First of all, I don't think I am alone when I say I never thought the Rams would be 5-2 heading into their bye week.
To put it another perspective, if the Rams defeat the Giants on Sunday--which they should--they will have a season record of 6-2. In 1999, en route to a Super Bowl XXXIV title, the Rams started out with six straight wins before losing to the Detroit Lions and Tennessee Titans. Giving them a record after 8 games of--you guessed it--6-2. Rams fans know the rest of that story. What makes it really incredible is that '99 team was coming of off a 4-12 season. Sounds familiar?
Now the not-so-good news. The Rams schedule the rest of the way is NOT easy, three games look they should be wins for sure. This includes Sunday's game at the New York Giants, plus division games in coming weeks against the Arizona Cardinals (minus Carson Palmer) and San Francisco 49ers, who made a trade with New England Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. But this is the NFL, and division games in particular can be tough.
Even so, these are games the Rams are expected to win. Let's give them 3-0 on those match ups, which increases the their record to 8-2, if everything goes as planned.
However, six other remaining games of the 2017 schedule are NOT easy. They include battles with the once-beaten Eagles, plus tough road games with Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans. A couple of home games against the New Orlean Saints and the Houston Texans are no walk in the park either, especially the way rookie phenom quarterback Deshaun Watson played on Sunday against he Seahawks!
As a Rams fan, I believe they can accomplish 4-2 record or better in those games. But the analyst in me knows how tough some of these games are, and let's face it, an occasional bump in the road is probably unavoidable. So let's predict they go 3-3 in the tougher games, or perhaps they go 4-2, but lay an egg in one of the three ''should win" games. Hey, it happens, “any given Sunday” right? Either way that brings me to my final prediction.
11-5 NFC West Winners
In some ways this is a tough game to forecast because of a couple of x-factors. Which Adrian Peterson is the real AP--the sullen has-been he seemed to be with the Saints, or the rejuvenated Hall of Fame player who tore up the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week? The other unknown, of course, is the effect of a long trip to merry old England to play a game thousands of miles from home. You could argue the Rams should be used to these London games by now, but really, who knows? This, by the way, will be Peterson's second London game this season, having made the journey while still a member of the New Orlean Saints earlier this season.
Rams Offense Vs Cardinals Defense
The last time I checked it looked like Cardinals all-world cornerback Patrick Peterson would play in this game, which is good news for Arizona. They certainly need him, with a pass-defense that has been giving up an average of 251 yards per game. But good as he is, Peterson can't cover everyone at once, and the Rams have a lot of receiving weapons to work with. Of course, the Rams offense has mostly run through Todd Gurley this season. Gurley is a major weapon both as a runner and receiver, and getting him going seems to be the key to the whole offense. The Arizona rush defense is decent, giving up an average of 91 yards per game, ninth in the league. If they can shut down the Rams ground game and make Los Angeles one-dimensional they might have a chance. Overall though, I like this match up for the Rams.
Rams Defense vs Arizona Offense
In my opinion, the number one key to this game (aside from turnovers) is whether the Cardinals can run the ball suucessfully. That was the case last week, as Peterson ran for 134 yards in a romp over Tampa Bay. If the Cardinals can run the ball, eat up the clock and play good defense they can win this game. The running game is especially important because the last thing they want is to have Carson Palmer have to throw the ball 40 plus times. Carson Palmer, meet Aaron Donald. Palmer--to be kind--is not the most mobile quarterback, and the Cardinals O-line has mostly been pretty bad this season. They did get tackle D.J. Humphries back last week. That's good news, but it may not be enough. A strong running game would go a long way towards cancelling the Rams pass rush. But if that doesn't materialize, this could get ugly, and not in a good way for the Cardinals. The Rams getting out to a big early lead could be trouble for the same reasons.
This unit came up big for the Rams last week, with Cory Littleton blocking a punt and Pharoh Cooper running the opening kickoff back for a touchdown. Yes, Cooper did muff a punt, but fortunately was able to recover it. While the fumbled punts seem to be an on-going concern, you have to think problems with such a basic skill are correctable. At least they should be. But aside from that issue the Rams may well have the best special teams in the league. Johnny Hekker is the best punter on the planet, and placekicker Greg Zuerlein is a threat any time the Rams can move the ball much past mid-field. Assuming punt fumble-itis doesn't rear it's ugly head again, this is a big strength for the Rams.
