Los Angeles Rams
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Tough stretch will define Rams season
The Los Angeles Rams have easily been the surprise team in the NFL while winning seven of their first nine games to take over first place in the NFC West.
Now it's time to prove they are for real.
Over the next two weeks, the Rams play the similarly 7-2 Vikings in Minnesota and Saints at home at the Coliseum.
Beyond that, the Eagles come to town and the Rams travel to Arizona and Seattle.
That's a tough stretch any way you cut it.
And for the Rams, the litmus test of litmus tests.
"It's a good challenge for us to see where we are as a team," running back Todd Gurley said. "We want to be in the playoffs and right now if we keep doing what we're doing, we will. And these teams are going to be in the playoffs as well, so it's a great challenge for us to go to Minnesota.
"Those guys been playing lights out. (Quarterback) Case Keenum has been doing a great job. The Saints are doing great, Seattle is doing great, Philly. So, it doesn't matter who you're playing in this league. Whether you're playing the worst team or the best team, you have to bring it each week, because you never know what might happen."
That said, the Rams are all about one game at a time.
"If we don't get to our eighth win, then nothing else matters," Rams head coach Sean McVay said. "You kind of speak something into existence when you talk about it so often. You almost really do put blinders on, because of what a competitive, tough league this is, and how humbling.
"Certainly, you have an awareness of what is going on. That's not to say you don't know and pay attention to the other teams in this league, but all that really matters to us is, we're focused on Minnesota and how, against a really good football team, how we can find a way to get to 8-2."
Interestingly, the Rams will face a Vikings team being quarterbacked by their former -caller. Keenum started nine games for the Rams last year before giving way to then-rookie Jared Goff.
Keenum left as a free agent at the end of the season, and it's a rare case where everything worked out for everyone. Both Goff and Keenum have their teams playing well.
"I think he's a huge reason why they've been so productive offensively," McVay said of Keenum. "Whether it's him or Teddy (Bridgewater), you know you're going to be facing a very good quarterback, and that offense is playing really well behind (offensive coordinator Pat) Shurmur's leadership."
SERIES HISTORY: 38th regular-season meeting. Vikings lead series, 21-14-2. The Vikings have won four straight games over the Rams, including a 21-18 overtime win against the Rams in 2015, their last season in St. Louis.