Overview: If the Rams are to make the 2019 NFC Playoffs, they probably need to win this game. Last week's crushing loss against the San Francisco 49ers put their division title hopes on life support. A wild-card spot with the season less than half-over remains within reach, but another loss at this point will make that an uphill battle as well. The Rams still have tough games against the Chicago Bears, Baltimore Ravens, Seattle Seahawks, and the 49ers, among others. A nine-game winning streak to end up 12-4 or even going 8-1 to end at 11-5 might be theoretically possible, but the Rams team we have seen the last three weeks might be lucky to go 8-8. They need to win now!
The Atlanta Falcons, meanwhile, have been even more disappointing than the Rams this season. Many had them pegged as a playoff or even Super Bowl contender. At 1-5, that is pretty unlikely at this point,
Rams Defense vs. Falcons Offense: For all of the problems Atlanta has had this season, they remain one of the most explosive offenses in the league. They are second only to the Kansas City Chiefs in passing offense, and only by about a yard a game. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has a chance to tie Kurt Warner as the only quarterback ever to open a season with seven consecutive 300-yard passing games to open a season.
In terms of passing yardage, this offense is right there with the Chiefs Patrick Mahomes and the "Greatest Show On Turf Rams." That is a lofty company.
Falcons receiver Julio Jones is a truly elite player. Most experts would probably rate either Jones or the Houston Texans DeAndre Hopkins as the best wide receivers in the league. OK, Odell Beckham might still get a few votes, but the point is Julio Jones is excellent. The Rams, of course, acquired cornerback Jalen Ramsey in a monster trade this week. Ramsey may very well be the best cornerback in the league, and Rams head coach Sean McVay stated that Ramsey is expected to play this week, and a battle between Jones and Ramsey might be worth the price of a game ticket all by itself. Jones hobbled with a hip injury kept him out of practice this week, but he is expected to play on Sunday.
However, the injuries that have hit the Rams secondary constitute a significant concern. Troy Hill is expected to start in place of the injured Aquib Talib, who is on injured reserve. We never know about Hill, and while Talib has not been great this season, there is a reason why he is the starter, and Hill typically is not. Hill will probably see a lot of Falcons receiver Mohammed Sanu, and that could be a problem for the Rams. As good as Jones is, Sanu has been more of a Ram killer in recent years. Presumably, Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will try to get Hill some Safety help over the top or go to a zone scheme, because leaving Hill one-on-one on Sanu is not a matchup that favors the Rams defense. Speaking of safeties, the Rams are also without starter John Johnson, who suffered a shoulder injury last week against the Niners. Marquis Christian replaces him in the starting lineup at safety. As with Hill replacing Talib, that is a significant drop-off. The loss of Johnson is especially significant in this game because he probably would have drawn the primary job of shutting down Falcons tight end Austin Hooper. That job will likely fall to Christian, and it is no easy task. Hooper has 480 yards and three touchdowns this season.
We would expect Wade Phillips to scheme for some help for Christian on Hooper, whether it is from fellow safety Eric Weddle or one of the linebackers. The Rams have used rookie safety Taylor Rapp as an inside linebacker on passing downs this season. As the Falcons featuring a high=octane passing attack and only a so-so running game, Rapp may see many snaps on Sunday.
The Rams need Hill and Christian to play their best games and hope they can disrupt Matt Ryan with an intense pass rush.
Speaking of which, one of the few bright spots in last week's debacle was Rams d-lineman Aaron Donald, who notched a pair of sacks and was his usual disruptive self. Rams nose tackle Sebastion Joseph-Day has quietly been playing better in recent weeks as well, even generating some pressure on the opposing quarterback. His battle with Falcons Center Alex Mack will be one to watch.
The Rams need outside linebacker Dante Fowler to play better than he did last week when he notched multiple offsides penalties. Fowler can be a force as a pass rusher, and with Clay Matthews out with a broken jaw and Donald facing double or triple teams, it will be the time he needs to step up.
Fortunately for the Rams, the Falcon rushing attack has not been perfect this year, averaging only 73 yards a game, But Matt Ryan and company can score on anyone through the air, With the Rams secondary depleted due to injuries, they need to get in Matt Ryan's face regularly. Furthermore, let us be optimistic Hill, and Christian are at their best.
Rams Offense vs. Falcons Defense: The good news for a Rams offense, which is trying to get back on track, is that the Atlanta defense has honestly not been outstanding this season. They are 27th in yards allowed and have given up more points per game than anyone except the Miami Dolphins. They are dead last in sacks with a paltry five or 0.8 per game. That is good news for a Rams offensive line, which has been pretty bad this season. One matchup which might offer some concerns is Rams guard David Edwards in his first NFL start against Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. Jarrett may well be the Falcons best defensive player, and the overall poor play of this unit is no reflection on him. We would guess that the Rams will get Edwards some help, or this could get ugly.
The Rams are expected to have Todd Gurley back in this game, but be without running back Malcolm Brown. Whether it is due to injuries or poor offensive line play or both, Gurley has not been himself this season. If his sup-par performance continues on Sunday, the belief that he will never again be the same player he was will only increase. The Rams will probably also relay more on rookie Darrell Henderson, who showed flashes of brilliance last week before muffing a lateral, leading to a critical fumble.
The Falcons will be without defensive back Desmond Trufant, which is not good news against a Rams passing attack which had been racking up the yards before last week.
Frankly, if the Rams offense cannot rebound against the Falcons, the problems may be more profound than we would like to think.
Special Teams: The Rams special teams, like everything else with this team, have been somewhat erratic at times in 2018. However, they are better than Atlanta's, at least on paper.