Despite my giving the Rams the advantage in all three phases of the game, this one is NOT a slam dunk for Los Angeles. A resurgent Adrian Peterson, the perils and distractions of playing in London, and the ever-present threat of turnovers could all come up big for Arizona. But assuming none of those issues play a big role in this game, I just think the Rams are a better team right now.
Rams 34 Cardinals 24
The Los Angeles Rams will face another tough test on Sunday when they visit the surprising Jacksonville Jaguars in a battle of 3-2 teams on Sunday.
Rams Offense vs Jags Defense
One thing is for sure here, the Rams don't want to put themselves in a hole early in this game. The Jaguars boast the number three passing defense in the NFL, and cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey (a 2016 first round draft choice) and A.J Bouye are about as good of a pair of starting corners as you will find in the league. This is a unit that embarrassed Ben “Big Ben” Roethlisberger and the Pittsburg Steelers last week in a 30-9 shellacking. On the other hand, this is a unit that can be run on, with the league's 31st-ranked rushing defense. I would expect a strong dose of Todd Gurley, both running and as a receiver. Tight ends Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee are also likely to play key roles. The Rams only targeted Sammy Watkins twice last week. We'll see if that changes, but I don't know that this is the week to unleash the deep passing game.
Rams Defense vs Jags Offense
This could be a problem for the Rams if their earlier rushing defense problems resurface. Leonard Fournette is clearly a force to be reckoned with, coming off a 181-yard, two-touchdown torching of the Steelers last week. That included a 90-yard touchdown run, by the way. The Rams held Seattle to 62 years rushing, but they won't be facing Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls and the deficient Seattle Seahawks O-line on Sunday. As much as I like Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron, at 235 and 225 pounds respectively, they are on the small side to take on the Jaguars smash-mouth running game. Robert Quinn isn't necessarily an ideal run defender either. On the bright side Aaron Donald is looking like Aaron Donald, while Micheal Brockers and Tanzel Smart have also been more than holding their own. Even so, this is a matchup of the Rams 27th ranked run defense against the top-ranked rushing offense in the league. The good news is that the Jaguars don't throw the ball very well or very often, with only the 30th ranked passing offense. We'll see what Wade Phillips can come up with, but this isn't a great matchup for the Rams, at least on paper.
The Rams special teams weren't very special last week, between Tavon Austin's fumbling problem and Greg Zuerlein missing a field goal a week after kicking 7 in a win over Dallas Cowboys. Pharoah Cooper is expected to return punts as well as kickoffs this week for the Rams. I expect better this week from the Rams.
As a Rams fan, I am extremely nervous about this game. Los Angeles simply can't turn the ball over five times against Jacksonville or this could get ugly. The other thing I am concerned about is stopping Leonard Fournette. On the other hand, this game could be tailor-made for Todd Gurley, and as good as Jacksonville's pass defense is, the Rams may have too many weapons for them to cover everyone all of the time. Really, I think you could flip a coin on this one. but I am a Rams fan, and coaching could make the difference here. I believe in Sean McVay and Wade Phillips, especially against a somewhat one dimensional opponent.
Rams 27 Jaguars 24
Ed “Pi Double i” Henderson
The Los Angeles Rams and linebacker Alec Ogletree, have reportedly agreed to a four-year deal, extending his career with the team. Many fans were concerned about how the Rams were going to be able to sign him with a salary cap that was depleted. Surely, this news has now relieved many fans of those concerns, and the Rams begin to shore up their dominating defense for years to come.
Ogletree transitioned to the middle linebacker position two seasons ago, as the Rams decided to release James Laurinaitis, the organization all-time leader in tackles. At first, it didn’t look as promising, where it seemed as Ogletree wasn’t comfortable with the position, however, he became an all-pro his first season at the position.
Transitioning into a 3-4 scheme with new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, he has been complemented with fellowed inside linebacker Mark Barron, who is currently the team leader tackler.
