COVID to Sideline Key Rams Player at Vikings
The Los Angeles Rams will be without a mountain of a man on Sunday.
All-Pro left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who is 6’7″ and 330 pounds, was placed on COVID reserve Saturday, sidelining the offensive lineman for Week 16 at Minnesota.
Whitworth, 40, is the stalwart of a Rams offensive line that has kept newcomer Matthew Stafford upright all season. On Sunday, Los Angeles’ offensive trenches will be tweaked a bit. Whitworth’s backup, Joe Noteboom, is also on COVID reserve, so the Rams depth-chart creativity will be showcased. Likely replacements for Whitworth include Bobby Evans or Tremayne Anchrum Jr.
To make matters worse for the Rams, Sean McVay’s team faces a Vikings team leading the NFL in sacks. Minnesota does not employ big-name talent on the defensive line — Danielle Hunter was lost for the season Halloween night — but somehow the Vikings have kept pressure on opposing quarterbacks nevertheless. Second-year EDGE rusher D.J. Wonnum, in particular, has excelled in recent weeks:
Wonnum would’ve squared off with a tough assignment in Whitworth, but now his prognosis for a productive game increases. In 2021 — at the age of 40 — Whitworth owns an 84.8 grade from Pro Football Focus. Only five left tackles place higher than that through 15 weeks of 2021.
The Vikings are home underdogs — somewhat of a rarity in their building — to the tune of three points. U.S. Bank Stadium used to be a fortress of purple reign, transforming into a less inviolable venue since the start of 2020. Beginning in September of 2020, Minnesota is 7-7 (.500) at home, ranking 16th-best in the NFL. In the four seasons before 2020 at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings were the NFL’s second-best home team with a 24-9 (.727) record. Only the New England Patriots were better at home from 2016 to 2019.
As for the Vikings, like Whitworth, bellcow running back Dalvin Cook will miss Week 16, too, due to COVID.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).