The Los Angeles Rams play host to a red-hot 8-2 New Orleans Saints on Sunday, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Rams look to avenge a devastating 49-21 lost to the Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome almost one calendar year to date.
A game where the Rams rookie quarterback Jared Goff, throws not only his first NFL career touchdown but also threw two additional touchdown passes in the game. His first touchdown pass was a 24-yard toss to Tavon Austin, who beat B.W. Webb in a man-to-man coverage with the grab. (Watch Video)
Jared Goff First Career Touchdown
In Jared Goff’s first NFL road start, we can admit he actually started showing signs of an overall first round pick. Goff went 20-32 214 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception in the loud and wild and crazy dome. Goff was able to find ex-teammates Kenny Britt and Lance Kendrick's on short touchdown passes in the game. However, Drew Brees played far better as he threw for 310 yards and four touchdowns.
The Rams will never forget the fact that the Saints ran the score up when Sean Peyton signaled in for a trick play. The play was wide receiver Willie Snead would step back and receive a lateral from Brees and then threw the ball some 50 yards down the field to a wide-open Tim Hightower. The team was already up by three touchdowns and built an insurmountable lead late in the fourth quarterback. (Watch Video)
Saints Dial Up Trick Play While Up By 21 Points
Avenging the loss comes with an unfortunate injury, as the Rams leading receiver Robert Woods, will be inactive for today's game, where he appeared to have injured his shoulder last week against the Minnesota Vikings.
Head Coach Sean McVay made it clear in his weekly press conference that it would be by a committee on which receives will replace Woods while he’s not out on injury. Tavon Austin, Pharoh Cooper, and rookies Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds, will become the committee that will look to contribute in the absence of Woods.
What seems to be like the title of a movie "The Good, Bad, & Ugly," the Rams tend to have that established in their receivers core. The three obvious to be expected to step up in Woods unavailability, is Watkins, Austin, and Kupp.
Sammy "The Good" Watkins
The Rams acquired Watkins late in the preseason to provide the Rams passing attack a legitimate deep threat. However, in the beginning, Goff and Watkins couldn’t connect with great chemistry until the Thursday night “Color Rush” game against the division rivaled San Francisco 49ers.
Watkins would have a broken game with six receptions for 106 yards receiving, and also scoring two touchdowns. He’ll make one of the most spectacular over the shoulder catch down the sideline for a 47-yard completion that sent Rams sideline in disbelief.
However, teams have been finding ways to shut Watkins down, by harassing him at the line of scrimmage or double teaming causing young Goff to look away from. Watkins seemed to have been uncomfortable with the number of targets that were not aimed at him and lashed out through social media.
Against the New York Giants, Goff found Watkins deep against a secondary who seemed to be peeking in the backfield for a magnificent 67-yard bomb in the middle of the field. It had been a long time coming as the two could never connect on the long passes and games displayed Watkins giving up on his routes or not running hard.
Nevertheless, for the Rams needs Watkins to get open early and often, in today’s game. The Saints will be without their two top defensive back, rookie sensation Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley who both have been ruled out for today’s game. Lattimore has an injured ankle and Crawley injury is to the abdomen.
The questions lie with us all, will McVay try and expose the injured Saints secondary bypassing heavy early in the game? If that answer is yes, then “the good” will have a huge game with monster type numbers.
Tavon "The Bad" Austin
Ram fans are still tremendously torn over the contract extension Tavon Austin and Rams front agreed to last season. Many fans were not reluctant with remaining silent of the fact that the Rams were paying him $14 million for one season, and that season statistics were average if not less.
Starting the pre-season on inactive with a hamstring injury, I rather say, I was hoping to see what impact Austin have on this offense. He seemed to be buried on the depth chart until he had been used more of a relief running back. He showed some flashes of ready to break out, but just hadn’t the opportunities to be on the field.
“The Bad” struck Austin more than once this season on with his punt returning miscues. In several games, he would muff punts which potentially became clinchers for their conference rival Seattle Seahawks. Austin last muffed punt against the Seahawks subsequently became the last one he would make, as he was stripped of his return duties by rookie Cooper Kupp. Since that time, Pharoh Cooper has become the return specialist for the Rams.
