When the Minnesota Vikings hired Los Angeles Rams Offensive Coordinator and Sean McVay understudy Kevin O’Connell, many wondered how effective Minnesota could play in a Rams style system. While still very early in the season, the Vikings looked right at home in the new systems, dominating the rival Green Bay Packers 23-7. Both offensively and defensively, Minnesota looked like they’d been playing under O’Connell for years. Which begs the question, is this Vikings roster talented enough to win a Super Bowl like the Rams did? Let’s go down the two teams’ roster, position by position, and see just how this Vikings team stacks up in comparison to the Rams, and if it has the potential to be better. (Note: We will be looking at the Rams roster DURING their Super Bowl run, so certain players may not or are no longer on the team.)
Quarterback: Matthew Stafford vs Kirk Cousins
From 2017-2020 (his last four years in Detroit), Matt Stafford threw for 14,806 passing yards, 95 passing touchdowns, and 36 interceptions, with a QBR of 96.8 down that stretch. Then in one season under McVay, Stafford exploded for 4,886 yards, 41 touchdowns, and a QBR of 102.9. So when looking at Kirk’s time in Minnesota before O’Connell, the numbers are promising. From 2018-2021, Kirk threw for 16,387 yards, 124 touchdowns and 36 interceptions, garnering a QBR of 103.5. Stafford and Cousins are coming from very similar situations, where their stats were never the problem, rather their ability to win games. McVay helped turn Stafford into a winner, and I think O’Connell will do the same for Cousins. However, based purely on the number, Cousins is the better QB.
Running Back: Darrell Henderson/Cam Akers vs Dalvin Cook
This section will be brief, as the Rams essentially didn’t have a run game in 2021, especially in the postseason. The Rams rushed for only 1,683 yards in the regular season and could only muster 326 rushing yards between four playoff games. Dalvin Cook on the other hand rushed for 1,159 yards in only 13 games last season. The benefit of having a ground game could potentially make this Vikings offense a lot more dynamic and a lot better than the Rams offense, making this an obvious advantage for the Vikes.
Pass Catchers: Kupp/Beckham Jr./Higbee vs. Jefferson/Thielen/Smith Jr.
We’re gonna focus on just three pass catchers for each team, but just know this group is a lot deeper for both teams. Kupp obviously had a monster 2021, winning the triple crown, but Beckham and Higbee should not be overlooked. Beckham might not have gotten as many looks as Kupp, but he made every catch count, especially in the playoffs. Higbee had a respectable season, and served as a safety valve for Stafford that he rarely used. Looking at the Vikings, the roles align fairly the same. Jefferson has been breaking records since he entered the league in 2020, and is posed to put up Kupp like numbers in O’Connell’s offense (9 catches, 184 yards, 2 TD against Green Bay Week One). Thielen is a veteran receiver just like Beckham, who consistently puts up good numbers, especially in the red zone, where Thielen has made a living the past few years. Irv Smith Jr. is the biggest question mark. The former second round pick has flashed his athleticism out of the Tight End position, but missed all of 2021 due to injury, and had no catches to start the 2022 season. If Smith can stay healthy and productive, he will add another weapon to a loaded vikings offense, but for the time being, the Rams group is more complete.
Offensive Line: Rams vs Vikings
This is definitely a position where the Rams only gain the advantage because of last year’s team. So far to begin the season, the Rams o-line looks abysmal, as Matthew Stafford was sacked seven times in the Rams Thursday night loss to the Buffalo Bills. That being said, the Vikings still give the Rams a run for their money. Brian O’Neil is a Pro Bowl right tackle, Ezra Cleavland and Christain Darrisaw look like young stars in the making, and Ed Ingram has already made a huge impact as a rookie. The one uncertainty on Minnesota’s line is center Garret Bradbury, who had his 5th year option declined after many struggles ever since entering the league. While this unit looked good for the Vikings on Sunday, only allowing one sack and creating plenty of running room, I think because of their youth and inexperience, the Rams would have the advantage.
Nose Tackle: Aaron Donald vs Harrison Phillips
Edge Rushers: Leonard Floyd/Von Miller vs Za’darius Smith/Denielle Hunter
Floyd and Miller filled their role perfectly for the Rams last year, which was a distraction for Aaron Donald. So while only racking up 9.5 and 5.0 sacks respectively, they made it hard for teams to double Donald without allowing themselves to hit the quarterback. Smith and Hunter on the other hand are the players doing the disrupting, and they did a damn good job of it on Sunday. Not only did Smith and Hunter each have a sack, but they flushed Aaron Rodgers out of the pocket multiple times allowing other teammates to get to the QB for a sack. The question with these two is health, but assuming they can stay on the field, this is the better duo.
Inside Linebackers: Troy Reeder vs Eric Kendricks
The Rams never really got this position hammered out, with Reeder sharing time with Kenny Young and even Leonard Floyd occasionally playing inside. Kendricks on the other hand is an All-Pro level talent, and he will be joined by J.J. Hicks as the other inside linebacker. Both had impressive outings in Week One, with Hicks getting home for a sack on Aaron Rodgers and Kendricks having some critical plays in the passing game. The vikings have the clear advantage.
Corners: Jalen Ramesy/David Long/Nick Scott vs Patrick Peterson/Cam Dantzler/Chandon Sullivan
The Rams have another fairly obvious advantage here. Jalen Ramesy is arguably the best corner in the game, and Long and Scott had nice seasons as well. The Viking corners on the other hand have not been as good. Pat Pete definitely showed his age last year, and Cam Dantzler clearly wasn’t quite ready to be a starter. But so far, the corners have been good, containing an always dangerous air attack for the Packers. However, Ramesy is far and away the best player for either of these groups, giving the Rams a leg up.
Safeties: Jordan Fuller/Taylor Rapp vs Harrison Smith/Cam Bynum
Rapp tied Ramesy for the team lead in INT’s with 4, and added 94 combined tackles. Fuller had 113 combined tackles. Smith made 114 combined tackles with 1 INT and 3 sacks. Bynum only started late in the season, but had 28 combined tackles and 1 INT. Everyone here is coming off a respectable season, but I think Harrison Smith being the overall best player elevates the Vikings safety group. Smith won’t be used as a pass rusher as much as we are used to seeing, but if he can prove that he’s effective in pass defense, that would really elevate the entire Vikings defense, and he already had 1 pick in the Vikings opener.
Kicker/Special Teams: Matt Guy/Rams ST vs Greg Joseph/Vikings ST
Matt Gay is a good kicker. So is Greg Joseph. Both have had their fair share of triumph and of blunder. But if training camp reports are to be believed, and so far they seem right, Joseph took a huge step forward this year, and the kicker went 2/2 on FGs Sunday, including a 58-yard bomb. The Vikings also had the advantage in the return game with the emergence of returner Kene Nwangu. After beefing up the punt return game with the addition of Jalen Reagor, I think the Vikings definitely have a solid special teams unit.
Overall, the Vikings have a slight advantage. That being said, the point of this analysis wasn’t to predict who would win in this hypothetical matchup, instead to see if this Vikings team had a similar makeup to the Super Bowl champs. And after looking at each of these roster, the Vikings most definitely match up on paper, even slightly better in a few areas. Now it is up to the players and the coaching staff to take the talent and put it all together.