The Rams are in great position now to work on a long-term deal with their All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald. Donald held out throughout the entire mini and training camps, in efforts of seeking a new extension. Both sides were not really budging as Donald suddenly ended his holdout and returned back to the team one day before the Rams were set to play their home opener against the Indianapolis Colts. Donald was inactive for the game, as they were concerned with his readiness and his game shape.
Earlier this season, the Rams and Ethan Westbrook agreed to a one year deal, as Westbrook good a reduced deal to remain with the team for another season. Other defensive players LaMarcus Joyner, Trumaine Johnson, and Mo Alexander, also are due for new contract extensions too. However, the Rams released Alexander earlier this week, as Joyner may be the next Ram who will receive the next new deal. It is unknown if both sides have reopened negotiations with starting defensive back Johnson, who currently is playing under the franchise tag of $16 million.
This is great news going into a game where the Rams will play against the number one rushing offense in the league on Sunday, the Jacksonville Jaguars. They’ll have their hands full with rookie running back Leonard Fournette who already is having a monstrous season and veteran back up Chris Ivory.
Ogletree’s extension was reported as a four-year deal worth $42 million and over $30 million in guarantees. His guarantees total is second to only Luke Kuechly at inside linebacker position who plays for the Carolina Panthers.
Ed “Pi Double i” Henderson
Over the last week, the Los Angeles Rams practice squad was with only nine players after Troy Hill was reactivated from his mandatory two games suspension. The team filled that spot when they agreed to sign wide receiver Freddy Brown. The next following week, the Seattle Seahawks signed Quinton Jefferson from the Rams practice squad leaving only nine players. The Rams front office filled the 10th practice squad position today with the signing of rookie linebacker Garrett Sickels of out Penn State University.
Sickels had previously been on the rosters of the Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns practice squads before the Rams signed him today. The team is in need of bigger and better linebacker help, as Sickels can provide that boast.
The six-foot-four and 270lb Sickels, played in a 3-4 and 4-3 scheme while at Penn State, as his Nifty Lion’s defense upset Ohio State. Sickel had three-and-a-half sacks against the Buckeye’s quarterback J.T. Barrett.
Sickel is very explosive off the edge, provides a great bull rush, while also playing the run. In that very same Ohio State game, he gave left tackle Jamarco Jones all sorts of problems with his strength and explosiveness off the ball, and especially tackling the speedy Curtis Samuels in the backfield twice for losses.
There is no question about the fact that the Rams are still searching for linebackers that can come and fulfill the position of stopping the run. The Rams run defense is currently 27th in the league but did do well last week against the Seattle Seahawks.
There is no timetable set on or whether Sickels will make it to the 53-man roster, but it seems as if defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is not happy with his core. Rams already released one starter this week, starting safety Mo Alexander, and will do whatever it takes to get this defense better.
By Doug Nelson
No question about it, Sunday's loss to the Seattle Seahawks was a bitter pill to swallow for the Los Angeles Rams fans. Especially because a home loss to a division rival is never much fun. Here my thoughts on the positives and negatives from the game.
We'll start with the negatives, because losing is always a negative.
Turnovers- You aren't going to win many games when you turn the ball over five times, it's as simple as that. Outside of the final score itself, this was the biggest concern coming out of this game. You simply can't do that on a regular basis and be a playoff caliber team. Gurley, Goff and Austin all share some responsibility for this lost.
Todd Gurley- The Seahawks for the most part did what Dallas couldn't accomplish, shutting down Gurley. In my humble opinion, the Rams gave up on him too soon and became one-dimensional in the second half. It's not like we were way behind either.
Sammy Watkins- Watkins was targeted twice if I remember correctly, with neither pass completed. You don't leave a Lamborghini parked in your garage (at least I wouldn't).
Tavon Austin (as a punt returner) - Tavon did some good things in this game, he just didn't do them as a return man. The fumbling has gotten to be a recurrent problem, and the fact the Seahawks were not able to score points off of his muffed punt doesn't mean it's not a problem. It is a big one at this point, because it keeps happening.
The Rams Defense- Granted, the Seahawks are not an explosive offense, but this was the best overall performance by our defense since opening day against the Colts. Yes, Russell Wilson did what he does, escaping several near sacks, I get that. But when you turn the ball over five times and only give up 16 points, something is going right. Not a perfect performance, but better.