Perhaps Austin can be the receiver to help spark some life into this Rams offense that is minus, Robert Woods. It was Austin who put the Rams on the board in last season meeting with an early touchdown reception. Austin ended the game with four receptions for 45 yards and a touchdown. If he can use that game as motivation to play well today, he may just be the go-to guy in the the absence of Woods.
Cooper "The Ugly" Kupp
Rookie receiver Cooper “The Ugly” Kupp, was a very promising receiver coming out of the pre-season, as his skill would carry over into the regular season. At one point, he was leading the team in receptions, until he hitting a wall.
Fans have seemed to be discouraged with some of the miscues that Kupp had been challenged within his play. First, there was the pass in the end zone against the Seattle Seahawks, that many felt he should have caught to win the game. Next, have been several passes that should have been caught, were dropped as late as against the Vikings at the US Bank Stadium.
Last was the crucial fumble at the goal line against the Vikings, as Kupp appeared to try and stretch out for the touchdown, the ball was stripped out and recovered by Viking’s safety Anthony Harris. The turnover was devastating because the Rams had responded back to the Vikings touchdown with a threat of their own only to give the ball up in the red zone.
Kupp needs to put that play, and the many drops he had not been able to maintain behind him and look in the future. Today, this could be a game where he can stand up tall and take advantage of Saints secondary. It’s no secret that Kupp has Goff’s attention as he seems to be his favored or go to target. The Rams will need for him to play big today against a team who have won their last eight games.
Rams will probably need to stretch the field with rookie tight end Gerald Everett, as he seems to get open but the pass is either thrown late or out of his reach. Mike Thomas, who has suspended the first four games of the season, for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances, will get his opportunity to show what he was showing in the pre-season practices of getting open deep. Coach McVay was high on Thomas until the un-bearing news of the violation, and he has had to earn his way back into the line-up.
Last, Pharoh Cooper, who have given the Rams offense great field position with return ability, will have a moment to pick up from his hard play in pre-season. The second-year receiver has really matured as a player on the field as it has shown through the course of the season.
What seems to be quite odd, but the Rams are lucky to have the depth at the receiver position and talent as they carry seven on the roster. I’m really impressed to watch rookie Josh Reynolds to get some deep passes as he has primarily used as a decoy. Reynolds has a knack of the end zone from deep passes or red zone targets. Expect today to be a shootout, but I believe the Rams defense will dig deep and come after Brees and harass him all game.
Overview 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. Edge: Saints
Special Teams 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. Edge: Rams
Final Prediction 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
Overview This game is a possible playoff preview, and also gives the Rams a chance to prove they are contenders rather than pretenders. It also offers and intriguing quarterback matchup, with former Rams starter Case Keenum going against the man who replaced him, former first-overall pick Jared Goff.
On paper this game could go either way, and turnovers/penalties may very well decide the outcome. Which isn't unusual, but this one could very well go down to the last play of the game, or even into overtime.
