Battle of backs key in matchup between wildcard contenders -

Battle of backs key in matchup between wildcard contenders

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By Shawn Campbell / FootballStL | @JournSCampbell

A week 9 matchup with the Minnesota Vikings has the St. Louis Rams facing off against the team ahead of them in a battle for one of two NFC wildcard playoff positions.

The Rams are looking to extend their winning streak to three games, something that has been a rarity for the franchise in the last ten seasons.

The Vikings, at 5-2, are riding a three-game winning streak themselves and have improved dramatically on offense since their week 1 loss against the San Francisco 49ers.

The storyline for the game is an obvious one. Adrian Peterson and Todd Gurley are arguably the two most talented backs in the league.

Gurley has been linked to Peterson since starring at the University of Georgia and has done nothing but impress those around the NFL through his first four starts, including Peterson himself.

“I love what this guys doing. I’m wishing him well but not in the week against us,” Peterson said during an interview on NFL Network. “He’s a talented young guy. He came off an ACL injury and I know how that is. I know the mindset and the mental focus it takes, and the work ethic it takes to come back from that. To be able to come out and have the type of season he’s having, I take my cap off to him.”

Peterson and Gurley seem to be cut from the same cloth. Both are big, physical backs that have shown amazing perseverance overcoming major ACL tears.

Peterson stands at 6-foot-2 and 217 pounds, running a 4.4 40-yard dash at the time he entered the league. Peterson may not possess that same speed, but he still undoubtedly possess the same quickness that’s allowed him to elude defenders throughout his career.

Gurley, at 6-foot-1 and 226 pounds, was unable to run at the NFL Combine due to a torn ACL that he suffered in his final season at Georgia, but looks like he may be one of the fastest backs in the NFL.

Gurley has heard the comparisons before and admits that there are many similarities between the two.

“We have similar physiques. He’s probably a lot more muscular, but we both run hard and don’t like to go down,” Gurley said. “He’s the godfather and I’m the godson.”

Peterson, barring injury or other surprising circumstances, is still seasons away from retiring, but with Gurley proving to be on the rise since debuting in week 4, Sunday’s matchup could be somewhat of a passing of the torch between the NFL’s past and present in Peterson to the future of the position in Gurley.  

With Peterson averaging more than five yards per carry in four of the Vikings last five games and Gurley starting his career with four consecutive games of at least 125 rushing yards, the battle for supremacy in the NFC Wildcard battle may come down to which player can be more dominant Sunday.

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