Ed "Pi Double I" Henderson
The Los Angeles Rams have placed Micah Kiser, their starting and team-leading inside linebacker, on the injured reserve list. Kiser, who injured his knee late in the game on Monday night as the Rams upset the highly favored Tampa Buccaneers 27-24.
Troy Reeder, the second-year linebacker, replaced Kiser for the remainder of the game and made one start this season. In Reeder's first 2020 start, not only did he record his first NFL sack, and added two additional sacks against The Washington Team. On normality, those stats would earn him a Defensive Player of the Week but only overshadowed by Aaron Donald's performance.
The Rams will host the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at So-Fi Stadium in an NFC rivalry game and seek to avenge their week six loss. It is unsure whether Reeder will get the start or the Rams will go with Justin Hollis or Kenny Young.
Kiser has suffered his third injury, with the Rams requiring him to miss games. Last season, Kiser missed the entire 2019 season with a torn pectoral, a groin injury week four against the New York Giants, and now his knee. At this time, it is uncertain whether Kiser's injury will require surgery and to miss the remainder of the season.
Overview: This is probably as tough of a matchup as the Rams will face all season. While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are unpredictable, they probably have as much talent on their roster as any team in the NFL. They don’t always play up to that level. Witness a 38-3 loss to the Saints a couple of weeks ago and an earlier season loss to a mediocre Bears team that they should have beaten. Even so, anytime you have Tom Brady and a receiving corps that includes Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, and Rob Gronkowski, you can score points.
On defense, the Bucs are extremely hard to run on. And when the Rams have not been able to run the ball effectively this season, they usually have lost.
Coaching: Bruce Arians know the Rams well from his days leading the Arizona Cardinals, and the Bucs have a rising star in Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich. But the Rams appear to have struck gold with defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, who is likely to be a hot candidate for a head coaching job come the offseason. Staley has done an excellent job designing creative defenses that get the most out of the Ram's talent.
He's almost a defensive version of McVay—an innovative mind who thinks outside the box and does the unexpected. Staley's mental chess game with Tom Brady will be one of the more exciting sub-plots to this game.
McVay has come under fire for his play-calling at times, but he still is one of the game's best offensive minds. Nobody disguises their plays better, as McVay runs a myriad of plays out of a few basic formations, never tipping his hand. He has had some lapses this season, notably doing a poor job of adjusting to blitzes against the Miami Dolphins. He's still one of the best, and we will give the Rams the edge here.
Rams Defense vs. Bucs Offense: Rams coach Sean McVay called the Tampa Bay offense a "Nightmare" this week. That isn't just coach talk; this is as deep of an offense as you will find anywhere in the NFL.
Let us start with the quarterback, who is widely considered the best to play the game. Yes, some think Tom Brady is in decline, and his arm is not what it used to be. The numbers say that's possible—he's 12th in the passer rating league at a still very respectable 99. That's not terrible by any means, and he has thrown 23 touchdowns versus only seven interceptions. Maybe those aren't Patrick Mahomes/Aaron Rodgers type numbers at this point, but they are still upper echelon by any measure.
Throw in the knowledge of the game, leadership, and competitive fire, and the Rams defense still has its work cut out in facing TB12.
Brady has, by his admission, had some issues throwing the deep ball this season. But this is a guy you never want to count out, especially when you consider that there is not a better set of receivers in 2020 than what the Bucs will put on the field on Monday night.
The key to beating Tom Brady historically has been by pressure, significantly pressure up the middle, where Aaron Donald comes into the picture. The Buccaneers must keep Donald under control to win this game, whether that means double teams, triple teams, or whatever else they can design. In his prime, Tom Brady was never the most mobile guy, but he does tend to get rid of the ball quickly.
If Aaron Donald has a big night, the Buc's very likely loses this game.
The Rams tend to move Donald around to get the most favorable matchups, and the Buccaneers will likely be without guard Ali Marpet, which doesn't help. Of course, holding Donald without any sacks does not guarantee a win. A prime example was the Rams victory over the division-rival Seattle Seahawks last week, where Donald recorded zero sacks. .
However, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd notched three, and rookie linebacker Terrell Lewis added two additional. That's in large part because of the Seahawk's double and triple-teamed Donald all night. And if you watched that game, you know Donald was still a factor, pressuring Seahawks QB Russell Wilson much of the night. Floyd was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week after his stellar performance against the Seahawks.
The job of shutting down Floyd will mainly fall to rookie right tackle Tristan Wirfs, who may not get much help due to Donald's attention. Wirfs is athletic enough to match up with Floyd, but the Rams linebacker has been coming on, and defensive coordinator Brandon Staley may get creative using Floyd. Floyd is considered an underachiever is giving his tremendous athletic ability, but he may be hitting his stride. It doesn't hurt that he rarely gets double-teamed, thanks to Donald.
Eleven different Rams have logged sacks this year, and the Rams are second in sacks per game (they are lower in total sacks because other teams, including the Bucs, have not had a bye week). Pressuring Tom Brady will be the first task on Monday night.
Rams corner Jalen Ramsey is coming off a stellar performance against Seattle, in which he won his battle with Seahawks receiver D.K. Metcalf. It doesn't get any easier this week, as he likely will see a lot of Tampa Bay number one receiver Mike Evans is a big, physical wideout who presents a challenge to any defensive back. While his numbers on the season so far are just pretty good—forty receptions for 514 yards—you have to figure that he's had time to develop chemistry with T.B. 12 at this point. The fact that Tampa Bay can put so many good receivers on the field at once will challenge a Rams secondary that has been very good so far in 2020.
The Bucs is only 23rd in the league in rushing, averaging 103 yards per game. They do feature former USC star Ronald Jones, who is third in league with 730 yards. The Rams are fifth in the NFL in rushing defense, but they have had some lapses, notably in a loss to the 49ers in which Aaron Donald admitted that the team played "soft" on defense. They have been better since then in terms of rushing defense, but they can't afford a letdown in this game.
We're going to check this box for the Rams, but it's very, very close.
Rams Offense vs. Bucs Defense: While the Rams offense is seventh in the league in yards per game this season, they have not been on par with the team that went to to the Super Bowl in 2018, which averaged a touchdown more per game.
Part of the reason, of course, is the absence of former superstar Todd Gurley. Gurley was arguably the best running back in the league in his prime, but he's long gone at this point, following a severe decline that was primarily caused by health issues. That's not to say the Rams can't run the ball.
They are eighth in the league in yards rushing per game, and except for the Seattle game last week, the running game has set the tone for this offense. Second-year running back Darrell Henderson has emerged as the feature back, although coach Sean McVay tends to ride the hot hand.
Rookie Cam Akers has been getting more touches as of late, and Malcolm Brown gets a lot of the tough yards between the tackles. The Rams may have extra incentive to go "ground and pound" on Monday; long drives to prevent Tom Brady from having his hands on the ball.
The Bucs rushing defense has been stout this season, ranking first in the league in yards per game at 76. They are incredibly tough between the tackles, somewhat more vulnerable (but still outstanding) against the outside run. Linebackers Devin White and Lavonte David are excellent run defenders for the Bucs and given the difficulty of running straight up the middle against this defense. The Rams backs may have to try to make them miss in the open field. That will not be an easy task.
The Bucs best corner, Carlton Davis, will probably see a lot of the Rams Cooper Kupp on Monday night. But the Rams receivers are much like their running backs in that McVay and Goff tend to ride the hot hand. Lately, the team's nominal number three receiver, Josh Reynolds, has been seeing more action, and McVay keeps saying he wants to get Van Jefferson, the rookie out of Florida, more involved. It hasn't happened yet.
The Rams' problem in this game is that their passing game tends to be most effective when they can run the ball. That's not easy against Tampa Bay, and the Noteboom matchup against Pierre Paul is also worrisome. On the other hand, the Rams put up 40 points against the Bucs defense last season, with most of the same players in a 55-40 loss. We don't think this Rams defense will give up 55 points, and 40 points would probably win this game.
As on the other side of the ball, this is close. This time we're going to check the box for Tampa Bay.
Special Teams: Whom will the Rams placekicker be in this game? As of Sunday morning, we don't know. The kicking game has been a big problem for Los Angeles all season, and it remains a big question mark. The last report had former Bucs kicker Matt Gay and Austin MacGinnis on the roster after newly signed Kai Forbath suffered an ankle injury last week and was struggling. The problem here is that when you have two placekickers, it means neither one is that good. It becomes a problem; if someone doesn't emerge, it will eventually cost the Rams a game. Let's hope it isn't on tonight.