Prediction: With the Rams defense hobbled by injury and the Falcons have struggled on that side of the ball all season, we would sort of expect a shootout here. As good as Jalen Ramsey is, he cannot balance the losses in the secondary all by himself. He does make this defense better than it would be without him. The Rams need to generate a pass rush and get their groove back on offense. If they can do that, they have a good chance in this game.
Its gut-check time for the Rams. The Falcons, meanwhile, will be at home and maybe playing for Head Coach Dan Quinn's job.
Rams 38, Atlanta 35
Ed "Pi double I" Henderson
The Los Angeles Rams defensive backfield takes yet another setback today as the announced that third-year safety John John III was placed on IR today.
Johnson injured his shoulder after receiving a stiff arm by San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman on Sunday while attempting to prevent him from scoring. Johnson landed awkwardly on his left shoulder and left the game but a short time after. However, noticably that Johnson was not 100% after favoring his shoulder and being trucked by 49ers tight end George Kittle. Johnson would exit the game in the fourth quarter.
It is unclear whether or not Johnson will return this season, however, if his injury appears to be healthy in eight weeks, he will be eligible to return to the active roster. Johnson shoulder injury was significant enough that it needs time to hear and surgery is not required.
Leading up to his injury, Johnson was having a pro-bowl style of a season with 51 tackles (two tackles for losses), two interceptions, and one forced fumble. The Rams will be missing his leadership on the field and his ball-hawking ability. Johnson widely remembered for his overtime interception while falling on his back thrown by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Johnson interception allowed the Rams to move the ball enough, allowing kicker Greg Zeurline to kick a 57-yard field goal winning NFC Championship Game, placing the Rams in Super Bowl LVIII.
It appears the Rams will start Marqui Christian in Johnson III absence and split time with rookie Taylor Rapp at the safety position. Also, the Rams have rookie safety Nick Scott who also will provide depth at the safety position in various packages.
On Monday, the Rams already placed starting cornerback Aqib Talib on IR, with a potential on him returning in eight weeks. The Rams traded starting cornerback Marcus Peters to the Baltimore Ravens but also executed a blockbuster trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars bring all-pro corner Jaylen Ramsey to the Rams.
The Rams will face the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, and it has yet to be determined if Ramsey will be able to play considering missing the last three weeks of practice,
Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
Under the tenure for the third season of the Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay, the Rams have lost two consecutive home games and three consecutive losses. A team that virtually blew teams last season seems as if they have lost their identity.
It appears that the Rams made a statement Today by pulling off a trade with the Cleveland Browns for offensive line Austin Corbett. Corbett, the 33rd overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft, is a versatile lineman that can play all five positions on the line. Corbett starred at the University of Reno Nevada and scouted as a late first-round selection.
As the 2019 free-agency period began, the Rams offered not to resign their veteran center, John Sullivan, for another year. Also, they lost starting left guard Roger Saffold to the Tennesse Titans, leaving a vacancy at those positions. However, the Rams gambled with second-year players of the 2018 NFL Draft Joseph Noteboom (guard) and Brian Allen (center).
The gamble has not paid off since week number one as the Rams quarterback Jared Goff has not had time to put up numbers he is capable of throwing like in 2018. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers seemed to have the recipe of disaster for the Rams offensive front, and the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers were able to finalize blueprint for the Rams offensive line woes.
After the loss to the 49ers (5-0), general manager Les Snead received a call from the Browns about a trade for Corbett, who had fallen to the unliking of the new Browns offensive-line coach. The Rams were able to steal Corbett for a future 2021 fifth-round selection.
Corbett came right on time for the Rams as they were desperate for line help after losing starting left-guard Noteboom to a season-ending knee- injury and poor performance from second-year Jemil Demby on Sunday. Expect to see Corbett inserted into the starting lineup before long.
The Rams will travel to Atlanta to play against the 1-5 Atlanta Falcons in a game need to desperately win to keep their playoffs withing reach.
Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
The Los Angeles Rams made a surprising move today by sending their all-pro cornerback Marcus Peters to the Baltimore Ravens in a trade for second-year linebacker Kenny Young. Young, a fourth-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, comes back home to Los Angeles where he starred at UCLA.
Peters acquired via trade from the Kansas City Chiefs before the 2018 season, by sending a 2018 fourth-round pick and its 2019 second-round pick to Kansas City in exchange for Peters and a 2018 sixth-round pick.
Peters joins the Rams with 19 career interceptions and as a two-time pro-bowl selection in his first three seasons. His gambling style pressure made him one of the elite players in the league that gave quarterbacks second thoughts about throwing to his side.
In Peter's inaugural season with the Rams, he started the season strong playing against his hometown team, the Oakland Raiders. Peters sealed the game for the Rams when he picked Derek Carr and ran it back for a touchdown. It was a home reunion as he celebrated his touchdown with a memorial dive into the endzone for his cousin Marshawn Lynch.
However, in week three, trouble set in for Peters as he and the other starting cornerback Aqib Talib, who both sustained injuries in the game against the Los Angeles Chargers. Peters fought through his injury to prepare himself for the New Orleans Saints the following week. Despite his heroism of gutting out the pain, Peters struggled without Talib, being able to play his style of coverage.
Peters was in the final year of his rookie deal as the Rams signed his option last season for $9M this season. Rams drafted rookie cornerback David Long in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, who played at the University of Michigan. The Rams drafted Long to become the future cornerback of their defense once Talib's contract was up.