Emergence of John Johnson (Safety)- Johnson had himself a day, playing so well the Rams felt comfortable releasing former starter Mo Alexander on Monday. While I’m guessing there is more to Alexander's release than we know, it likely wouldn't have happened if Johnson hadn't played so well. For that matter, I thought Cody Davis also played well subbing for LaMarcus Joyner. Safety suddenly looks like a strong position for the Rams.
Jared Goff (The final drive) - OK, the Rams fell short in the end, but Goff seemed like a polished veteran, leading the team down the field against one of the league's best defenses and doing it with no timeouts. Another step in Goff's journey from being a tackling dummy to becoming a possibly elite NFL quarterback.
Aaron Donald- Yeah, the Seahawks O-line isn't great, but Aaron Donald is starting to look like Aaron Donald again, and that is VERY good news for the Rams.
Ed “Pi Double i” Henderson
The Los Angeles Rams experience a very tough loss yesterday to their division rival Seattle Seahawks. However, they can’t blame anyone for this loss but themselves, as they left several scoring opportunities to slip away.
Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas in a live interview with NFL Network sportscaster Lindsay Rhodes, he mentioned that loved to leave his fingerprints in the game. That is just what he did, well better yet, he left his handprint, as he caused a costly fumble of Rams running back Todd Gurley.
Earl Thomas effective swipe at Benny Cunningham
December 2014, Thomas created what is known as the forearm swipe; something he used against other Rams running back Benny Cunningham (former) in Seattle week #17. Cunningham was attempting to cut the Seahawks lead down to seven points late in the fourth quarter, but Thomas had another idea in mind. (watch video)
Earl Thomas effective swipe at Todd Gurley
Well, what do you know, As Gurley attempted to score on the Rams very first possession, its Déjà vu all over again? Who would even begin to think that the one play Thomas was able to pull off three seasons ago, would come back and haunt the Rams again? Thomas slapped Gurley’s forearm, jarring the ball loose that hit the pylon and went out of bounds.
Initially, the play was signaled as a Rams touchdown, however, after a booth review (as they do after every score or turnover), the touchdown was reversed and the Seahawks was given possession of the ball. It was ruled as a touchback and the Seahawks started their second drive on their own 20-yard line.
Just an opinion, when Gurley’s touchdown was reversed, it appeared it took the wind out of his sail for the rest of the game. He never seemed to get back on track that he’s been the last several games, but just one bad game with more games to come to redeem himself.
The Rams were given the ball with 1:12 left in the fourth quarter after the Seahawks kicked a field to increase their lead by six points. Jared Goff attempt to rally the Rams in the fourth quarter nearly happened as tight end Tyler Higbee made two huge catches extending the drivers.
On a third down and ten, Goff will find a wide-open Cooper Kupp who dives out for the pass, but couldn’t reel it in as it went through his hands. The roar of Ram fans quickly went to an awhhh! Fourth and ten he tried to hit Kupp again with the same passing but the Seahawks were waiting and knocked the ball away. Rams lose the game of a final score of 16-10.
After the game, it was reported that many were complaining that Goff overthrew Kupp. Kupp insisted: “At the end of the day, just face the facts, I gotta make that play. I’m going to take responsibility for that.
A rookie receiver with comments of that nature to protect his young quarterback, tell many that he’s worth of his misfortune. Rams travel to Jacksonville to play the Jaguars next week. Jaguars have a very strong defense, but let’s remain optimistic that they come back with a win.
Ed “Pi Double i” Henderson
In a Thursday Night Football Color Rush game last season, the Seattle Seahawks played host to the Los Angeles Rams where it appeared that everything on the field looked gruesome. The Rams unveiled new white horns on their game helmets, which completely didn’t match the white uniforms they played in with gold trimming.