As bad as the Rams placekickers have been, that is how good punter Johnny Hekker has been. He's been the lone bright spot on a group of special teams, which has not been very good otherwise. At least the Rams seem to have gotten away from the idea of having Cooper Kupp (in favor of Nsimba Webster) return punts. That's a step in the right direction; there is much room for improvement across the board with the Rams special teams.
Tampa Bay's special teams have not been all that in recent years either, but they have been better this season. Kicker Ryan Succop was the NFC Special Teams Player of the week earlier this month.
The truth is that neither team features great overall special teams play, but the Rams dicey situation at placekicker tips the balance in favor of the Bucs.
Prediction: There are many intangibles in this game. It's yet another long trip back east for a Rams team that has piled up the frequent flier miles. Will the Rams come out flat following last week's big win against a division rival? Meanwhile, the Bucs are one of the few teams that have not had their bye week yet. You could wonder if the week-to-week grind and the minor injuries that accumulate with any unit that plays this very physical game might be a factor.
The Rams, meanwhile, have questions at left tackle and especially placekicker. Oddsmakers pick the Bucs by four and a half; neither of these teams has been a model of consistency.
Rams 27 Bucs 24
Overview: This isn’t quite a “must-win” for the Rams 2020 season, but if they lose, it will be challenging to win the NFC West division title. We still don’t know how good the Los Angeles Rams are in 2020. They have one win over a team with a winning record (Chicago), in addition to sweeping the awful NFC East. So, we know they can beat bad to mediocre teams. At some point, you have to defeat a legitimate contender to become a contender. Sunday will give them that probability.
Seattle, meanwhile, is a team with multiple personalities. Their offense is as good as any in the league, ranked third overall and first in passing offense. Quarterback Russell Wilson is still a leading contender for league MVP, although he was coming off a sub-par performance against the Buffalo Bills in a road loss last Sunday.
The Seahawk defense, however, is another story. Even with stellar performers as linebacker Bobby Wagner and safety Jamal Adams, the results have not been immeasurable. The Seahawks are dead last in team defense, giving up a mind-blowing 455 yards per game. Seattle is 6-2 with that sort of defensive statistics reveals to you how good is their offense.
Coaching: It’s youth versus experience when the Seahawks Pete Carroll matches wits with the Rams Sean McVay. At 69, Carroll was the league’s oldest head coach until the Texans named Romeo Crennel as their interim head coach earlier this season. Meanwhile, McVay remains the league’s youngest head coach at 34 (in fact, he’s the only NFL head man under the age of 40).
There has been some grumbling over the past year-and-a-half about McVay as a play-caller. Former Rams quarterback Kurt Warner said following the Rams loss to the Dolphins that he didn’t understand why McVay didn’t do a better job adjusting to the Dolphins blitz packages. And more than a few observers feel that McVay tends to get pass-happy at times, neglecting the running game. It does seem like the Rams usually lose when they become one-dimensional on offense.
Even so, McVay is 4-2 vs. Carroll and the Seahawks, and he’s had two weeks to get ready for this matchup. We’re going to check this box for the Rams.
Rams Defense vs. Seahawks Offense: This is the marquee matchup of the day, matching two of the league's better units, with the number one scoring offense (Seattle) taking on the league's second-ranked scoring defense (the Rams).
When Seattle takes to the air, it's strength vs. strength matchup, with the league's number one passing offense going against the defense that allows the fewest net yards per passing attempt in the league. Ram's significant "weakness" on defense so far this season has been rushing defense, although it's not like they have been awful at fifth in the league in that category.
They did get gashed pretty badly by San Francisco a couple of weeks back. But the Seahawks may or may not have two of their top backs (Carlos Hyde and Chris Carson), and the Seahawks so far are a pedestrian 14th in rushing offense, unusually low for a Pete Carrol-coached team.
But the big fireworks for Seattle have been through the air, and the battle against the stingy Los Angeles Rams pass-defense may very well decide this game.
The defensive line will have an added element this week as defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson will see his first season's action. The Rams signed Robinson this offseason to help in the middle to allow Donald with less double and triple teams.
The Rams placed Robinson on the I.R. before the start of the season play in part due to a heart irregularity discovery. Robinson, drafted in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, played as a disruptive run-stopper while at the University of Alabama, and the Rams are expecting him to produce that talent moving forward.
The marquee matchup pits Seahawks wideout D.K. Metcalf against Rams shutdown corner Jalen Ramsey, a battle that could be the best matchup of the NFL regular season in raw talent versus raw talent. Metcalf is a physical monster whose natural athletic ability is being compared by some former Lions great Calvin Johnson. Ramsey, meanwhile, is one of the truly elite cornerbacks in the NFL, although he doesn't always put up great stats because teams avoid throwing his way. The Ramsey vs. Metcalf battle makes this game a "must-see" event for diehard NFL fans all by itself.
One surprising thing about the Seahawks, given their overall offensive output, is that their O-line hasn't been all that great. Despite his mobility, Russell Wilson has been sacked 24 times in the Seahawks eight games, a number that is even more surprising when you consider how good Wilson is at avoiding the pass rush. Rams D-lineman Aaron Donald, meanwhile, comes into this game with nine sacks despite seeing double and even triple teams regularly. He'll mostly see action against Seattle guard Jordan Simmons, a relative bright spot up from for the Seahawks who has only allowed one sack. Aaron Donald has a history of coming up big against the Seahawks. If it happens again on Sunday, it will be awful news for the Seahawks.
The Rams will have one key player back on Sunday in rookie safety Jordan Fuller, sidelined the last few weeks. Despite only a sixth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Fuller has named himself a guy who makes big plays in crucial situations. Getting him back is good news for a Rams defense that will need all of the help it can muster in the secondary.
The key to this game may be whether Donald can wreak havoc upfront. If he can't, containing Russell at the level he is playing right now is asking a lot, even for a defense as good as the Rams.
Rams Offense vs. Seahawks Defense: Neither of these units has been excellent overall this season, but the Seahawks defense has been historically bad, especially for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. Last week they become the first team this century to rack up seven sacks and still give up 44 points.
How does that even happen?
With abysmal play in the secondary, that's how. And that is despite the addition this season of Safety Jamal Adams, widely considered one of the league's best at his position. It doesn't help that Seattle starting corners Shaquille Griffin and Quinton Dunbar both are rule out due to injury. Rams wideouts Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods could have big days if the Seahawks didn't pressure Rams quarterback Jared Goff.
Now speaking on the Seahawks pass rush, one of the big question marks in this game. Before last week's outburst versus the Bills, the Seahawks pass rush had been a virtual non-factor. Getting Adams back helps, as blitzing the quarterback is one of his specialties. They also traded for Cincinnati defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who had one sack last week against the Bills and did a relatively good job of pressuring Bills quarterback Josh Allen. Seattle needs to keep the heat on Goff, who is coming off a frankly awful performance two weeks ago against the Dolphins. Goff had been pretty to very good before the Dolphins debacle. He needs to bounce back against the Seahawks, and especially, take better care of the football.
Despite the Seahawk's overall poor defensive play, they still boast probably the best middle linebacker in the game in Bobby Wagner. If he can slow down running back Darrell Henderson, who has emerged as "the guy" in the Rams backfield, it will help the Seahawks chances. Henderson missed practice Wednesday with a quad injury. If he can't go, we can probably expect to see more rookie Cam Akers running back along with the reliable Malcolm Brown.
Typically, we would comment about the Rams keeping a balanced offense and not becoming too "pass-happy" in terms of play calling. That may still apply because the Rams offense functions typically best when running the ball a lot, opening up the play-action passing game. But Seattle's pass defense is so bad that the standard wisdom of that thinking may not apply here. On the other hand, If Los Angeles can get a lead, running the ball and eating up the clock is an excellent way to keep Russell Wilson from doing what Russell Wilson often does, especially this season.
Special Teams: This remains a problematic area for the Rams and a big concern in this game. The Rams had anticipated they had found a solution to their season-long issues at placekicker when they signed veteran Kai Forbath to replace rookie Sam Sloman. But Forbath looked unsteady in his debut against the Dolphins and missed a field goal attempt. The Rams also allowed a touchdown on a kick return against the Dolphins and generally kept up a season-long pattern of special teams issues.
The exception, of course, is punter Johnny Hekker, who is the best in the business. But the Rams need some other players to step up on special teams. So far, it hasn't happened.
That could be a big dilemma in this game because the Seahawks excels in special teams play. Placekicker Jason Myers and punter Micheal Dixon are both excellent. Return man Tyler Lockett is a threat to "take it to the house" anytime he touches a ball.
Prediction: Oddsmakers at last report were making the Rams slight favorites in this game at home. The truth is that we don't know for sure how good either of these teams is, and that is especially true of the Rams. Will the Seahawks problems on the defense surface again? How about the Rams special teams? Was Jared Goff's dreadful performance against Miami just a bad game or a sign of things to come?