Acquiring Young in the trade for Peters and a fifth-round draft pick for the 2020 season, this trade does not make perfect sense, especially after the Rams place Talib on IR. The defense left with Troy Hill, Nikel Robey-Coleman, Darious Williams, and Long (who has been inactive all season), who can carry the defense as a press corner? Robey-Coleman, who mainly used as a slot corner, can do the job, and Hill has started a few games, but Williams and Long are raw.
Can we expect the Rams to go shopping for an elite high profiled cornerback in a trade? Patrick Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals and Jaylen Ramsey are two names that are looking to land on new teams. Let us see what will materialize in the next day or so.
Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
After suffering their third consecutive loss on Sunday to the San Francisco 49ers, the Los Angeles Rams seemed to have lost their identity. For the first time under Sean McVay's regime, the team also endured two consecutive home losses.
However, the organization claimed that new identity by executing several trades this morning. Acquiring lineman Austin Corbett from the Cleveland Browns, and trading their all-pro cornerback Marcus Peters to the Baltimore Ravens for linebacker Kenny Young, general manager Les Snead once again was becoming a trade wizard.
In a blockbuster trade, the Rams agreed to send their 2020 and 2021 first-round draft picks, and their 2021 fifth-round draft pick for Jacksonville Jaguars disgruntled cornerback Jaylen Ramsey.
In week two, the Jaguars were playing against the Houston Texans as it appeared that Ramsey became frustrated with head coach Doug Marrone. The two had needed restraining after a visible shouting match on the sidelines with each other. Ramsey remained upset as he could be seen sitting at the end of the bench throughout the game.
The following week, Ramsey appeared to notify the Jaguars front office that he had the flu and could not practice. A couple of days later, he informed the team that his back was injured and could not practice. Shortly after, he would contact the front office and the organization approved for him to go to Tennessee for the birth of his child.
Shahid Khan, the owner of the Jaguars, initially proposed that he was looking for at least two first-round selections for Ramsey. Teams would start to inquire about the trade offers; however, Khan would make it clear that he would not trade his star cornerback.
However, after a heart to heart talk with front office vice-president Tom Coughlin, it was apparent that Ramsey sought out for a trade. It was clear that Ramsey loss faith in the Jaguars organization and wanted a fresh start with a team where he could win.
The fourth-year Ramsey received his desire as the team agreed to deal him to the Rams while the team was looking for defensive help. It made sense they traded Peters to the Ravens while exploring the options with landing the cornerback who plays Wade Phillips style of defense.
Ramsey, who has one year left on his rookie deal, will be under the Rams control until the end of the 2020 season. He will account for $13M of the salary cap next season, where they already will begin with lucrative salaries of Jared Goff ($36M), Aaron Donald ($25M), Todd Gurley ($17M), and Brandin Cooks ($16M) all who have signed extensions.
This trade comes a week before the October 29th deadline, and it is unclear if Ramsey will be ready to play after missing so much time away from the field. The Rams will need his presence on defense as they prepare to face veterans Julio Jones and Mohammed Sanu, both of who have hurt the Rams in the past with the Atlanta Falcons.
If Ramsey is available to play on Sunday, expect Phillips to dial-up crafty blitz packages to disrupt quarterback Matt Ryan's timing. The Rams lost to the Falcons in the 2017 NFC Wildcard Playoffs, in the first year under McVay. In that game, Ryan was able to keep the Rams defense unbalanced as he quickly threw the ball around. However, he will be facing an entirely different Rams defense that will not allow him to pass effectively.
Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
In a surprising move today, after making one roster move, the Los Angeles Rams stirred the pot with another addition. The Rams acquired second-year linebacker Kenny Young and a 2020 fifth-round pick for all-pro cornerback Marcus Peters to the Baltimore Ravens.
In a trade that has many scratching their heads on why would the team trade away virtually their best cornerback after just placing Aqib Talib on IR some 24-hours ago? Yes, we are aware the team lost EDGE rusher Clay Matthews two weeks ago, but the trade for Young does not add up.
Young, drafted by the Ravens in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft from UCLA, was initially projected as a sixth-round selection. After an excellent performance at UCLA's Pro Day, the Ravens selected Young with their 22nd pick of the 2018 draft. The New Orleans product that starred at UCLA will come to Los Angeles and represent the city once again on the professional level.
Young is another one of the players that the Rams brought in for personal workouts during the pre-draft process, and Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was high on his talent. It yet to be determined on what role Young will play but is great with bringing the pressure to the quarterback.
The Rams are making moves to their roster within the last 24 hours, earlier this morning the announced they acquired lineman Austin Corbett from the Cleveland Brows in a trade for a 2021 fifth-round pick.
Ed "Pi Double I" Henderson
The Los Angeles Rams have signed undrafted free-agent receiver Nsimba Webster to their practice squad. On a day the Rams front office was busy making moves, add Webster to the equation.
The rookie made defied all odds by making the team's original 53-man roster after going undrafted out of Eastern Washington University. The organization released Webster last Saturday to make room to promote running back John Kelly from their practice squad. After starting running back Todd Gurley was ruled out against the San Francisco 49ers, the team needed to add a third running back.
Earlier today, Rams executed a trade with the Cleveland Browns for offensive lineman Austin Corbett for a 2021 fifth-round draft pick. Surprisingly they traded their all-pro cornerback Marcus Peters to the Baltimore Ravens for linebacker Kenny Young and a 2020 fifth-round pick.
They pulled a blockbuster trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jaylen Ramsey for a 2020 and2021 first-round draft pick and a 2021 fourth-round selection. The Ramsey move was expected considering the fact they traded Peters away for a linebacker.
Webster was inactive during his short stint on the active roster; however, he will work hard to make it back. Head coach Sean McVay, really impressed with Webster's playing making ability and won't be long before he makes it back to the active roster.
Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
The Los Angeles Rams have placed their starting veteran cornerback Aqib Talib on IR, following a rib injury. Talib injured his ribs during a humiliating road loss two weeks ago to the Seattle Seahawks. The injury was significant enough as he was inactive against their rivaled San Francisco 49ers. In consecutive Rams home and third consecutive losses, both under head coach Sean McVay's tenure, the Rams dealt a devastating blow with Talib's injury.
Talib will be eligible to return in eight weeks week 15 of the NFL season when the Rams will face the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T stadium. Talib will spend his second consecutive season on the IR a week three injury to his ankle last season against the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Rams will rally behind cornerback Troy Hill in Talib's absence to hold down the fort until his return. The Rams will need to play flawless football to make it back to the playoffs this season. Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is very optimistic in Hill to play at his best.
Hill will have a tough assignment on Sunday, covering either Atlanta Falcons receivers Julio Jones and Mohammed Sanu. The Falcons offense led by quarterback Matt Ryan is ranked second in passing behind the Kansas City Chiefs.
Overview: Some people are calling this a "must-win" for the Los Angeles Rams. We might not go quite that far, but if they lose this game and if Seattle Seahawks beats the Cleveland Browns, which is highly likely, the Rams hopes for another division title will be on life support.
There are a ton of x-factors in this game, including injuries. The San Francisco 49ers will be without both of their starting tackles, Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey, which is never good news for any offense in the league. The team also are missing their fullback, Kyle Juszczyk. Not many NFL teams even use a fullback anymore, but Juszczyk is an integral part of the San Francisco offense and losing him matters. The latest forty-niners injury news concerns tight end George Kittle, who suffered a groin injury in practice Friday and listed as questionable. He will probably play on Sunday, but if he is not at full speed, that will be a huge deal. Kittle is arguably the best tight end in the game and a match-up nightmare.
Nevertheless, the Rams have their injury issues too. Linebacker Clay Matthews and cornerback Aqib Talib are out, which is awful news for a defense that has not been very good over the past couple of weeks. Running back Todd Gurley is listed as "doubtful," meaning there is about a 25 percent chance he will play. Some reports indicate the Rams will leave the decision to play up to Gurley. He is a warrior, and expect that he will be on the field if possible. How effective he will be is another question.
Rams Offense vs. Niner's Defense: San Francisco has been stockpiling talent on this side of the ball for years, and this unit is finally living up to the hype. There is no battle more critical to the outcome of this game than the war in the trenches. The Rams offensive line just has not been perfect so far, and if they do not play better on Sunday, the Rams probably will not win this game.
It will not be easy. Defensive Tackle DeForest Buckner is probably the best at his position, not named Aaron Donald or Fletcher Cox, and we might even be able to argue about Cox vs. Buckner. However, he is certainly not alone as part of a very talented unit. Defensive end Dee Ford is a pass-rushing demon, and despite the injury, he is expected to play in this game. Ford is sometimes vulnerable to offside penalties, so we can expect the Rams to go to a hard count to draw a flag or two. Rookie Nick Bosa is no walk in the park either. He already has three sacks and 26 quarterback pressures, and the former top draft pick has done everything expected of him and more. The battle of Bosa versus Rams left-tackle Andrew Whitworth will be huge in this game.
Standard operating procedure against an aggressive pass rush would call for a lot of short passes and screens, and that is where the (likely) loss of Gurley hurts the Rams. Malcolm Brown, who will probably get most of the snaps in place of TGII, is a tough, hard-nosed inside runner. However, he is not in Gurley's class as a receiver. Will this be the coming out of Rams third-round pick Darrell Henderson? Henderson has barely seen the field so far this season, but he was an outstanding receiver in college at Memphis.
Some have compared him to New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara as a game-breaker/receiver. We may find out on Sunday if there is anything to that.
Rams tight end Gerald Everett had a massive game against the Seahawks, racking up 136 yards. There has been some discussion in recent days that the Rams might go to more two-tight end sets in this game, with both Everett and Tyler Higbee seeing the field at the same time,
That would be a significant departure for the Rams, who almost always feature three wide receivers with a tight end and a running back. Nevertheless, it would allow them to get a little help for tackles Whitworth and Rob Havenstein upfront, although both Ram tight ends are better receivers than blockers. It might also open up some more options in the short passing game with Gurley out so that we will see.
For all of the bad news for the Rams on the injury front this week, they did get some welcome news on wide-out Brandin Cooks, who appears to be good to go for this game. Rams slot receiver Cooper Kupp has been having a monster year so far, and the three-headed monster of Cooks, Kupp, and Robert Woods is a challenge for any team.
The Niners will be missing regular corner Akhello Witherspoon. However, the anchor of their secondary, long-time Rams nemesis Richard Sherman, is back covering the other corner position. Sherman is back to being healthy after battling injuries last season, and that is bad news for Jared Goff and the Rams, especially given the Rams' recent turnover issues. Sherman had a pick, and four deflected passes Monday night against the Cleveland Browns and he has been stellar so far this season. However, if Rams quarterback Jared Goff can get time to throw the ball, he may be able to pick up some big plays on this secondary. That is a very big IF though.
If Gurley were healthy and playing like his old self, we would give the Rams the edge in this battle. Nevertheless, since he probably will not play, we have to check the box for San Francisco. Our big concern here for the Rams is the battle in the trenches.
If the Rams O-line does not step up, this could get ugly.