Rams Offense vs Vikings Defense This is probably the best match up of any two NFL units this weekend, and one of the best this season. It also matches two of the best coaching minds in the league, with defensive wizard Mike Zimmer (Vikings) matching wits with offensive Einstein Sean McVay (Rams). The Vikings will likely try to pressure Rams quarterback Jared Goff and confuse him with some odd-looking defenses and maybe some exotic blitzes. One of the keys to this game will be whether Rams All-Pro tackle Andrew Whitworth can contain Vikings pass-rushing demon Everson Griffen, who is officially listed as questionable but is expected to play. If Whitworth can at least hold his own it will allow the Rams to help out right tackle Rob Havenstein against defensive end Dannielle Hunter, who is no slough as a pass rusher either. The other key to tamping down the pass rush is, of course, Todd Gurley. When he is running well the Rams like to utilize the play-action in the passing game, and Gurley has also turned into one of the better pass catching running backs in the league. If he has a big day, the Rams probably win this game. Vikings linebackers Anthony Barr, one of the faster people at his position in the league, and teammate Eric Kendricks will try to cover Gurley out of the backfield. Vikings corner Xavier Rhodes usually lines up against the other team's top receiver. In this case that (probably) means he will try to shut down Robert Woods, who had a monster day last week against the Texans The problem for the Vikings is that Rams receiving corp is so deep that even if Rhodes wins that battle, Sammy Watkins and Cooper Kupp are dangerous receivers as well. And there is always rookie Josh Reynolds waiting in the wings. He hasn't done much so far, but the ability is there. Pick your poison. Edge: Rams (but not by much)
Rams Defense vs Vikings Offense Viking wide receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are playing as well as any receiving duo in the league, and present a major challenge to the Rams secondary. If Case Keenum gets time to throw the ball, that match up could be a problem for Los Angeles. But Vikings right tackle Mike Remmers is out, while outside linebacker Robert Quinn is expected back this week for the Rams. Aaron Donald is probably the best defensive lineman in the NFL, and Micheal Brockers is having a monster season as well. Keenum, meanwhile, has physical limitations in terms of mobility and arm strength, but has been lights out for Minnesota. Ram fans know he can be interception prone under pressure, and he did throw a pair of picks last week against the Redskins. The Rams pass rush versus the Vikings offensive line is critical to the outcome of this game. If Keenum does struggle--or gets hurt--former (and probably future) starter Teddy Bridgewater is available for the Vikings, but the fact he hasn't played in a game for a year and a half does raise some concerns if he has to take over. The Vikings ground game is decent averaging 118 yards per game, but their passing game is probably a bigger concern. My big worry here is the Rams secondary holding up against Thielen and Diggs. Edge: Vikings (again, not by much)
Special Teams This is the only area where I see a significant advantage to either team, and it goes to the Rams. Greg Zuerlein was NFC special teams player of the week last week, and ''legatron'' could well decide the outcome of this game. Johnny Hekker is the best punter on the planet, and occasionally gets to show off his passing skills as a former high school quarterback on fake punts. Pharoh Cooper is always a threat to run kicks back for six points, and Corey Littleton has already blocked two punts this season. The Rams special teams may be the best in the league, and could well decide this game Edge: Rams
Until Houston Texan’s super-rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson torn his ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament), about ten days ago, this game was displayed to be the marquee match up.
While that is no longer the case, this is still a crucial game for the Rams, as they fight to stay ahead of Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West. The oddsmakers are picking the Rams by about 11.5, and I believe they have a great chance of covering the spread. But...this is the NFL; you never really know until the game is in the books.
Rams Offense vs Texans Defense As with the offense, injuries have depleted what looked like a very good Texans defensive unit. The loss of JJ Watt--arguably the second best to Aaron Donald, as the league's best defensive lineman--and linebacker Whitney Mercilius have taken their toll. But former first round draft selection Jadeveon Clowney, is no walk in the park either. He is now playing like the guy the Texans thought they were getting out of college.
But the Houston pass rush still isn't up to par with recent years, and I believe the Rams potentially could have a big day throwing the ball. Their rushing defense is OK, but even so, I favor this matchup for the Rams. I’m optimistic that the Rams will put up 30-45 points, if their offense is clicking on all cylinders . The Texan’s has given up an average of 26 points per game... and while the Rams offense may be of many things, ''average'' is not one of them. Advantage: Rams
Texans Offense Vs. Rams Defense If Watson were playing, we could be looking at a shootout in this game, with Tom Savage, not so much. Having said that, you can't overlook this guys either. The have one of the better wide receiver tandems in Deandre Hopkins and Will Fuller, two players who can take it to the house if Savage can get them the ball. The Texans quarterback wasn't really able to do much last week against the Indianapolis Colts, and the Rams defense is considerably better than Indy's.
Houston's rushing attack is nothing without Watson in the backfield. Rams linebacker Robert Quinn may miss this game with an illness, but I'm not sure that is a huge deal against this offense. The Rams gave up 17 points last week against the New York Giants, in a game that was really over by the end of the third quarter. Unless Tom Savage plays the game of his life, I doubt that the Texans will top that total, and they may have a hard time matching.