All legitimate questions. But we are going to play hunch here and pick the Rams.
Rams 31 Seahawks 30
Overview: This is an exciting matchup on several different levels. It will be the NFL debut of Tua Tagovailoa as a starting quarterback. The rookie quarterback widely considered a top prospect while at Alabama; Tua is a left-handed quarterback who put up some incredible numbers with Crimson Tide, including an astounding 87 to 11 touchdown to interception ratio. He has a reputation for being a hard worker and a good leader and his physical skills. Will the bigger stage of the NFL dazzle him? Miami doesn’t think so.
The Rams, meanwhile, would love to go into their bye week with a 6-2 record as they get ready for a division battle with the Seattle Seahawks in just two weeks.
Rams Defense vs. Dolphins Offense: Any quarterback who takes the field against the Rams faces the little matter of a confident Aaron Donald disrupting the party, and that’s even scarier when the quarterback happens to be a rookie making his first start. Tua is considered an elite prospect who might have gone number one overall had he not suffered a devastating hip injury in college. Many considered him comparable to Joe Burrow tells you all that you need to know about his physical talent. While Tua doesn’t have a cannon for an arm, he can make all of the throws, in addition to getting the ball out quickly and making the right decisions. Before his hip injury, he was also a mobile, athletic quarterback. The general belief is that he still is, but that’s not to say he might have some limitations that he didn’t have before.
Having said all of that—he is a rookie, and he’ll be facing one of the league’s better defenses, especially against the pass. For all practical purposes, this is his NFL debut against a quality opponent. The Rams are second in points per game allowed in the NFL at 17.7 (fifth in total points allowed, in part because they have played more games than some teams). They are coming off a stifling performance against the Bears in which the defense only gave up three points, as the Bears scored their only touchdown on a fumble recovery.
A few snaps against an awful Jets team is not the same thing as facing Aaron Donald and the Rams, especially when Los Angeles has had time to prepare for Tagovailoa. The rookie could see everything from all-out jailbreak blitzes to exotic coverages, zone-blitz packages, and complicated schemes of every sort. That’s what NFL defensive coordinators do when facing a rookie quarterback, no matter how talented.
Tua does have some weapons on his side. Wide receiver Davante Parker expected to play after suffering a groin injury against the Jets two weeks ago. Parker is a legit big-play threat, and if Tua can gt time to throw, he can be a factor in this game. They also have tight-end Mike Giesecke, who has had big games against the Dolphins and 49ers. He may see a lot of Rams Safety John Johnson on Sunday in what could be a big matchup.
Of course, the battle that everyone is waiting for on this side of the ball is Rams d-lineman Aaron Donald against Dolphins O-line. When San Francisco shut down Donald a couple of weeks ago, the Rams defense was not the same. It’s even more critical for a team with a rookie quarterback to keep AD under control. The Dolphins interior line—guard Ereck Flowers and Solomon Kindley, and center Ted Karras have been stellar this season, and they need to be again in this game.
The Rams, as always, need someone besides Donald to step up in the pass-rush. Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd did that last week with two sacks against the Bears. Floyd has four sacks on the season, but he has also had games this year where he disappeared. Rookie Linebacker Terrell Lewis, a former teammate of Tua’s at ‘Bama, may want to get re-acquainted with his former quarterback in this game
SOMEBODY has to step up consistently for the Rams as a pass-rusher. The Dolphins have a pretty good O-line, and Tua can do some severe damage if he gets enough time.
One thing that works in the Rams favor in this game is that their biggest weakness is stopping the run, a facet of the game where the Dolphins rank 22nd at 105 yards per game. They did get a powerful performance two weeks ago from running back Myles Gaskin, who rushed for 91 yards against the Jets. The Rams have activated nose-tackle A’Shawn Robinson for this game. Robinson is a natural 3-4 nose tackle who should stand his ground and shut down the inside running game, but he may not see tons of action or be in top form yet.
The Rams had had issues with their inside linebackers, Micah Kiser and Kenny Young. The pair made Niners running back Raheem Mostert, a decent but not outstanding back, look like Earl Campbell a couple of weeks ago with an exhibition of poor tackling skills that was frankly embarrassing to watch at times. The young linebackers played exceptional last week, but the Bears didn’t run the ball very well. They need to play well against the Dolphins.
Rams Offense vs. Dolphins Defense: While the Miami defense is not loaded with big-name players, this is an excellent unit. Miami boasts the best third-down defense in the NFL and isn’t afraid to dial up the blitz in critical situations.
Corners Byron Jones and Xavien Howard are one of the better tandems in the league. These guys can play, and their battle against Rams wideouts Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods could be critical. The Rams have also been getting wideout Josh Reynolds more involved in the offense lately, and while Reynolds is not a real “burner” in terms of raw speed, he has emerged as something of a serious threat. Coach Sean McVay keeps saying he wants to get rookie wideout Van Jefferson more involved in the offense, and Jefferson mostly played well when given the opportunity. Even so, a total of 98 yards in 7 games is probably not what the Rams were hoping for from the former Florida Gator.
Tight-end Tyler Higbee at last report was a game-time decision for the Dolphins game. He nad fellow tight-end Gerald Everette are almost interchangeable at tight end, but the Rams have gone two more two-tight end sets this season, and ideally, that puts both Higbee and Everette on the field at once. Third tight-end Johnny Mundt, best known as a blocker, surprised some people last week against the Bears with three catches.
The Rams offense starts with the running game, and it seems like when they come out throwing things don’t usually go well. Darrell Henderson seems entrenched as the feature back at this point, with Malcolm Brown getting some of the tough yards between the tackles. Rookie Cam Akers appears to have fallen out of favor with McVay in recent weeks, getting only a handful of touches. Exactly why is not entirely clear, other than the fact that Henderson seems to have emerged as “the guy.”
Miami is the lower middle of the pack (18th) in rushing defense, and the Rams Offensive line has played much better than was the case a year ago. Look for the Rams to try to establish the run early to set up the play-action pass. If they can do that, they can win this game.
We’re going to check the box for the Rams on this side of the ball, but Miami’s defense is one of the better units in the league, and this is no walk in the park for the Rams.
Special Teams: Other than yet another missed kick by (now former) Rams placekicker Sam Sloman last week, the Rams special teams were excellent in the Bears game. That’s especially true for Rams punter Johnny Hekker, who pinned Chicago inside their ten-yard line last week, including a booming 65-yarder that left Chicago on their one-yard line. Hekker was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week, and it’s hard to remember a punter having a better game in the NFL, literally ever. The Rams kick coverage units likewise were on their game. It was an outstanding performance overall for the Rams special teams, which has not always been the case this season.
Sloman replaced by veteran placekicker Kai Forbath to shore up what has been a problem area for the Rams. Forbath is a veteran who adapts to the pressure of making big kicks in crucial situations. Hopefully, he will be the answer the Rams have been looking for all season to replace Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, have been excellent on special teams. Placekicker Json sanders have yet to miss a kick in 2020, either on extra-points or field goal attempts. Punter Matt Haack is averaging 48.4 yards per punt, which is also very good. While the Dolphins kick and punt returners have not been nearly solid as their kickers, you have to give Miami the edge here.
Coaching: Interesting matchup of two of the game’s bright young stars. Dolphins head man Brian Flores has seen McVay before serving as the Patriots de facto defensive coordinator in the Super Bowl a couple of years ago. As a Ram fan would prefer to forget, Los Angeles is held to three points in that game.
Flores not given the official title after Matt Patricia left to coach the Lions, but he as the defensive signal-caller in that 16-3 win.
Round, one of Flores vs. McVay, goes to Flores.
Flores was not given the official title after Matt Patricia left to coach the Lions, but he as the defensive signal-caller in that 16-3 win. Flores getting five wins in 2019 out of a Dolphins roster that frankly lacked talent was Lombardian. He’s a good coach that has this team playing hard and headed in the right direction.
Having said all of that, Sean McVay seems to have returned to his former brilliance in 2020 after a sub-par 2019. The only real criticism from us is his tendency to get overly pass-happy, especially at the start of games. When that happens, the Rams usually lose.
But when McVay is on his game, he is the best in the league at designing plays and confusing defenses.
This is really close, but we are going to check the box for the Rams.
Edge: Rams: Oddsmakers say the Rams are favored by 3.5 on the road. We tend to agree, but this game is no gimme by any means. This is a Dolphin team that demolished a 49er team that went on the next week to give the Rams their worst beating season.
Rams 24 Miami 21
Ed "PiDouble I" Henderson
Johnny Hekker, the punter for the Los Angeles Rams, was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. On Monday night, Hekker had a game for the ages as he punted the ball five times, landing the ball inside the 20-yard line.