Rams Defense vs. Niners Offense: As mentioned above, the forty-niners will be without bookend tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey in this game, which could be a huge deal. Unfortunately, the Rams will be without OLB Matthews, who might have feasted on a pair of back-up tackles. He is out with a broken jaw, replaced by former starter Samson Ebukam. Ebukam is a physically gifted player, but his Rams career has been uneven. He notched only three sacks last season, not what we hope for from an outside linebacker in a Wade Phillips 3-4 defense.
On the other hand, he had a monster game in last year's epic win over the Kansas City Chiefs, so we will never know. He is no Clay Matthews, but he is a fast, athletic linebacker who knows the defense.
Remember what we said above about this game possibly "getting ugly" of the Rams O-line does not step up? It is equally valid (for the Forty-Niners) on this side of the ball. Aaron Donald is due for a big game, and the injuries to the forty-niner tackles increase that possibility. San Francisco will presumably want to double or even triple-team Donald (everyone else does).
However, if they do that will leave untested backup tackles to contain Rams OLB's Ebukam and Dante Fowler, not to mention D-lineman Micheal Brockers. That is asking a lot. Fowler, in particular, could have a big game on Sunday.
For all of the hype about San Francisco quarterback Jimmy "Jimmy G" Garoppolo, this is a run-first offense. Most NFL teams do not even use a fullback. San Francisco does, and the fact that he is out for this game is a big deal. Kyle Juszczyk is an integral part of this offense as a blocker, receiver and short-yardage runner. However, even with that loss, the Niners rushing attack could pose some problems for a Rams defense that has historically struggled against the run. They finished dead-last in the league in rush defense in 2018. They have been somewhat better this season, coming into this game ranked 16th against the run. Speedster Matt Breida open the Cleveland game with an 80-yard touchdown run, setting the tone for what turned out to be a comfortable San Francisco win. They also feature Tevin Coleman, whom Head Coach Kyle Shanahan had with the Atlanta Falcons.
For the Rams, it looks like inside linebacker Bryce Hager will play. That is good news for the Rams. He and fellow inside linebacker Corey Littleton will need to play well in this game.
The Niners got some alarming news on Friday when tight end George Kittle suffered a groin injury in practice. He is listed as "questionable," which means there is a 50-50 chance he will play. Shanahan believes Kittle will play, and we do too. However, will he be 100 percent? Kittle is one of the game's best tight ends in the (some would say the best). If he does not play or is not his usual self, that could be a significant impact on this game. Assuming he does play, the expected match up of Kittle versus Rams safeties John Johnson and Eric Weddle.
The Rams will be without cornerback Aqib Talib in this game who will be replaced by Troy Hill. McVay says he has confidence in Hill. He is another guy like Ebukam that can never be sure what to expect. The Rams need the good Troy Hill on Sunday.
For all of the criticism of Rams cornerback Marcus Peters this season, Pro Football Focus has him listed as one of the ten best corners in the league so far in 2019. Peters tends to gamble in coverage, going for the pick and giving up big plays at times. He also has a well-earned reputation for losing his cool. He needs to maintain his focus on Sunday.
The Niners boast an exciting combination of speed and power in wide-outs Marquis Goodwin, Deebo Samuel, and Dante Pettis. However, provided by the injuries on their o-line, they probably do not expect to rely on their deep passing game too much. The impact of Kittle's health on this game is hard to overstate.
Conventional wisdom would probably check this box for San Francisco. We are not conventional wisdom, and the injuries to the Niners offense may be more damaging than those to the Rams defense.
Special Teams: Both teams have had kicking woes this season, and a rare miss by Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein cost them a win against the Seahawks. We still think the Rams special teams are better overall.
Prediction: There are so many unknowns in this game that it is almost impossible to predict. As a Rams fan, I have been telling people that having a bad feeling about this game. However, when looking at the injuries of both teams, the fact remains that the Rams are coming off a long rest week. The Niners are coming off a short one, and the home-field advantage. Will hesitantly pick Los Angeles. Do not be surprised if we do not see much scoring.
Rams 20 Forty-Niners 17
Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
The Los Angeles Rams team seemed to have regressed on both sides of the ball this season. Many appeared to have pointed fingers at fourth-year quarterback Jared Goff for the decline in offense. However, people cannot put the blame solely on Goff for the team inadequacy sub-par play.
Despite Goff's horrible first quarter performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, aside from his three interceptions and one fumble, he did not allow those negative plays to prevent him from continuing to compete throughout the game. Goff finished the game 45-68 (45 competitions tied for NFL record), 517 passing yards, and two touchdowns.
The Rams fell to the Seattle Seahawks last Thursday, in a heartbreaking loss 30-29. Kicker Greg Zuerlein missed a 44-yard field goal with 11- seconds left in the game. Two crucial penalties on the drive led to the long field goal attempt, which pushed slightly to the right of the goal post.
Here are three contributing factors that led to the Rams loss to the Seahawks last week:
Todd Gurley fumble in red zone
Todd Gurley has fumbled against the Seahawks for the fourth time in his young NFL career, which could have made a pivotal outcome of the score. Trailing by eight points with 5:25 left before halftime, Goff would find Cooper Kupp across the middle for a 25-yard reception setting the ball at the Seahawks 20-yard line.
Now with first and ten, Gurley takes a hand-off to the right for a short gain but is stripped by linebackers Jadaveon Clowney and Bobby Wagoner. Surprisingly enough, it is the third time that Wagoner been able to force a fumble from Gurley. The Rams were driving with four minutes before the half, and Gurley fumble took what could have been a golden opportunity to put points on the board.
Nonetheless, it did not; however, the Rams would receive the ball back with one more opportunity as Goff found Kupp for a short touchdown pass with 12 seconds left before the end of the half. If not for Gurley fumble and the offense could not score, the percentage of Zeurline converting a field goal was high.
