haven't led in a game since Week 1 against the 49ers. Thursday's nationally-televised game with the bright lights of Hollywood is the perfect chance for the Vikings to bounce back and show the league that they can get off the mat.

But they will need to weather the storm early.

Going without Griffen | By @LindseyMNSports

The Vikings defensive line will be without Everson Griffen, who is dealing with a personal matter and is away from the team.

Griffen, who was a non-participant in practice last week with a knee injury, did not play against the Bills, and Minnesota started Stephen Weatherly in his place. Weatherly is in line for his second career start at Los Angeles, with Danielle Hunter bookending. Second-year defensive end Tashawn Bower also is well-prepared, and the Vikings likely will be able to use a three-man rotation on the outside.

"Stephen Weatherly came in last week, and I thought he played well. I anticipate that he is going to continue to play well," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer told media members on Tuesday. "We'll have to move some pieces around, obviously, but we've always tried to make this a team where we play, count on one another, and play together. Injuries happen, you lose guys. We can't be 'woe is me' – you've got to go out and perform."

Trying to rev the run game | By @pcraigers

When the Vikings fell behind by 17 points after running just six offensive plays, they only handed off to a running back one time the rest of the game.

Kirk Cousins logged two rushes on scrambles in the second half, giving the Vikings six carries on the day, which tied an NFL record for the fewest by a team in a single game.

The imbalance created by the large deficit allowed Buffalo to sprint into the backfield and pressure Cousins frequently.

Dalvin Cook (hamstring) was listed as limited in Wednesday's session and is questionable for the game. Regardless of whether the second-year pro can go, the Vikings need to get the run game going against the Rams.

Minnesota has Latavius Murray, undrafted rookies Mike Boone and Roc Thomas and fullback C.J. Ham as options if Cook can't go or is limited.

Establishing the run can help Minnesota maintain balance and do better in time of possession to limit opportunities for the Rams high-flying offense.

Substantial Stats

— Adam Thielen has 32 receptions so far in 2018, which ranks third all-time in NFL history for the most receptions through the opening three games of a season behind Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (38 in 2018) and Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (34 in 2015).

— Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer's first career win came in Week 1 of the 2014 season. Zimmer is 3-0 in his career against the Rams.

— The Vikings have played the Rams seven times in the playoffs, which is tied with Dallas for the most playoff matchups in Minnesota's franchise history. The Vikings are 5-2 all-time in postseason play against the Rams.

— The Rams offense ranks first in the NFL with 41 first downs achieved, and are first in the league by having the lowest three-and-out percentage at 6.9 percent.

Quotable

"We didn't play good. I'm not one to sit up here and make excuses about things. A lot of things go on with a lot of teams and like we said all along, it's about how you handle it and how you go out and prepare and play."

— Zimmer on rebounding from Sunday's loss

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