If that was not good enough for you, he was even better playing the ball the four times inside the ten-yard line. Hekker punts were pivotal for the Rams defense to unhinge different schemes at the Chicago Bears offense and not allow their returner to rip off significant returns. In described as the watermelon punt, Hekker was able to place the ball at the Bears one-yard line.
Hekker boomed a 63-yard punt in the game that changed the game's onset after the Bears scored a touchdown on a Rams turnover and forced the Rams to punt on the next possession. Hekker's fifth and final punt of the night even had the announcer from last night game applauded his efforts and lobbied for him to win this award.
Tyler Bass of the Buffalo Bills kicked six field goals Sunday against the New York Jets that were good enough for a victory and missed three field goals. The three misses more than likely helped Hekker to edge him out.
Being named for the fourth time in his career as the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week, Hekker now matches his NFC Pro Bowl total selections after this week's naming.
Overview: This is a somewhat important game for both teams in terms of establishing credibility. The Bears are 5-1, but aside from a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that they easily could have lost, they haven't exactly played a "murderers row" of NFL contenders. Suggest the same for the Rams, who are 4-0 against the worst division in football [the NFC East], 0-2 otherwise. The Rams are also coming off a subpar performance against a banged-up San Francisco 49ers team who they frankly should have beaten.
The Rams even can't afford to lose many more games if they are to have any chance of catching the Seattle Seahawks for the division title. However, they conceivably can get closer as the Seahawks were upset last night against the Arizona Cardinals 37-34 in overtime.
Both teams need and want to make a "statement game" on Monday night. The contest isn't a 'must-win" for either team to make the playoffs, but whoever loses will face questions about their contender status in the NFC.
Coaching: Sean McVay has a well-deserved reputation as an offensive genius. Every so often, as in last week's game against the 49ers, he seems to have an off week. That probably won't happen two weeks in a row.
His counterpart, Bears head man Matt Nagy, is likewise an innovative offensive mind, but he doesn't have the tools to work with on that side of the ball that McVay does.
On defense, the Bears have the edge in experience, with longtime NFL coach Chuck Pagano as their DC versus the Rams newbie Brandon Staley, who as the Bears outside linebacker coach in 2018. But Staley has done an excellent job so far and still has an element of surprise in his corner due to having a poor track record.
Rams Offense vs. Bears Defense: Some things never seem to change in the NFL. For example, when the Chicago Bears are good, they feature a nasty defense. It was right in the days of Dick Butkus, it was right in 1985, and it's true today. If there is anyone in the NFL who may be as good as Aaron Donald as a defensive player (and we don't think there is), it's Khalil Mack. Mack is to edge rushers what Donald is to inside pass rushers—a disruptive playmaker you always have to account for, a guy who can take over a game and wreck an offense.
The task of containing Mack will mostly fall to Rams tackle Rob Havenstein, who needs to bring his A-game on Monday night. Havenstein was injured last season when the Rams defeated the Bears, but Los Angeles gave his replacement, Bobby Evans, plenty of help, and Mack didn't do much. The Rams' problem is that the Bears have since added sack master Robert Quinn (the former Ram) to their defensive arsenal.
Defensive tackle Akeem Hicks, who was out last year with an injury, will (probably) be back for the Bears. That means the Rams will have less flexibility in double-teaming Mack, which could be a problem if Havenstein can't at least hold his own.
Mack did miss practice on Friday with what the Bears say was a back issue, and Hicks missed practice time with a "non-COVID-19 illness". Both Hicks and Mack will play on Monday night, but that could be a big deal if either or both doesn't.
Speaking of injuries, three Rams offensive players missed practice this past week. But Coach Sean McVay seemed confident that all three—receiver Robert Woods, running back Darrell Henderson, and tight-end Tyler Higbee—would be ready for Monday night. If you are a Rams fan, let's hope so.
Woods will likely see much of Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller in one of the more significant matchups on this side of the ball. Meanwhile, the Rams Cooper Kupp, who did not play well against the Niners, will be trying to bounce back to his usual playmaking self. The Bears secondary is pretty good, and when you team that up with Mack and company upfront, you can see why this defense presents challenges.
Expect the Rams to counter with a run-heavy offense, their MO this season, and a key to their success. Henderson was one of the few Rams to play well against the Niners on Sunday, rushing for 81 yards and hitting his stride in the second half. But running back Cam Akers mysteriously disappeared, logging only one snap and no carries. The third running back in the Rams' three-headed monster, Malcolm Brown, really didn't do much on Sunday either, although he did get a few touches. Henderson seems to be emerging as the Rams feature back, but either Brown and Akers' immense contribution would be helpful. One way or another, the Rams need to run the ball effectively. When they go into "Mike Martz" mode and become a one-dimensional passing offense, it almost always does not end well.
Rams Defense vs. Bears Offense: The Bears have made the switch from Mitch Trubisky to Nick Foles at quarterback, and it seems to have changed the nature of their offense. With Trubisky, this was a run-heavy wannabe smash-mouth attack, though it was not always effective in that effort.
With Foles, who is the better NFL quarterback…they have morphed into a heavy pass offense, more like what Head Coach Matt Nagy had with Kansas City Chiefs. Fortunately for the Rams, there is no concern about defending against Patrick Mahomes or Tyreek Hill on the Bears roster. The Bears are also without running back Tarik Cohen, their designated "big play" gadget type player.
However, they do have one of the league's under-appreciated wideouts in Allen Robinson, who comes into this game with over 400 yards in receiving yards. He will likely see a lot of Jalen Ramsey on Monday night. If Ramsey can hold his own in this matchup, the Rams should have a good chance of winning.
The Rams need to do a better job of tackling on Monday night than they did against the 49ers in their last outing. Chicago's David Montgomery is a decent NFL running back, and the Rams inside linebackers need to step it up a notch in dealing with both Montgomery and tight-end Jimmy Graham.
Both Rams starting linebackers, Micah Kiser and Kenny Young and top reserve Troy Reeder have had their moments this season (Kiser was NFC Defensive Player of the week at one point), but they didn't play well at all against San Francisco. They made the Niners Raheem Mostert, a somewhat above average NFL running back, look like Earl Campbell. That needs to change if the Rams see themselves as a Super Bowl contender.
The Rams reportedly will have D-lineman A'Shawn Robinson, a mountain of a man (6'4, 320 pounds) who fits the prototype of a valid 3-4 nose tackle, available on Monday night the first time this season. Robinson was one of the Rams' high-profile free-agent signings in the off-season. Maybe he can help shore up a run defense that has so far been average on its best days. But after only having returned to practice a few days ago, he probably won't start or see a considerable number of snaps.
Foles has been something of a pick-machine so far this season, throwing interceptions in five straight games. Meanwhile, Rams D-lineman Aaron Donald, who looked like a mere mortal last week against the 49ers, will be out to erase the memory of a rare bad game. He was a non-factor on Sunday for the first time this season.
Special Teams: Let's get one piece of bad news for the Rams out of the way up-front. Despite the signing of veteran kicker Kai Forbath, Sam Sloman slated to handle the placekicking duties for Los Angeles this week as Forbath has not cleared the COVID-19 protocol. We had to bash any Rams player, and Sloman is probably a wonderful young man. Sadly he has been less than outstanding as a kicker this season. He added to the damage last week with a missed extra point. He's missed three extra points and two field goals this season. In fairness, one of the missed field goals was a 53-yard attempt into the wind, and two missed field goals in six games is not all that bad. But the first problem is that no NFL placekicker should miss three extra points in six games. Problem number two is that if you watch the game instead of just looking at the stats, he hasn't looked good in general. He tends to have a low trajectory on his kicks, and we are concerned about any game that comes down to his kicking ability. Let's hope that isn't the case on Monday night. There is a reason the Rams signed Forbath, even if he isn't ready to play yet.
The Rams special teams, in general, have not been perfect this year (aside from punter Johnny Hekker).
The Bears have injury issues of their own on special teams. Placekicker Cairo Santos has matched Sloman by missing two field goals, but he is perfect so far on extra points. The loss above Tarik Cohen ribs Chicago of a potential weapon on punt returns, and special teams captain Sherrick McManis is out with a hamstring injury for Chicago. They do have a good kick-returner in Cordarelle Patterson, who can break one at any time.
This area remains a concern for the Rams. Hopefully, they can get through one more week of the Sloman era without losing a game because of a missed kick, but he's not the only issue.
Prediction: This game may tell us a lot. Can either of them beat an actual good team? Indeed, figures to be a statement game for both teams, and it could go either way.