Clay matthew roughing call
The Rams appeared to have stopped the Seahawks on a third down and long, however, they penalized for a shocking roughing the passer call by Clay Matthews on Russel Wilson. The awful penalty extended the Seahawk's drive trailing the Rams by six late in the fourth quarter.
The Rams were out of challenges as replay visibly showed Matthews indeed did not inflict a personal foul on Wilson. Video replay showed Matthews turned his head to the side and nudged Wilson with his shoulder, causing him to go down the turf. Wilson appeared to have given up on his read and was throwing the ball away.
Nonetheless, Matthews could of just his extended his arms out using his hands to contact Wilson more than likely would not have been flagged. The Seahawk's capitalized on the penalty and ended up taking the lead on a fantastic scramble by Wilson and finding a wide-open Chris Carson in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.
Gerald everett drop result in turnover
On a drive after relinquishing their lead to the Seahawks, the Rams received the ball back with 2:29 remaining in the game. It was a third down and ten on their 34-yard line. Goff drops back to pass and would find an open Gerald Everett at the 43-yard line.
Whether a slightly errant pass, this was a very catchable pass for Everett to have made in which he would not only pick up the first down but also gain additional yardage. It appeared that Everett might have misjudged the trajectory of the ball. Catch it with his body or his hands; it was a very catchable pass. The drop resulted as a deflection that ended up in the hands of a diving Tedric Thompson. It was a fantastic catch as Thompson was able to get his hands underneath the ball for the turnover barely.
Everett did not allow that miscue to remove him mentally from the game. On the very next possession, Goff would connect with Everett on the same route that led to an interception, for a huge 32-yard reception.
On a third down and 15 yards to go, the two connected again on a 12-yard reception, which put them in field goal range. Had Everett ran for one more yard, that may have been a difference of Zeurlein missed winning field goal.
However, we have to give Everett credit after playing merely the best game of his career with seven receptions and yardage total as he gained 136 yards on seven catches. It was Everett's first career 100-yard receiving game and has seemed to start delivering as McVay been expecting.
Brian allen losses focus of snap counts
The Rams would not resign veteran center John Sullivan and lost their longest-tenured starting guard Ram Roger Saffold to free-agency. Moving forward with two second-year players at those positions have shown a tremendous difference on the offensive line.
The first-year starter at the center position Brian Allen has struggled significantly this season. At the crucial point on Ram's final drive, Allen was the culprit of two mental errors causing penalties.
On a second-down and one yard to go, Allen somehow did not focus on Goff, who was clapping for him to snap the ball. The miscommunication resulted in the play clock running down, and the offense penalized with a five-yard delay of game penalty.
On the same possession with 36 seconds left and on a third down and one, a mental lapse caused another penalty. Allen forgets the snap count that resulted in the entire offensive line with a full start penalty. The penalties stopped the momentum of the Rams defense that had the Seahawks on their heels. Allen would get bailed about crucial catches by Robert Woods and Kupp, who were able to pick up the first downs.
Allen, who has played back to back nightmare games, will not get any easier this Sunday against a defensive line that applies much pressure with their front four. Allen will practically need to flawless against the San Francisco 49ers front seven in a game will also be missing starting running back Todd Gurley to assist with protection.
Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
The Los Angeles Rams have ruled out their starting running back Todd Gurley for their game against the San Francisco 49ers at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Gurley, who appeared late during the week on the injury report with a bruised thigh, will sit out what will be a pivotal game for the Rams. The Rams will seek to prevent a three-game losing streak for the first time under head coach Sean McVay's tenure.
The Rams have activated second-year running back John Kelly from the practice squad whom the team cut in a fierce battle during the pre-season. The Rams drafted Kelly in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft from the University of Tennessee, where he split carries with the New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara.
Kelly is a powerful runner between the tackles who also is an excellent receiver from the backfield. The 215-pound ran a 4.50 second at Tennessee's pro-day and is shifty but a powerful back. During his short NFL career, Kelly has rushed the ball 27 times for 74-yards and also has two receptions for 27 yards. A significant decline in numbers from Gurley, but is amicable enough to contribute on Sunday.
The 49ers will bring their number two overall defense to the Coliseum that has a front seven that applies significant pressure to the quarterback. Kelly more likely will be used on passing down to help restrict some of the Niners pressure of quarterback Jared Goff.
In a corresponding move, the Rams released rookie wide receiver Nsimba Webster from the active roster.
Overview: This is a tough game to forecast because, at this point, we do not know who are either of these teams. Are the Rams the team that breezed to a home win over New Orleans Saints and a road win over the Cleveland Browns, or the team that imploded last week against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that most consider mediocre? Are the Seattle Seahawks the playoff contender that their record says they are, or the team that barely beat a terrible Bengals team and had a meltdown against New Orleans in an ugly loss? Throw in a short week of practice and an intense divisional rivalry, and it all adds up to one big question mark.
Rams Offense vs. Seattle Defense: For all of the criticism of Rams quarterback Jared Goff over last week's meltdown against Tampa Bay, let us not forget that he put up some huge numbers in that game. Five hundred seventeen passing with the offense scoring 34 points is an effort that will add up to a win at least 80 percent of the time. The flip side of that is three turnovers, which is the number most people are referring to. In fairness to Goff, two of the picks were on tipped passes. He has developed a bad habit of fumbling on sacks, which has mostly been the result of trying to get away a last-second pass instead of just taking a sack. It is a problem that needs fixing in a hurry if the Rams will have any hopes of returning to the Super Bowl or even the playoffs.