Aaron Donald continues to terrorize opposing quarterbacks, and I'm sure he will introduce himself to the Texans backfield in his usual way this week. Advantage Rams
Special Teams Will Corey Littleton block yet another punt this week? Will Pharoh Cooper return a punt all the way back? Will Greg Zuerlein kick a 55 yard field goal? I don't know. But I do know the Rams have been putting the ''special'' in special teams this year. I expect more of the same on Sunday. Advantage: Rams
Prediction You always worry about complacency and overconfidence in these type of games, but barring a turnover fest, the Rams really should notch a “W” here. Rams 37 Texans 17
The Los Angeles Rams activated running back Lance Dunbar, removing him from the PUP list (Physically Unable to Perform), adding him to the 53-man active roster. Dunbar placed on the PUP list shortly after signing with the Rams during the free agency signing period after suffering a knee injury before training camp.
Dunbar, who signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2012, after completing his senior season at the University of North Texas. He was the all-time leading rusher and scorer for UNT and was undrafted, in which he decided to stay in Texas signing with the Cowboys.
Dunbar signed a one-year contract with the Rams after losing Benny Cunningham to free agency, as he signed with the Chicago Bears. Dunbar reunited with Rams running back coach Skip Peete, who coached him in his rookie season with the Cowboys.
Activating Dunbar, the Rams will be getting a determined player who has put the reality of life before the game of football. Dunbar and his family were victims of Hurricane Katrina where they were displaced and relocated to Dallas, Texas.
Lance Dunbar Talks About Finishing What He Started
Jared Goff, the Rams starting quarterback, has been given yet another weapon to the already talented Rams offense. Primarily used a third down back early in his career, Dunbar brings the same style of talent such as Chris Thompson of the Washington Redskins, to this offense.
Dunbar speed allows him to explode through holes created by the offensive line and very shifty as a runner. (See Video)
Lance Dunbar Explodes Through Hole For Big Gain
Dunbar’s ability as a versatile run/catch running back, it allows the Rams to have another change of pace back to their offense. Not only as a runner, he can hurt the opposing defenses with he great catching ability. As a third down back, teams have to account for Dunbar, because he can take a screen pass and take it the distance. As a runner in the open field, he is very shifty and has the ability to make a defender miss on a tackle.
Being lined up outside as a receiver is where Dunbar becomes very dangerous and an added plus to the offense. He has the skill of lining up and running passing routes with the ability of any receiver in the league. He posses great hands where the ball rarely touches the ground. He can’t be covered with an average linebacker or safety, as he simply can outrun them on the field.
Dunbar has had a history of not being able to remain healthy as a player. I simply believe the eight-game vacation on the PUP, actually makes him more of a stronger runner moving forward this season.
Head Coach Sean McVay has been dealt a great hand thus far and played his cards almost to perfection. With a backfield that gives you the talent of Todd Gurley, and he can be substituted with a Tavon Austin and Lance Dunbar, two very speedy and shift backs. This offense has now be named “The Greatest Show On Turf 2.0”, by many Ram fans, spinning off from the great days of the “Greatest Show On Turf.”
That Offense premiered the likes of HOF (Hall of Fame) running back Marshall Faulk, receivers Az’ Hakim, Isaac Bruce, and Torrey Holt, and HOF quarterback Kurt Warner, who engineered this Dick Vermeil coached Rams team, with the craftiness play calling by Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz.
Martz who would take over as head coach after Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV and the surprise retirement of Vermeil, lead the Rams back to Super Bowl XXXVI, but lost to the New England Patriots, came under fire after critical comments he made in regards to the hiring of Sean McVay becoming the Rams new head coach.
Mike Martz Critical Remarks Of Sean McVay
Martz comments only rubbed off on many Ram fans, but as well to his colleagues around the league. McVay is a young offensive scientist who have had nothing but success in his offense, and the players he brought in whether through free agency or draft selections.