The oddsmakers have the Rams favored by six. We think it could be closer than that, but we still give them a slight edge.
Rams 24, Bears 21
Overview: At a glance, this seems like a favorable matchup for the Los Angeles Rams. The San Francisco 49ers are coming off of a dreadful performance at home in a 43-17 loss to a mediocre Dolphins team. It got so bad that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was benched after the first half by head coach Kyle Shanahan, supposedly to protect Jimmy G from injury. The Niner's offensive line has been foul, injuries to the starting cornerbacks ravage the secondary.
The defense is also missing several key pieces, including its best pass rusher, Nick Bosa, and long time stalwart DeForest Bruckner, who was traded to Indianapolis Colt in the offseason, a move that seems “less than brilliant” at this point. D-lineman Solomon Thomas is out for the year with an injury, and several other players are at less than 100 percent healthy.
That includes Jimmy G, generally expected to play on Sunday night, but who may not recovered fully from a high ankle sprain.
But for all of that, the 49ers are still defending NFC champs. They have the best tight end in the game in George Kittle and a brilliant coach in Kyle Shanahan. They also will be playing for their season, as a loss to drop them to 2-4 would likely crush any lingering hopes of winning the NFC West (they are a longshot even with a win). And put their playoff hopes on life support. They are also coming off a bad loss at home and will be out to redeem themselves, and division games in the NFL are rarely easy.
Coaching: A couple of the game’s brightest offensive minds will match wits on Sunday night. Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay are good friends who worked together with the Washington Redksins and knew each other well, making this matchup even more enjoyable.
The 49ers may have a slight edge at defensive coordinator, where Robert Saleh is undoubtedly the more established versus the Rams’ Brandon Staley. But Staley has done a great job so far this year, particularly in disguising his schemes and keeping opponents off balance. Staley has something of the surprise element in his favor because he is so new that opponents don’t know him yet. Saleh is widely considered a head coach in waiting, and Staley may not be far behind based on what he has done so far.
So, we are going to rate this as a tossup.
Rams Offense vs. 49er Defense: Once again, the war in the trenches could be critical on this side of the ball as well. The 49ers dominated the Rams offensive line last season first meeting between these teams in 2019, the balance of power seems to have shifted radically over the past year. As mentioned earlier, San Francisco will be without pass-rushing demon Nick Bosa, who is out for the season with an injury. They traded star defensive tackle DeForest Buckner on of the best tackles not named Aaron Donald.
The plan was to replace Bruckner with the first-round pick Javon Kinlaw. Kinlaw certainly is not a bad player, which may work out for the 49ers over the long term. But Kinlaw has yet to record his first NFL sack, and as of right now, they miss Buckner. Also missing from the D-line is Solomon Thomas, a somewhat underachieving but talented player. That leaves Arik Armstead as the 49er's main pass-rushing threat. His battle against Rams tackles Rob Havenstein could be critical on Sunday night.
The Rams rejuvenated running game has been a key to their offensive success so far. One offensive lapse in the teams—the run game a rather "ugly" 17-9 win over the Giants a couple of weeks ago- That's no accident, as the Rams explosive passing game features much play-action and generally is not as effective when the running game is a non-factor.
With the Cardinals' 180-yard performance in an opening day loss, the Niners have mostly been solid against the run. The Rams feature a three-headed running game of steady Malcolm Brown and the more explosive Darrell Henderson and Cam Akers. Akers broke off a 46-yard run against Washington last week that showed a bit of what the Rams were hoping for when they took him in the second round of the 2020 draft, but Rams coach Sean McVay seems to go with whoever the hot hand is at running back. That can be any of the trios on a given day, and each can catch the ball as well.
The 49ers are missing starting corners Richard Sherman and K'Waun Willaims, and that could be a problem. They made Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick look like Dan Marino last week, like Fitzpatrick, will all due respect, is no Jared Goff. The Niners need to pressure Goff, or the Rams wide receivers could have a field day against this secondary. Don't forget about tight ends Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee, either. As with the Rams running backs, you never know who the hot hand will be at tight end, and either can be deadly on a given day.
The bottom line here is that the 49ers need to win upfront because this secondary is overmatched if Goff gets time to throw the ball. The Dolphins receivers killed them last week on crossing patterns in particular, and Miami's receivers, with the possible exception of tight end Mike Gesicki, and not nearly as good as the Rams.
Rams Defense vs. Niners Offense: San Francisco problems start up front with an offensive line that has not been very good this season. The 49ers thought they were upgrading at left tackle when they replaced the retired Joe Staley with former Washington Football Team star Trent Williams. Considered Williams the best- offensive left tackle in the game going into this season, but so far, that hasn't been the case in 2020. Whether it's rust from sitting out the entire 2019 season with Washington (he had a cancerous growth on his head), a matter of a player in decline, or just taking a while to hit his stride with a new team—or some combination of all three—Williams has not been good this season. Last week against the Dolphins, Two words: Aaron Donald.
Donald has been a holy terror this season, notching four sacks last week against the Washington Team. San Francisco had better have their act together this week, or Jimmy G may relegate back to the bench. Maybe the witness protection program would be an even better idea.
However, the Niner's troubles don't end on the left side. Right tackle Mike McGlinchey has been even worse than Williams so far. The Rams will line up Donald just about anywhere to take advantage of favorable matchups. That could mean McGlinchey sees much of AD this week. It's a given that Donald will be double-teamed, of course, but so far, that hasn't slowed him down much.
The Rams will be without a couple of key defenders. Linebacker Obo Okoronkwo, who had been coming on as a pass rusher, is on injured reserve. The Rams hope linebacker Terrell Lewis, a rookie who made his debut last week, can pick up some of the slack. Lewis is a third-round draft selection out of Alabama who expected to help take some of the pressure off Aaron Donald in the pass rush. He came into the league with a label of '" talented but injury-prone."
The other Rams injury looms even more extensive. Starting rookie Safety Jordan Fuller, who has been a critical player in the Rams secondary, is out for at least three weeks with a shoulder injury. Former starter Taylor Rapp'll replace him in the lineup. While Rapp would probably start for many NFL teams, he's been somewhat disappointing so far this season. He needs to step it up on Sunday night and redeem himself from a blown coverage against the Niners last season, leading to a game-winning field goal by kicker Robbie Gould.
Safety John Johnson will likely see a lot of George Kittle in what could be a key matchup. There is even some discussion that the Rams may put their best cornerback, Jalen Ramsey, on Kittle. You don't often see lockdown corners assigned to cover tight ends. Then again, you don't often see tight ends like George Kittle, who is an absolute monster and easily the 49er's best offensive weapon.
The Rams will likely see Micah Kiser back in action at inside linebacker. That's good news if the Rams hope to contain running back Raheem Mostert and the 49er running game. Shanahan has always favored a "run first' offensive philosophy, but he needs better blocking than San Francisco has featured so far this season to make that work.
Special Teams: The Rams Sam Sloman missed an extra point last week. That's never a good sign. The Rams special teams, aside from punter Johnny Hekker, remains a concern. As good as Cooper Kupp may be as a receiver, he doesn't seem to do much as a punt returner other than many fair catches. The Rams had Nsimba Webster, who has been returning kickoffs, run back a couple of punts last week, and McVay seemed to indicate we would see more of that in the future. Webster probably offers a more explosive option, but he doesn't necessarily strike fear into the hearts of opponents either.
If the Rams have an Achilles heel, this is it.
PREDICTION: The Rams are favored by 3.5 on the road. Keep in mind that the 49ers are a wounded, angry team and are playing for their season, so an upset would not be a huge shock here. But on paper, you have to like the Rams chances.
Rams 24 - 49ers 21
The Los Angeles Rams lose their rookie starting safety Jordan Fuller to the injured reserve list. Fuller re-injured the same shoulder he injured against the Buffalo Bills two weeks ago. Fuller missed the next game against the New York Giants before returning to the field Sunday against the Washington Football Team.
Late in the fourth quarter, Fuller closed in fast on a short pass to J.D. McKissick and leveled him as the ball was arriving. Fuller appeared to get up slowly and linger over to favor his shoulder as he went to the sideline. The Rams medical staff initially felt Fuller had a stinger but ended up being more severe than expected.
Fuller will have to remain on IR for a minimum of three weeks and will be eligible to return in Week Nine, one week after their bye against the red hot Seattle Seahawks, who currently holds first place in the division. The bye week allows Fuller to have one extra week to recover and be fully ready against the Seahawks.
In a corresponding move, the Rams promote rookie safety Juju Hughes to the active roster two weeks after being promoted to Fuller's first injury.
Ed "Pi Double I" Henderson
The Los Angeles Rams have resigned rookie safety Juju Hughes back to their active roster. Hughes, widely known for his toothpick from "Hard Knocks," did not survive the final 53-man roster cuts; however, he added to the priority practice squad.