The Seahawks fared no better, as they played in a horrific lime green jersey and pants, however, the ugliest thing seen on the field was the hit Richard Sherman laid on rookie quarterback Jared Goff. Goff would get pressure from outside the pocket, scrambled left for a Rams first down. Goff had appeared to give up by running out of bounds, but Sherman thought differently of that fact and laid the boom on him, putting him in the concussion protocol. The add to the pain of the hit, the Rams were called for a holding penalty of one of the offensive linemen. (Watch Video)
Richard Sherman’s hit on Jared Goff
The Rams players were very upset with Sherman after the hit and felt it was a bit egregious. However, Sherman comments were this is football, and I play to the sound of the whistle. That he did, however, he would hit a defenseless quarterback.
Throughout the week of practice, I hope to expect the Rams plastered pictures, and play this video over and over to pump up the offensive line. If I was coaching, it would be nothing but student body to Sherman side for a couple of plays and crack back blocking.
However, the Rams defense will look to stick their horns off into Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson body. Rams cleaned house this past offseason, but there was no other Rams defensive lineman that gave Wilson most problems that William Hayes, who was traded to the Miami Dolphins.
Wade Phillips, the Rams defensive coordinator seems to find the way to bottle up the mobile quarterback as such as the Denver Broncos did against the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl L.
Rams entering their fifth game of the season in the 3-4 defensive scheme. Still trying to figure out the pieces, they may have found the solution by moving Michael Brockers to the defensive end position.
The Rams look to go 2-0 in the NFC West division, and 4-1 overall, with one of the leagues best record. Also to add, the Rams is the NFL second highest team in the league, averaging just under 35 points per game, a number they doubled since last season. If all goes well, the Rams should put up another high scoring contest with key defensive players out such as defensive lineman Cliff Avril and defensive back Jeremy Lane.
Ed “Pi Double i” Henderson
The Los Angeles Rams play against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday afternoon at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. This game will turn out to a pivotal one for both teams, as the Rams look to remain unbeaten and distance themselves in the NFC West Division with a victory over the Seahawks.
Last seasons, the Rams were victorious against the Seahawks in a defensive duel between both squads. The Rams scored on three successful field goals by kicker Greg Zuerline in front of 90,000 fans with their home opener.
The Seahawks didn’t give up easily as quarterback Russell Wilson hit receiver Tyler Lockett on a deep pass. A couple plays later, Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron hit running back Christine Michaels who fumbled on the play and Ogletree recovering the fumble, giving the Rams a 9-6 victory over the Seahawks. The victory was the first win for the Rams in Los Angeles since 1979 before the team relocated to Anaheim Stadium to play their home games.
Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas seems to feel that the Rams are not worthy of the 3-1 record the team currently holds. He feels that the Seahawks will come out victorious over the Rams tomorrow afternoon. He also would give some disparaging remarks in regards to the Rams offense. (Watch Video)
Earl Thomas Comment On Rams Offense
Thomas feels that the Rams offense is orchestrated by deception plays, and is like a one trick pony. He would quote in an NFL.com interview:
"Well if you really watch our games closely, it a be maybe two or three plays that really gets us and the gashes. The same thing at pass game; gadget plays. They not gonna to slug it out with us. Its gonna be gadgets; we know they going to have the fly motion with Tavon Austin, trying to misdirection and trying to get our eyes this way and run the ball the other way. But we got to take those two and three plays away! I’m able to put my fingerprints on the game.”-Earl Thomas.
These very insensitive comments certainly have added fuel to the fire when the teams square off tomorrow. Especially on the defensive side of the ball where starters Cliff Avril, and Jeremy Lane has already been ruled out. The Seahawks best past rusher and cover corner leave huge shoes to be filled on Sunday.
Rams head coach Sean McVay at this point is furious of Thomas remarks and is engineering a plan that will go right at the teeth of the Seahawks defense. Expect the Seahawks to bring strong safety Kam Chancellor down in the box to try and contain Todd Gurley’s running space. An improved offensive line, the Rams will expose the Seahawks defense with play action with the tight ends getting open often.
Rookie tight end Gerald Everett yet to have made it to the end zone this pre and regular season play. Watch for Jared Goff to target Everett in the red zone, as he slips behind the safeties of Seahawks. But he will have to remain poised, a tricky Thomas will try to bait him into throws to create turnovers.
This game will be one of defensive test for the Rams offense as its been the cornerstone for the Seahawks this season. Create a running game early and the Rams will have the slugfest that Thomas feels that they are incapable of having. He mentions that he puts fingerprints on the game, but I see him watching a lot of Ram's footprints in the turf.
