The New Orleans Saints come into this game as arguably the hottest team in the league. It's gutcheck time for the Los Angeles Rams, as they try to bounce back from a disappointing 24-7 loss to Minnesota Vikings. While I disagree with those who are calling this a ''must-win'' for the Rams, it's certainly an important matchup against one of the NFC powerhouses. A win would erase a lot of the bad feelings lingering from last week's debacle against the Vikings. A loss, or at least a blowout loss, would raise serious questions about whether this Rams team is really ready for prime time.
Rams Offense vs Saints Defense
Both units are dealing with major injury challenges. Rams wideout Robert Woods, the teams leading receiver this season, is out with a shoulder injury. Head Coach Sean McVay, said this week the team will take a ''by committee'' approach to replacing Woods, with Sammy Watkins, Tavon Austin, Cooper Kupp, Mike Thomas, and Pharoh Cooper, whom all are being asked to step up. Maybe we will be seeing more of Josh Reynolds as well. The fourth-round pick out of Texas A&M comes in with a grand total of 28 yards on the season, but many think he has starting or even star-type ability. Of course, when you talk about the Rams offense, you have to discuss Todd Gurley, who has turned into a Marshall Faulk-like dual running and receiving threat. I don't think the Saints linebackers can cover Gurley, so he could have a big day catching passes from Jared Goff, Both of the Saints starting corners, Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley are out. Lattimore has been arguably the Saints MVP this season, and Crawley is well above average, so this is a big deal, one that could possibly tip the scales in this game. But the Saints will have defensive end Cameron Jordan, who comes in with 8 sacks so far this season. Containing him will be a major key to the Rams offense. Honestly, if the Saints defense were healthy, I would give them at least a draw in this matchup. But the loss of their corners outweighs the loss of Woods in my opinion.
Edge: Rams (not by much)
Rams Defense vs Saints Offense
As a Rams fan this is the matchup that worries me. It looks like cornerback Kayvon Webster will play, which is very good news. The Vikings really abused his replacement, undrafted Dominique Hatfield last week, with Adam Thielen scoring on a long touchdown to help seal the game. But Nickel Robey-Coleman is likely out, and that is bad news against an elite quarterback like Drew Brees. There has been some speculation that Lamarcus Joyner, who has been the Rams best safety this year, might be deployed as a slot cornerback. But this Saints team also boasts a powerful running game, with the two-headed monster of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara posing major problems for a Rams defense that has been up-and-down against the run. Aaron Donald (who missed practice time this week with an illness) and Micheal Brockers, among others, will need to step up in a big way or this could get ugly. This is a far better offense than the Vikings unit that laid 24 points on the Rams last week.
Even Johnny Hekker was just average in last week's loss to the Vikings, and the Rams special teams overall were not as good as they have been this season. That needs to change this week in a big way. Hopefully, that will occur.
For much of this week I was leaning towards the Saints as my pick here, and frankly I am very worried about this game as a Rams fan. There is the potential here to not only lose, but lose badly. However, the injuries to the New Orleans starting corners are a huge deal, and good teams don't normally play really bad games in a row. I believe the Rams have become a good team, and they will also be playing at home. I could go either way on this...but I am going to hope for the best.
Rams 34 Saints 31