Two weeks ago, the Ram's added Hughes to the active roster after starting safety Jordan Fuller injured his shoulder against the Buffalo Bills early in the first half. Fuller missed the next game against the New York Giants before playing Sunday against the Washington Football Team. Fuller injured re-injured his shoulder late in the game and placed on the injured reserve list.
In Hughes's first NFL game, he played sparingly against the Giants and recorded one tackle in his debut. Hughes has an excellent opportunity of gaining much playing time behind Taylor Rapp, who replaces Fuller in the starting lineup.
In a corresponding move the Rams added defensive lineman Eric Banks to their practice squad. Rams released Banks last weekend after activating rooking EDGE rusher Terrel Lewis.
Ed "Pi Double I" Henderson
Today, Aaron Donald, defensive lineman for the Los Angeles Rams, was named NFC Week #5 Defensive Player of the Week. The former 2017 and 2018 NFL DEfensive Player of the Year won this award after posting four sacks on the Washington Football Team last Sunday at Fed Ex Stadium.
On Sunday, Donald's performance was unbelievable after applying continuous pressure on the offensive line until receiving his first sack early in the second quarter on quarterback Kyle Allen. After a scramble and run late in the second quarter, Allen was injured by a hit from cornerback Jalen Ramsey and was replaced by veteran Alex Smith.
Smith playing in his first game in nearly two years after a gruesome career and life-ending injury, remarkably rehabilitated himself back into the game he loves so much. Truly an inspirational moment for Smith as he completed his first pass to former Rams tight end Temarrick Hemingway.
However, Smith was not so fortunate on his next attempt as he received his first contact since the 2018 football season. Smith received intense pressure from outside and tried to step up into the pocket where Donald would jump on his back from behind, collecting his second sack of the game.
Donald would get to Smith one more time in the second half and was given credit for another sack after Smith fumbled a snap and tackled for a loss on the play. Donald four sacks were the second time in career after sacking C.J. Beathard of San Francisco 49ers quarterback four times in 2018.
Donald will be licking his chops again this weekend against a depleted offensive front of the 49ers, this upcoming Sunday Night Football Live at Levi Stadium. The 49ers offensive line allowed five sacks on their quarterback last Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, and it does not get any easier on Sunday against Donald and the Rams.
Troy Reeder, Ram's second-year reserve linebacker, replaced an injured Mica Kaiser, collected his first NFL sack, and added two additional sacks in the game. If the Rams defensive front can continue applying extra pressure, potentially, Player of the Week nominations shall follow for Donald again. Donald's named for his seventh Player of the Week and also named NFC Defensive Player of the Week twice in his career.
Overview: Seven points favor the Los Angeles Rams in this game after a somewhat underwhelming win against the New York Giants last Sunday at So-Fi Stadium. A win is a win, and the Rams defense played well despite their offense seemed a little off. However, they will be looking to ride the ship against a Washington Football Team, believe it or not, is a contender (at least for now) in the weakest division in football, The NFC East.
Coaching: This game does provide an interesting contrast in the matchup of the Head Coaches, with the offensive wizard of Sean McVay matching wits with Washington's Ron Rivera, a highly-respected defensive mastermind. You can certainly argue this one either way, but Sean McVay has been on a roll in 2020, with the possible exception of the Giants game. He also has more flexibility by having a more talented roster.
Rams Offense vs. Washington Defense: The Football Team has some talent on defense, mostly if their second overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft rookie defensive end Chase Young plays, battling a groin injury. Young did practice on Thursday and Friday and appears more likely than not to play. If he does, it will set up a fascinating matchup between Young and the oldest lineman in the league; Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth. Whitworth seems to discover a fountain of youth and is playing well as any offensive tackle in the league, making for an exciting battle. When Washington's defensive line is at full strength, it can be a challenge.
Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan has been quiet since a week one sack-fest against the Philadelphia Eagles in which the Football Team got to Carson Wentz eight times, but he's a heady veteran who is always a threat to disrupt the opposing offense. The Rams may want to get back to running the football and rolling out quarterback Jared Goff to counter the pass rush, things we saw a little less of in last week's win over the Giants.
The Rams will have rookie running back Cam Akers back for the first time since he suffered a rib injury against the Eagles. So far, Rams Coach Sean McVay has gone with the hot hand getting most of the touches at running back. That has translated into grinder Malcolm Brown being the feature back against the Dallas Cowboys and Giants, with the more-explosive Darrell Henderson having big games against the Eagles and the Buffalo Bills. Akers was getting into the action against Philly before being injured. Will this be his week to play the role of Rams "bell-cow" back? It wouldn't be a big shock.
The Rams may look for tight end Tyler Higbee in the passing game. He'll probably get matched up with Washington's safety Landon Collins, a battle that, on paper at least, favors the Rams. In general, Washington's secondary is not "all that," so they need to generate a steady pass rush. If they can't do that, the Rams talented and deep receiving corps could have a big day.
The Rams may look for tight end Tyler Higbee in the passing game. He'll probably get matched up with Washington's safety Landon Collins, a battle that, on paper at least, favors the Rams. In general, Washington's secondary is not "all that," so they need to generate a steady pass rush. If they can't do that, the Rams talented and deep receiving corps could have a big day.
Football Team Offense vs. Rams Defense: The Football Team has made a quarterback change this week, replacing former Ohio State star Dwayne Haskins with Kyle Allen, who head coach Ron Rivera used as his starter last season with the Panthers. Allen has less raw talent than Haskins, but he knows the offense, is relatively mobile, and has a strong, if not accurate, arm. The word out of Washington is that Rivera feels that Allen gives the team the best chance to win over the short term, and with the division up for grabs, they decided to go into "win now" mode. Allen threw 17 touchdowns, and 16 picks last season, and you can never be sure exactly what you will get when he takes the field.
Former starter Alex Smith, still working his way back from a gruesome leg injury that many thought would end his career, will be the backup.
The Redskins have one big-time weapon in wide-receiver Terry McLaurin, who has three times as many receiving yards as any other Washington player. Look for Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey to lock in on McLaurin for much of the day. If Ramsey can justify his big contract and reputation as an actual "lockdown" corner, you have to like the Rams chances on this side of the ball.
The Rams expected to unveil rookie linebacker Terrell Lewis in this game, although it's uncertain how many snaps he will see in his NFL debut. The Rams need to find someone to apply some pressure from the edge consistently, which is supposed to be Lewis's calling card.
The Los Angeles outside linebacking crew was better last week against the Giants in applying some pressure, but they need someone to do it every week, whether it's Lewis or Samson Ebukam or Leonard Floyd.
Of course, you can't talk about the Rams defense without mentioning the best defensive player in the game, Aaron Donald. No doubt, the Football Team has something cooked up for Donald. But in the immortal words of Mike Tyson, "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face." Nobody is better at punching offenses in the face than AD.
The Football Team has not performed well in the running game, but Los Angeles will need to keep an eye on rookie running back Antonio Gibson. Don't be surprised if they try to use Gibson as a receiver. The Rams may be without inside linebacker Micah Kiser, the teams leading tackler and a key element in the team's run defense in particular. Cornerback Troy Hill's status is "questionable' for this game. Hill's good news is that Washington's receiving corps doesn't seem to have much depth after McLaurin.
Special Teams: This area remains a concern for the Rams after being a strength for the last few years. Sam Sloman has not been statistically terrible, but the low trajectory on some of his field-goal attempts still makes many Rams fans nervous. There are also worries about his ability to make long field goals.
We're still not completely sold on Cooper Kupp as a punt returner either. That's partly because of concerns about losing one of our best receivers due to injury on punt returns, but he hasn't done anything special as a returner so far either. Johnny Hekker remains the best punter on planet earth, but this is still a general area of concern.
We keep having nightmares about games—or even the season-coming down to a 55-yard field goal attempt by Sloman. He's no Greg Zuerlein, in our opinion. We hope he proves us wrong.
EDGE: Football Team
Final Prediction: The Rams should win this game. They are favored by roughly a touchdown, down from 9 points before the Football Team announced the quarterback change. But this is the NFL, and while Washington may not be a Super Bowl contender, they do have some talent on the defensive line. There could also be some concerns about the Rams looking ahead to San Francisco next week. Hopefully, they learned something from last week's battle with the Giants.
Rams 27 Football Team 17
Overview: On paper, this is a mismatch as much as two touchdowns favor the Los Angeles Rams. At the risk of bringing up painful memories, that is roughly the same margin as the Rams were favored by in Super Bowl XVI…and we know how THAT turned out.
