ST. LOUIS — For both the St. Louis Rams and the Minnesota Vikings, it's essentially an elimination game.
The winner of their game Sunday will keep its slim playoff hopes alive, while the loser will be virtually removed from the playoff picture.
"Sure, it's in the back of your mind, but you take it one week at a time," Rams defensive end Robert Quinn said of the playoffs. "If you have three good weeks in a row, you hope for good things at the end."
The Rams have won three straight games to keep themselves in contention for their first postseason berth since 2004.
"It's good to be in the hunt," Rams defensive end Chris Long said. "I was in the hunt a couple of years ago. We have to finish down the stretch with three more great games against physical teams, teams that run the football."
The Vikings are ranked third in the NFL in rushing offense. They also have the NFL's leading rusher in running back Adrian Peterson.
"The guy gets to the second level very fast, and when he gets there, he punishes you," Rams rookie defensive tackle Michael Brockers said of Peterson. "He doesn't think about going out of bounds. When he comes downhill, he hits the line of scrimmage at 100 mph and he refuses to go down."
Peterson, who underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL less than a year ago, has rushed for 1,600 yards. He's riding a streak of seven consecutive 100-yard games.
"I wasn't sure if it was his highlight reel or a succession of run cutups," Long said of watching tape of Peterson in action. "It's entertaining. As a player it's fun to watch a guy like that on tape, and it's fun to play him."
The Rams have limited their last four opponents to 65 or less rushing yards. They'll be tested by the Peterson this week and then Tampa Bay's Doug Martin (1,234 rushing yards) and Seattle's Marshawn Lynch (1,266 rushing yards) the next two weeks.
"That's the first thing you have to do -- stop the run," Brockers said. "If you don't, people will keep running, take the time of possession and win the game."
Rams running back Steven Jackson said he's fired up to be opposing a runner like Peterson.
"I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't," Jackson said. "He's having an unbelievable year. I'm actually really happy for him, the way he's bounced back. It's very inspirational. To see him play with the passion and the grit and the attitude that I think the game should be played, it's pretty amazing."
Jackson is just 71 rushing yards shy of becoming the 27th player in NFL history with 10,000 in his career.
Jackson said he'd like to accomplish the feat in front of the home crowd at the Edward Jones Dome.
"The last milestone that I was able to hit, which was breaking Eric Dickerson's all-time Rams record, we did that on the road in Tampa," Jackson said. "I would like to be able to give our fans that. They've been very supportive of me through my career. I have to go out there and do my job, though, and that's to go out there and run hard."
The home game also could be Jackson's last in a Rams uniform as he becomes a free agent after this season.
"It will be something that I look forward to dealing with and handling at the end of the year, and I'm very optimistic that I'll finish my career as a Ram," Jackson said. "Have I thought about it? Yes, I have. Will the emotion be high? It will be high because Adrian Peterson is on the sideline."
Peterson's running has taken the pressure off second-year Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder, who has completed 251 of his 401 passes for 2,396 yards with 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
With wide receiver Percy Harvin on injured reserve, the Vikings top receiver is tight end Kyle Rudolph, who has 45 catches for 412 yards and eight touchdowns.
"He's making good decisions," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said of Ponder. "He's keeping drives alive on third down. When you're so committed to stopping that run, it makes his job a little bit easier getting the ball down the field. He's got a favorite target in the tight end. He can make the big throws."
The Vikings' defense is led by defensive end Jared Allen, who has nine sacks, and linebacker Chad Greenway, who has 161 tackles and two sacks.
Rams quarterback Sam Bradford said putting together long drives on offense is especially important this week.
"In the games that they've lost in the past couple weeks, I think they've only had the ball for 20 minutes, 22 minutes a game," Bradford said. "In the games they've won, they've controlled it for about half the game or more. So, we know that it's extremely important for us to maintain drives and convert on third downs.
"I think that's obviously an area that we've struggled on. We struggled a lot in that area in the first half last week. So, for us to keep drives going, we've got to be good on third down this week."
The Rams could be getting wide receiver Danny Amendola back from a foot injury. Amendola was able to fully participate in practice Friday, and he's listed as probable for the game.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.