It's only the fifth game of the season, but as early season division battles go, this is a really big game.
Rams Offense Vs. Seattle Defense
This matchup is strength against strength, and really matches two of the league's elite units. The number one key here, and maybe to the entire game, is Todd Gurley against the Seahawks run defense. If Gurley has another day like he did against Dallas last week, the Rams win this one hands down, barring a rash of turnovers by the Rams. The Rams receivers, meanwhile, will face their toughest test of the season against Richard Sherman and the 'hawks secondary. Sherman has been battling a groin injury but is expected to play. But pass-rushing demon Cliff Avril is out, and in fact there is some question about when and if he will play again after suffering a severe neck and spine injury. If Gurley has a big day it will limit the Seahawk pass rush, and as good as their secondary is, they can't cover the Ram receivers forever. Several other Seahawk defenders are banged but are expected to play. This is the biggest test so far of a Ram offense that has put up 35 points a game, first in the league.
ADVANTAGE: Rams, if only because of injuries. But it's close
Ram Defense vs Seattle Offense
This is the ''non-marquee'' matchup in this, which doesn't mean it won't decide the outcome. The Seahawks did put up 46 points against an inept Colts defense last week, but otherwise they have been pretty bad. The Seattle offensive line started out as a disaster area, and injuries have made that situation worse. Seahawks running back Chris Carson is out with ankle injury that has landed him on injured reserve. That means Seattle will have to count on Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy to run that ball, and that probably isn't a good thing. Of course, if there is one quarterback who can offset a weak O-line and deficient running game, it's Russel Wilson, who is the master of turning broken plays into big plays. The Rams rush defense has been a big problem area, although they did play much better in the second half last week against Dallas. Aaron Donald is showing signs of a return to form, and Micheal Brockers has been coming on lately as well. But the Rams inside linebackers are smallish for 3-4 inside 'backers, which is one reason the Rams rush defense has been erratic. Their pass defense has been somewhat better, but still not great. The Los Angeles defense and Seattle offense are both problem areas, and this game may hinge on which unit can rise to the occasion.
As far as the kicking game, I don;t think there is a better duo than Greg Zuerlien (who kicked 7 field goals against Dallas) and Johnny Hekker (the best punter on the planet.) The Rams special teams recovered a key fumble last week Against Dallas Cowboys, and returners Tavon Austin and Pharoah Cooper are a dangerous duo. I am still waiting for Austin to have a monster game returning punts; he's just too fast and dangerous to control forever. Of course, he is also fumble prone, and that is always a concern.
This is a big game that could go either way. A Rams win would put them in the driver's seat in the division race, while a Seattle victory could mean an all-out dogfight the rest of the rest of the way. As a Rams fan I am nervous about this game, but they have a history of playing Seattle tough in recent years with far less talented teams than this one. Home field advantage and the Seahawk injury issues also bode well for the Rams, but this is far from a slam-dunk. B All things considered, I have to go with my team.
ChrisRams 28 Seattle 24
Ed “Pi Double i” Henderson
The Seattle Seahawks have claimed former draft choice Quinton Jefferson from the Los Angeles Rams practice squad. This signing come one day later after Seahawks defensive lineman Cliff Avril was kicked in the chin by Jacoby Brisset’s heel while trying to tackle him. Avril had some sort of spinal injury that left him briefly without any feeling in his hands.
Jefferson was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks with the 147th pick in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, from the University of Maryland.
Jefferson played with the Seahawks and had a season ending knee injury in the third game of the season, last year. He was released by the Seahawks hoping to resign him to the practice squad. The Rams claimed him shortly and added him to the active roster.
Rams defensive line Aaron Donald, returned from his holdout the day before the season opener. The following week the Rams released Jefferson to make room on the roster for Donald. He later was signed to the practice squad until claimed by the Seahawks.
Ironically, the Rams play the Seahawks this Sunday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Jefferson will be on the Hawks active roster and hope one wonders what can be shared by the Rams defense. Just a thought by Wade Phillips on changing perhaps signals and verbiage of play calling.