OK, some rather "unique" interpretations of the rules in that game favored the New England Patriots, which hopefully won't be the case on Sunday. I also don't see a Tom Brady or Bill Belichick on the New York Giants sidelines. But the point is, this is the NFL, and you never want to take anyone lightly. Upsets happen every weekend on "Any Given Sunday!"
Coaching: Rams Head Coach Sean McVay has been on a roll this season. The Giants head coach is Joe Judge, and their OC is former Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett.
Need I say more?
Rams Offense vs. Giants Defense: The Rams have been clicking on this side of the ball, thanks in large part to a resurgent running game. Rookie running back Cam Akers will miss another game because of a rib injury, but second-year running back Darrell Henderson is an emerging star. He's coming off a 114-yard rushing performance against an outstanding Bills defense. The Giants rushing defense is 20th in the league, giving up an average of 123 yards per game on the ground. The Rams are averaging 170 yards per game on the ground, good for fourth in the NFL. If Henderson and Malcolm Brown can run for that or more on Sunday, the Rams should win this game, barring a barrage of turnovers or a total collapse of the Rams defense.
A climactic battle up front features Rams center Austin Blythe against Giants d-lineman Dalvan Tomlinson, who most often lines up as a nose tackle. Tomlinson is easily the Giant's best run defender, and if he can get the better of Blythe, the Giants could have a chance to muzzle the Rams running game. But Blythe has played well so far this season and hopefully should be up to the task on Sunday. In general, the Rams offensive line has vastly improved over the lackluster unit that we saw in 2019.
That's a little surprising considering we are talking about the same group of guys, but if they can play OK again on Sunday, the Rams will presumably win this game.
The Giant's defense won't be helped by the absence of safety Jabrill Peppers, arguably their best player on defense. If the Rams can run the ball and use the play-action pass, they could score many points. The Giants linebacking unit, led by former Packer Blake Martinez at middle linebacker, needs to step up if the Giants have any chance in this game.
If the Rams offense can play to form and avoid turnovers, you have to like their chances.
Rams Defense vs. Giants Offense: The Rams defense is coming off their most ineffective performance. They surrendered 35 points last week, failed to stop the Bills on two critical third plays of 22-yards 17-yards, and flagged for pass interference on a fourth down and eight, that could have sealed the victory. While the PI call was dicey at best, they need to be better.
The good news for the Rams is that Giants quarterback Daniel Jones is no Josh Allen, and the Giants are missing easily their best offensive player in running back Saquon Barkley, who lost for the season with a knee injury.
Many people think Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald will have a field day against Giants O-linemen guard Will Hernandez and center Nick Gates. This year, Gates has been so awful that some think the Rams may try to line AD up at nose tackle to take advantage of him. None of the Giants linemen has been exactly playing like an All-Pro this year, but AD can expect to see double and even triple teams all day long. Of course, he's accustomed to that, and it rarely works.
Perhaps the Ram's most significant defense problem was finding someone besides Aaron Donald that can consistently rush the passer. Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd has a couple of sacks, and Micheal Brockers has one, but Floyd has been inconsistent, as Brocker is primarily a runs-stopper.
The Rams have gotten minimal pass rush from the other outside linebacker position, mostly manned by Samson Ebukam and Ogo Okoronkwo. Ebukam is a freakish athlete who timed at 4.45 in the 40-yard dash (faster than many wide receivers), and Okoronkwo was considered a pass-rushing specialist in college the University of Oklahoma, but frankly, neither one has been outstanding this season. The Rams are hoping to get a boost from the return of rookie outside linebacker Terrell Lewis, but that is probably at least a week away. They need someone to step up as a pass rusher to create more outside pressure.
The Giants do have an immense potential weapon in tight end Evan Engram, a gifted athlete who hasn't done much this season. Rams Safety John Johnson may see a lot of Engram on Sunday.
The Giants probably hope to attack Rams slot corner Troy Hill with veteran receiver Golden Tate. Hill has had some struggles this season after a stellar 2019, and while Tate is getting a little long in the tooth, he is a crafty receiver who can still make some plays.
Veteran Devonta Freeman is expected to start in place of Barkley. He's not Barkley by a long shot, but he is a competent NFL running back. Perhaps he can renew his acquaintance with Aaron Donald in this game. The two exchanged some (un) pleasantries last season when Freeman was a member of the Falcons.
Who picks a fight with Aaron Donald? Seriously?
Special Teams: After being a team strength for years, this remains an area of concern for the Rams. Kicker Sam Sloman missed another field goal last week (albeit it a 53 yarder into the wind), and the Rams special teams, in general, have just not been excellent, except for punter Johnny Hekker. Let's hope the Rams don't have to count on Sloman's long field goal attempt to win this game.
Final Prediction: On paper, this is a mismatch, and the Rams should be in an angry mood after blowing what would have been an epic comeback last week in Buffalo. But the Rams need to avoid coming out flat, as they did a week ago in the first half. The Giants could win against that team instead of the much better second-half Rams team from last week.
The other x-factor, as always, is turnovers. The Rams should keep the Giants offense under control unless they gift them with a short field and generally don't play well.
Rams 30 Giants 17
Ed "Pi Double I" Henderson
The Los Angeles Rams reportedly have promoted rookie cornerback Juju Hughes from the on their practice squad. Hughes, better known for his epic toothpick, joins the Rams defensive backfield more than likely as a precaution to the safety Jordan Fuller.
Fuller injured his shoulder early in the first quarter last Sunday against the Buffalo Bills and listed as questionable for tomorrow's game against the New York Giants.
Hughes went undrafted from the 2020 NFL Draft from Fresno State but was one of the Rams priority UDFA signings immediately after the draft. Hughes also was prominently featured in this summer Hard Knocks which aired on HBO before the start of the season.
Overview: This key matchup of two unbeaten teams in western New York should offer an excellent yardstick to measure where both teams are. The Rams come in with victories over the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, two teams widely expected to contend for the post-season and perhaps even the Super Bowl when the season began (there are questions about whether the Eagles merit that classification at this point). Buffalo's wins are less impressive, having beaten a bad Jets team and a bad-to-mediocre Dolphins team. But 2-0 is 2-0, and you could easily make an argument for the Bills being at least the third-best team in the AFC at this point.
Coaching: A battle of the Seans, McVay vs. McDermott. Two of the games best young coaches and an offensive wizard (McVay) vs. a defensive guru (McDermott). Both are great, but we think McVay has been in the zone after a sup-par 2019.
Rams Defense vs. Bills Offense: The top concern for the Rams on defense is that they must do a better job of pressuring Bills quarterback Josh Allen then they did against the Eagle's Carson Wentz last week. That means somebody besides Aaron Donald needs to apply some pressure. The Rams pass rush was solid in an opening-day win over Dallas, with Leonard Floyd and Micheal Brockers joining AD in notching sacks. However, the pass rush was a virtual non-factor in the win over the Eagles, despite was widely believed to be a suspect Philly offensive line.
Part of the reason for that was a Philly game plan that featured many short passes, allowing Wentz to quickly get rid of the ball. The tendency for the Eagles to use two-tight ends on most snaps may have also been a factor. Whatever the reason, the Eagles seem to be the one NFL team that knows how to contain Aaron Donald, who now has a total of zero sacks in the last four matchups against the Eagles.
The good news for the Rams pass rush on Sunday is that they won't be facing the Eagles, but Josh Allen tends to hold the ball longer than Wentz has the ball. The bad news is that if they don't do an ampler job of pressuring the quarterback, they probably won't leave Buffalo unbeaten. Will the Rams Defensive Coordinator Brandon Staley dial up a few more blitzes this week? It's possible. However, the Rams need to generate some pressure from the edge, and Donald needs to do what Donald usually does.
In this game, a marquee matchup is Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey on Bills wideout Stefon Diggs, a player, the Rams, knows all so well from his time as a Minnesota Viking. Cornerback Troy Hill, meanwhile, needs to keep speedy Bills wideout John Brown from going off.
It appears that the Bills may be missing another of Josh Allen's key weapons, tight end Dawson Knox, who did not practice all week and ruled out Sunday due to a concussion. The Bills rookie running back Zack Moss also has been ruled out with a toe injury. However, they will have running back Devin Singletary, averaging five yards per carries from the scrimmage line. The Rams will hope for another big week from inside linebacker Micah Kiser, the NFC Week Two Defensive Player of the Week last week. The Rams inside linebackers will need to step up again on Sunday to stop the run and contain Allen. If the Rams can pressure Allen, they can handle this offense. If not, it could be a long day.