The Rams offensive line was pretty bad on Sunday against Tampa Bay, and they will be tested again this evening. Nobody on this unit has played well this season, but right tackle Rob Havenstein and guard Austin Blythe have been especially problematic. Havenstein has the unenviable task of trying to contain the Seahawks Jadeveon Clowney tonight, one of the leagues better pass rushers. Having to do that on a short week playing in one of the league's toughest venues will be a considerable challenge.
The Rams only ran the ball 11 times last week against the Bucs, a number we expect to change dramatically this evening. Seattle has arguably the best middle linebacker in the game in Bobby Wagner, and outside linebacker, K.J. Wright is no slouch either. On the other side of the ball, Rams running back Todd Gurley has had some of his biggest days against the Seahawks. Gurley only carried the ball five times last week against the Bucs, sparking a new round of the ''Is he injured or not" debates. One of the best ways to dampen that Seattle pass rush would be an actual running game, and we have to think Rams Coach Sean McVay will call more than 11 running plays this week, if for no other reason than to protect Jared Goff.
The Rams receivers had a big week against Tampa Bay last week, and if the O-line can protect Goff, they should put up decent numbers tonight. That is a big 'if," though.
Edge: Rams (slight)
Rams Defense vs. Seattle Offense: The Rams are a little banged up on this side of the ball, and will be missing rookie safety Taylor Rapp and inside linebacker Bryce Hager. They are also coming off their worst performance in years against Tampa Bay. However, the upside for Los Angeles is the prospect of facing a Seattle offensive line that has been less than stellar this season. Seattle will have their best offensive lineman, left tackle Duane Brown, who missed practice earlier in the week. The Rams, meanwhile, are hoping for a big night from defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Who has historically tormented Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson in these matchups? Wilson so far this year has been his usual fantastic self, racking up eight touchdowns and zero interceptions and a 114 passer rating. However, Seattle's rushing offense has been so-so this year, ranking 16th in the league after finishing first last season. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is an old-school ''ground and pound" guy at heart, and Seattle probably does not want to get into a shootout with the Rams, even at home. That probably means Seattle will at least try to run the ball tonight.
The Rams pass defense made Jameis Winston look like Aaron Rodgers last week, and they face the challenge of containing a much better quarterback tonight. Seattle's non-lethal receiving corps with big names, but veteran Tyler Lockett and rookie D.K. Metcalf are not bad players. Lockett racked up 11 catches and 154 yards against the Saints a couple of weeks ago, and Metcalf offers an exciting blend of speed and power. The Rams are expected to have cornerback Marcus Peters, who cleared concussion protocol after taking a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit against Tampa Bay on Sunday.
For the majority of this game, this game will be hard to predict due to the inconsistent of the Ram defense. The defense played well before an awful showing last week against Tampa Bay. Factor in the injuries to Rapp and Hager, and we are going to check this box for the home team.
Special Teams: Rams placekicker Greg Zuerlein showed why he is one of the best last week, nailing a 58-yarder with room to spare against the Bucs.
Otherwise, these units are pretty close.
One thing we have not see this year is the fake punt attempt in which Rams quarterback Johnny Hekker reverts to his days as a high school quarterback. That has been a staple of the Rams special teams going back to the Jeff Fisher era. Will we see it tonight?
Prediction: Who knows? This game could be almost anything from a down-to-the-wire nail biter to an ugly blowout win for somebody. Our advice for anyone thinking of betting on this game is "do not." Seattle is a perfect nightmare venue for visiting teams, and the crowd noise can be very disruptive to opposing offenses. When considering our prediction for this game, we were strongly tempted to forecast a Seahawks victory at home.
However, as a Rams fan, I could not do it.
Rams 31 Seattle 30
Overview: On paper, the Los Angeles Rams should win this game. They are at home, odds-makers are making them a 10-point favorite, and they are facing a struggling team with an inconsistent quarterback. However, this is the NFL, and the other guys get paid too. A couple of other concerns include the fact that Tampa Bay Buccaneer's Head Coach Bruce Arians knows the Rams from his days leading the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC West and the fact that the Rams faces a big test against division-rivaled Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night. We never want to assume lightly of a team, and we cannot afford to look ahead in this league.
Rams Offense vs. Tampa Bay Defense: In one way this game presents a good challenge for the Rams offense, which has struggled through the air. The Buc's defense has been relatively good against the rush, giving up just under 70 yards per game. That is good for sixth in the NFL. However, they are 21st in pass defense, giving up 261 yards per game. Rams quarterback Jared Goff has not quite looked right since the Super Bowl loss to New England. He may have a chance to get back on track on Sunday.
For that to happen, the Rams need to find a way to contain Buc's outside linebacker Shaq Barrett, who insanely have eight sacks through the first three games of the season. That ties the record at this point of the season, held by the late New York Jet's Mark Gastineau in 1984. The Buc's also feature former Rams d-lineman Ndamukong Suh on the defensive line. New defensive coordinator and former Jets Head Coach Todd Bowles have implemented an aggressive 4-3 defensive alignment that focuses on pressuring the quarterback. They will need to do that on Sunday to help out a suspect secondary.
The good news for the Rams is that guard Austin Blythe is expected to play after missing the last 1.5 games with an ankle injury. Tight end Tyler Higbee also returns to action after missing last week with a lung injury. As the Rams rarely have the luxury of a clean injury report going into this game, this will help. If the Rams can do a decent job of protecting Goff they have a chance to score 30 plus points in this game.
