NFL Power Rankings: Upstart Rams, Vikings battle in potential playoff preview

When the NFL schedule came out last April, who expected Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota Vikings to be a big game?

If you say it's you, I call liar.

Yet that's what we get this week in Minneapolis. Two of the NFC's best teams, two teams trying to stake a claim as the conference's best, go at it in what is the game of the week.

It is a game that features two teams in the top 10 of my Power Rankings this week, both with 7-2 records. So where were they in the rankings when the season began?

The Vikings were 21st in my rankings and the Rams were 26th, which shows you what the heck I know.

Both Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and Rams coach Sean McVay have done outstanding jobs with their teams. In his first year, McVay has taken a woeful offense and turned it into the league's top-scoring unit. Zimmer saw quarterback Sam Bradford and rookie runner Dalvin Cook both go down for the season with injuries, and all his team does is keep on winning.

I can't wait to watch the Rams offense against the Vikings defense, which is tied for fifth in scoring defense. But keep an eye on Case Keenum against the improving Rams defense.

Seeing the Rams at Vikings in a big game in November just doesn't seem right. Get used to it. I think we will see both of these teams as tough outs in the playoffs come January.

Biggest Movers
5 Buccaneers
5 Cowboys
Rk
Teams
 
Chg
Rcrd
1 Eagles They come off their bye with a big division game on the road against the Cowboys on Sunday night. If they win that, the division title is almost a lock. -- 8-1-0
2 Patriots They are getting back to looking like a Super Bowl return is certainly possible. Tom Brady is having an MVP season. -- 7-2-0
3 Steelers They have just four days to fix their issues from the Colts game. Where is the explosive offense? -- 8-2-0
4 Rams They continue to roll up big numbers on offense. That unit faces a major test at Minnesota this week. -- 7-2-0
5 Saints They have won seven straight games and clearly are in the conversation as the NFC's best team. The defense is for real. -- 7-2-0
6 Vikings If Case Keenum can continue to put up good numbers, like he did against the Redskins, they can beat anybody. The Rams are a nice challenge this week. -- 7-2-0
7 Chiefs They come off a much-needed bye. Their fast start has faded by losing three of four. They need to pick it up on defense. 1 6-3-0
8 Panthers They got the offense going against the Dolphins and head to the bye feeling much better about their team. The defense is nasty. 1 7-3-0
9 Seahawks Losing Richard Sherman for the year will really impact their Super Bowl chances. They are a different defense without him. 1 6-3-0
10 Jaguars The defense is special, but they still need to get more from the passing game. The schedule is favorable the rest of the way, starting with Cleveland this week. 1 6-3-0
11 Falcons They seemed to get the offense back on track against Dallas - especially by running it well -- but now face a brutal road game at Seattle. 2 5-4-0
12 Cowboys They need to pick up all areas without Ezekiel Elliott around. If they are to be the division champs, they have to do it starting this week against the Eagles. 5 5-4-0
13 Titans They aren't winning pretty, but they are finding a way to pull out games. The short-week road game against the Steelers won't be easy. 1 6-4-0
14 Lions They are still alive in the division and certainly as a potential wild-card team. Down the stretch, they have to be better than they were against Cleveland. 2 5-4-0
15 Bills The past two weeks haven't been kind to the Bills. Getting blown out hasn't been a good look. Now they face a long road trip to play the Chargers. 3 5-4-0
16 Redskins What happened to the defense against the Vikings? That's a bad loss for a team that can't afford them and now faces a tough road game against the Saints. 1 4-5-0
17 Ravens If they are to make a second-half push, the offense needs to pick it up. Maybe they found something during the bye week. -- 4-5-0
18 Packers The defense rose up and played well against the Bears last Sunday. That has to be the case the rest of the way. They need to pick it up with Aaron Rodgers out. 3 5-4-0
19 Cardinals A team that couldn't afford any more injuries had a bunch more last week. It might be Blaine Gabbert time at quarterback, which is an improvement over Drew Stanton. 1 4-5-0
20 Chargers They continue to lose close game after close game. It's too bad because this team has talent. 1 3-6-0
21 Raiders They come off their bye with a big one in Mexico City against the Patriots. The defense has to be better in the second half if they are to be a playoff team. 1 4-5-0
22 Dolphins At 4-5, they have major issues on offense. They just aren't good enough on that side of the ball. -- 4-5-0
23 Broncos The lack of offense has impacted this team in a big way. The heat is now on John Elway. Who saw that coming? -- 3-6-0
24 Buccaneers There is a chance Ryan Fitzpatrick could be the quarterback the rest of the way. But their season has been a disappointment anyway. 5 3-6-0
25 Jets What happened in Tampa? Their slim chances of making a playoff run pretty much ended with a bad showing. 1 4-6-0
26 Bengals This season is done. Losing in consecutive weeks to AFC South teams pretty much ends their playoff chances. 1 3-6-0
27 Colts They are showing some fight in recent weeks, which is a good thing. Some young players are flashing, which is good for the future. 1 3-7-0
28 Texans They are playing for next year. They just don't have the talent with all the injuries they've had. 1 3-6-0
29 Bears Losing to the Packers pretty much means it's a non-playoff season. What does that mean for the future of coach John Fox? 1 3-6-0
30 49ers They won a game, and the offense looked good doing so. At some point, though, it's Jimmy Garoppolo time. 1 1-9-0
31 Giants When does Ben McAdoo go since ownership said it won't be during the season? This team has quit on him in a big way. That's not a good sign. 1 1-8-0
32 Browns It looks like it's going to be a potential 0-16 season. They do show some fight, but they just aren't good enough. -- 0-9-0
CBS Sports Senior Writer

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an... Full Bio

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