Rams Offense vs. Bills Defense: This 2020 Rams offense has resembled a lot like the Super Bowl offense from 2018 and not so much like the unit that forgot about the running game last year. The Rams come in with the third-ranked rushing attack in the NFL, which makes their passing game a lot more effective. They will be without rookie Cam Akers, who started against the Eagles and seemed to be hitting his stride before leaving the game with an injured rib. Second-year running-back Darrell Henderson stepped up his game, and Malcolm Brown was stable after being "the guy" in the season-opening win over Dallas, where he notched over 100 yards in total offense.
The Bills run defense has been solid against the run thus far, and if they can make the Rams offense one-dimensional, they have an excellent chance to win this game. Rams quarterback Jared Goff has been outstanding in the first two games throwing only one interception (one that should have failed a overturn from a missed call of a blow to Goff's head against the Cowboys) vs. three touchdowns and a 108.5 passer rating. Goff offensive success is widely due to the play of his offensive line frequent use of the play-action pass and many rollout/bootleg type plays that have mostly kept him out of harm's way from opposing pass-rushers. He's even run the ball a few times, and while no one will ever mistake him for Lamer Jackson as a runner, he's more athletic than many people give him credit.
The Rams will be without starting left-guard Joseph Noteboom; he'll be replaced by second-year David Edwards, who played well when pressed into a starting role last season. Edwards will face off against Bills defensive tackle Ed Oliver, who notched five sacks last season and is a crucial run-defender. Edwards needs to hold his own against Oliver, at least.
Rams tight end Tyler Higbee is an emerging star, having scored three touchdowns against the Eagles last week. The Bills defense gave up 130 yards to the Miami Dolphins tight-end Mike Gesiki the previous week. Bills safeties Micah Hyde and Jordon Poyer may have their hands full with Higbee.
Another battle worth watching is Rams wide receiver Robert Woods vs. Bills cornerback Tre' Davious White. White is an elite cornerback, while Woods is coming off of back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and would probably love nothing more than a big day against his former team.
Special Teams: Neither team has been great in this area thus far this season. Rams punt returner Cooper Kupp gave the Eagles hoped with a fumble just before the half last week. He's always been sure-handed as a receiver, so hopefully, that is only "one of those things." We also question whether you want to risk injury to one of your best receivers as a punt returner, but that is another subject for another time.
Rams placekicker Sam Sloman has not been terrible, but there is room for improvement. A missed field goal and one extra point, and he tends to kick low-trajectory balls at times, let's say the jury is still out on Sloman. The Bills placekicker is another rookie, Tyler Bass, a sixth-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft from Georgia Southern. Bass has yet to miss any kicks but has looked a little shaky at times.
The Rams do have the world's best punter in Johnny Hekker, who can also play a little quarterback on fake punts and do it very well. Even so, the Rams special teams have not been all that we would like in the first two games. Buffalo's haven't been great either, but we will give them a slight edge here.
Final Prediction: Oddsmakers say the Bills by three. But the Bills has had to work to beat a couple of less than stellar opponents. This game could go either way, but we are going to check the box for the Rams.
Rams 27 Bills 24
Los Angeles Rams vs. Philadelphia Eagles Preview
Overview: This is a challenging game to predict for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, is the Eagles team that we saw lay an egg in Washington last week really who they are? The eight sacks they gave up on Sunday is not going to win very many games. Meanwhile, the Rams are coming off a strong performance against a Dallas team that many consider a Super Bowl contender. But they are concerns for Los Angeles at inside linebacker, where they have to tackle better. And while placekicker Sam Sloman settled down after missing an early field goal, some of his low trajectory kicks are still a concern.
Rams Defense vs. Eagles Offense: Job one for the Eagles protects quarterback Carson Wentz from Rams d-lineman Aaron Donald; it will not be easy. While Donald only logged one sack against the Dallas Cowboys, he was in their backfield all night long and treated Cowboys All-Pro guard Zach Martin like a rag doll on more than one occasion. Perhaps I should say "Martin and friends," because AD received double-teamed, not that it slowed him down much. The Rams tend to move Donald around a lot, but Philly's big concern will be his battles with right guard Nate Herbig, who cannot expect to contain AD with one-one-one very often. Nobody can do that regularly, so we can expect the Eagles to double-team and perhaps even triple-team AD. The Eagles do have an excellent center in Jason Kelce, who will be in charge of making sure the O-line knows what the plan is upfront. They also get Lane Johnson back at right tackle, whom they didn't have last week. The Eagles have had great success in containing Donald, holding him without a sack the last three times these teams met. If they can neutralize him again Sunday, they have an excellent chance to win, but that is easier said than done.
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz needs to do his part by getting rid of the ball as quickly as possible, something he failed to do last week.
A big test for the Rams containing tight ends Zack Ertz and Dallas Goedert. Ertz is one of the league's best tight ends, and Goedert is not far behind him. The Rams inside linebackers, Micah Kiser and Troy Reeder, are not necessarily great in coverage. Expect to see more ILB Kenny Young, probably a better cover defender, on Sunday in Philly. Don't be too surprised if safety Taylor Rapp, who lost his starting role by Jordan Fuller, lines up at ILB as well. Fuller and fellow safety John Johnson may get into the coverage as well, depending on how Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley decides to play it. Philly runs many 12-personnel sets, and how successful the Rams are at containing Ertz and Goedert could be critical to this game's outcome.
Last week, the Rams got the fair play out of OLB Leonard Floyd, who had a sack and several pressures the previous week. He hadn't had all that much success against Lane Johnson when Floyd was with the Bears, but he gets another crack at it on Sunday. If Floyd can win his one-on-one battles against Johnson (who is returning from injury), it would help free up Aaron Donald and Micheal Brockers and generally support the Rams defense pressure, Wentz.
Another matchup that needs to be of some concern is Jalen Ramsey vs. Eagles wideouts, DeSean Jackson and rookie Jalen Reagor. Expect Ramsey and fellow Rams corner Troy Hill to be one-on-one with the Philly wideouts on a lot of the time on Sunday. They need to hold their own to allow the defense to scheme effectively against the Eagle tight ends.
Edge: Rams (assuming Aaron Donald wreaks his usual havoc)
Rams Offense vs. Eagle Defense: The Rams did a great job last week of neutralizing a strong Dallas defensive front. They did it by much-improved offensive line play, a lot of quick passes, and a strong running game. They will need to do so again to win on Sunday.
The Philly front four, in general, is among the league's better units.
Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox may be the best defensive tackle not named Aaron Donald. The Rams offensive line will need to keep him under control. If we see the Rams O-line play like they did last week against the Cowboys, they have a good chance. If they regress to the unit that we saw in most of 2019, Rams fans could get ugly.
One surprise for the Rams in week one was the emergence of running back Malcolm Brown, who notched over 100 yards running and receiving last week. Is Brown "the guy' for the Rams in 2020, or were they riding with the hot hand? That remains to become the question. Rookie running back Cam Akers was so-so last week, showing flashes but not putting up great numbers overall with only 39 yards rushing. The third running-back in the Rams expected "three-headed monster," Darrell Henderson, saw limited action, with three carries for 6 yards. In Henderson's case, the lack of action could result from limited snaps in practice due to a hamstring injury. The Rams would like more production from Akers and Henderson than they got last week, but if Brown can keep playing well, it may not matter all that much.
It was good to see the Rams get back to a more balanced attack last week, with the ground game doing enough to set up the play-action pass. The Rams offense (minus Todd Gurley) that we saw in 2018, rather than the pass-happy "Mike Martz 2.0" version that often took the field last season.
A couple of other noteworthy matchups when the Rams are on offense will include Rams slot receiver Cooper Kupp versus former teammate Nickell Roby-Coleman and wideout Robert Woods versus Eagles corner Darius Slay. The Eagles also want to keep tight-end Tyler Higbee from exploding like the last five games last season. Linebacker Nathan Gerry calls the Eagle defensive signals and has the assignment of keeping an eye on Higbee, who is emerging as one of the league's better pass-catching tight ends.
If the Rams O-line can keep Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, and company in check and open some holes in the running game, Los Angeles should score some points in this game. If not, the Rams may be looking at a road loss. We'll check the box for the Rams, but not by much.
Special Teams: As we mentioned above, Sam Sloman made us a little nervous last week with the low trajectory on some of his kicks, even though he only ended up missing one. He also seemed to lack distance on his kickoffs. He may be fine, but with Philly having a week to study the game tape, it's a concern.
Johnny Hekker remains probably the best punter on the planet, but...
Final Prediction: This game is challenging to predict and will reflect in the betting odds. Some oddsmakers have Philly favored by roughly 1.5; others are picking the Rams by the same margin.
Even though we checked the box for the Rams in two out of three categories, there is no definitive edge on either side of the ball. But we are a Rams page, so that we will hope for the best
Rams 30, Eagles 28