Rams Head Coach Sean McVay, said this week that despite any appearances, Todd Gurley is not on any snap count and that ideally the Rams running back should be in line for 25 carries per game through the rest of the season. The jury remains out on whether Gurley is healthy this year. The extraordinary thing has not been his rushes per game, although comparing to the past seasons have declined. However, the meaningful decline has been in Gurley's touches as a receiver out of the backfield. Will that change on Sunday?
Rams Defense vs. Buc's Offense: Whatever we might think of Buc's quarterback Jameis Winston, he is rarely dull. At times the former Florida State Seminole star has shown flashes of the talent that made him the top pick in the draft a few years back. He had that kind of week against the Giants last week, passing for 380 yards and three touchdowns in a game the Buc's should have won. He has one of the best wide receivers in the game in Mike Evans, who caught eight passes for 190 yards and three touchdowns.
The Rams so far this season have done an excellent job of limiting elite receivers such as Micheal Thomas of the New Orleans Saints and Odell Beckham of the Cleveland Browns. Whether they can reciprocate the same with Evans on Sunday may well determine the outcome of Sunday's game. The Rams pass defense enters this game ranked fifth in the NFL, and with the additions of safety Eric Weddle and outside linebacker Clay Matthews, they seem to have given this unit a huge jump-start. Matthews already has four sacks, compared to 3.5 all of last season with the Green Bay Packers.
Of course, any conversation about the Rams defense starts and ends with Aaron Donald, generally considered the best defensive player in the NFL. Those who have not seen the Rams play this year might look at AD's paltry sack total of one through three games and assume the Rams defensive tackle is off to a slow start. That shows how numbers can be deceiving. The fact is that Donald has been in the opposing team's backfield on almost every play, wreaking havoc and occupying blockers. He draws double and even triple teams, freeing up players like Matthews and Dante Fowler. The Buccaneers offensive line is reliable, but certainly not spectacular. Aaron Donald is a one-person wrecking crew, and if he can force Winston into making some crucial mistakes, the Rams defense could have an important dayof
Special Teams: Buc's placekicker Matt Gay made four of five field-goal attempts last week, including a 52-yard against the New York Giants. The problem was that he also missed the potential game-winning field goal. Tampa Bay's Bradley Pinion is one of the game's better punters, but he is no Johnny Hekker. The Rams special teams have been showing slow improvement after something of an ideal rough start against the Carolina Panthers, and we think that will continue this week.
Prediction: The Rams SHOULD win this game, in which they are playing at home and frankly have a better team. If Jameis Winston and Mike Evans can have the type of day that they had last week, it could get interesting. Perhaps the most significant danger for the Rams outside of Evans and Shaq Barrett going crazy is complacency as they look ahead to the Thursday night match-up against the Seahawks. We do not think Sean McVay will let that happen.
Rams 34, Tampa Bay 21
Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
The Los Angeles Rams today have added former University of Florida EDGE rusher Jachai Polite to their practice squad. Polite's signing comes just two days after the Rams lost linebacker Dakota Allen to the Oakland Raiders after signing him to their active roster.
The New York Jets selected Polite in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The talented EDGE rusher had him projected as a late first-round or early second-round draft choice. However, from bad team interviews, and his poor performances at the 2019 NFL Combine, his stock plunged to the third round. Polite expressed that he had issues with a lingering hamstring that supported with his lousy performances at the combine.
Polite's time with the Jets became short after the team released him during the preparation of the final cuts. Polite continuously compiled internal fines of about $100K from his $1.1M signing bonus for violating team rules and being late for team meetings.
The Seattle Seahawks would sign Polite to their practice squad after clearing waivers in which he only as spent just three weeks with the team. There was no explanation from the Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll in regards to Polite's release. Carroll only indicated that they needed to make a roster spot and they were moving on from Polite. He was released from the practice squad on Monday, as the Rams signed him this morning.
The Rams were pretty high on Polite during the draft process, after inviting him a couple of times for private workouts. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was knowledgeable of Polite's skill of being an elite pass rusher.
Now bringing in yet another player who had baggage to this team, only exemplify that the Rams can sign any player to play under their "We, Not Me" philosophy. The organization has brought in other players who fell under the "so-called" horrible guy label, and had done nothing but blossomed under head coach Sean McVay's philosophy. It is paramount that Polite buy-in to the McVay's system as he is running out of chances in the league. If he adapts well, never will know when he will get the chance for promotion to the active roster.
Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
After having a stellar performance on Sunday night against the Cleveland Browns, the Los Angeles Rams linebacker Clay Matthews Jr played well in front of family. Matthew's first season with the Rams after signing with the team as a free-agent this past off-season play has paid off immensely.
Matthews excellent play against the Browns could not come at a better time as his father Clay Matthews Sr, was being inducted into the Brown's Ring of Honor. The Matthews family were in full attendance to witness Matthew Sr induction of the Browns where he played linebacker for 16-seasons. Mathew's Jr was not able to be present during the ceremony, however, just after the conclusion of Clay Sr. speech, Clay Jr surprised him at the podium with a hug.
On his father's commemorative night, not only did Clay Jr show up, but he also showed out on the field. Matthews Jr posted his first multi-sack game in nearly two seasons on Sunday night. He ended the night with three tackles (three for loss), two sacks, one forced fumble, two quarterback hits, and one pass deflection. Matthews great night helped the Rams defeat the Browns 20-13, after stopping them on a fourth and goal.
Matthew's two sacks on Sunday now puts him as the team leader and tied for fourth with leagues best. He will seek to increase his sack total on this up-becoming Sunday against a Tampa Bay Buccaneer's pass happy offense. The veteran linebacker has fitted in perfectly with this Rams defense as their 16.3 points allowed have the Rams defense ranked fifth in the NFL