McVay landing Dunbar as a Ram Was quick to mention that he would use Dunbar exactly like he used Thompson in Washington. Hey Mike Martz, with that salty taste in your mouth about McVay, should be tasting quite sweet by now.
The Rams host the Houston Texans tomorrow after new at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where it was expected to be a great game to the loss of the Texans starting quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Nonetheless, the Rams have opened up as a 11 ½ point favored against the Texans, which is the biggest point spread for the Rams in over ten seasons. So please, if you’re not doing anything tomorrow, make plans to come out and fill the stands and route on your first place Los Angeles Rams.
The Los Angeles Rams have signed rookie tight-end Johnny Mundt from the practice squad again after Derek Carrier is ruled out with an injured hamstring. This is Mundt’s second stint on the active roster, after making the original 53-man roster after the pre-season.
To the surprise of many, Mundt was kept and the former University of Utah quarterback and converted tight end Travis Wilson was cut. Mundt had his memorable moment in the pre-season, as he caught a pass broke a tackle and score a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers.
Mundt brings depth to the roster as a tight end that can run and catch the ball vertically and as an okay pass blocker. To make room on the roster, the Rams released former fourth-round draft pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, Andrew Donnal from the University of Iowa, to make room on the roster for Mundt.
Overview On paper this game looks like a mismatch. I really can't figure out why most of the oddsmakers are only favoring the Rams by 4 points. Having said that, Los Angeles Rams will be playing on the east coast, which can be a challenge for California teams, and the New York Giants are a veteran group with arguably potential Hall of Fame quarterback in Eli Manning. Giants defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul was quoted as saying his team is ready to start fresh coming off last week's bye week. Finally, this is the NFL, there are no automatic wins on the schedule (except maybe Cleveland Browns, but the Rams don't play them this year).
Rams Offense vs Giants Defense The Giants defense is ranked 27th in the NFL and will be playing without former Ram Janoris ''Jackrabbit" Jenkins, who is suspended, and defensive end Olivier Vernon, who is out with an ankle injury. Could this be a breakout game for Rams receiver Sammy Watkins? It’s certainly possible. The bye week for the Rams also gave running back Todd Gurley a chance to rest up. The Giants have the league's 23rd-ranked rush defense, but defensive tackle Damon "Snacks" Harrison is one of the NFL's better run defenders. Since Gurley has been getting a lot of his rushing yards between the tackles, Harrison could be a problem. Even so, the Rams should be able to score on the Giants. Advantage: Rams
Rams Defense vs. Giants Offense Obviously the absence of Odell Beckham Junior is a big loss for New York, and you've probably never heard of most of the guys the Giants are starting at wide receiver these days. But they do have one of the league's better tight ends in Evan Engram, who has 11 catches 142 yards and two touchdowns in the last two games. He's a real match up nightmare, too fast for most linebackers and too big for cornerbacks. His success or lack thereof could be a major factor in this game. The Giants also expect wide receiver Sterling Shephard to make his return from an ankle injury on Sunday. He has 22 catches for 263 yards in a little under five games. He also scored a 77-yard touchdown against the Eagles in a week three loss. The Giants went ''ground and pound'' against the Seahowks a couple of weeks ago...and scored 7 points. They may try to open things up against the Rams. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles defense seems to have gotten the hang of Wade Phillip's 3-4 scheme the last 3 games, including a shutout against the Cardinals two weeks ago. Aaron Donald has been doing what Aaron Donald does, and that will be a problem for the Giants. The fact that guard Justin Pugh is not expected to play for the Giants doesn't help matters. In my opinion the Giants will probably need to score at least 27 points to win this game, and I don't think that will happen. Advantage: Rams
Special Teams Johnny Hekker is the best punter on the planet. Greg Zuerlein was the NFC Special Teams Player of the Month for October. Pharoh Copper is a threat to take it to the house anytime he touches the ball as a return man, and he seems to have solved the fumbling problems the team was having when Tavon Austin was returning punts. Advantage: Rams (a big one)