This is the opening game of the 2017 regular season for the Los Angeles Rams. The storyline of this game is a Luck-less Indianapolis Colts together with Sean McVay’s coaching debut in the first game that counts for 2017.
Subplots include: How will QB Jared Goff play? Will the Rams be able to re-establish the running game missing from last year? How will the new look 3-4 defense play, especially the line if Aaron Donald continues his holdout?
Winning the opening game is very important. It’s not essential to making it to the Super Bowl, but highly improbable if a team loses the opener. If the Rams can find a way to win, not looking too far down the road, the early schedule looks good to chalk up some victories.
Because its the opening game of the NFL season, the most important thing to do is to keep one’s emotions in check. Starting out, everyone, including the fans, are pumped up. Usually after the first two series, things settle down and the game proceeds as anticipated.
For this game, the Rams need to get off to quick start and keep their emotions in check. This is the preparation part. A quick start will help out the defense forcing the Colts to do things they don’t want to do—tension to move the ball with a second-string QB at the helm in order to catch up before the game gets out of reach.
As a result, a lot rides on the offensive line to open holes for RB Todd Gurley and Goff with his new found tandem of WR(s) to make plays so the Rams can keep the pressure on the Colts to score points from start to finish
Jared Goff needs to play exceptional. The truth is, this game is as much about him as it is the Rams. For the Rams to be successful he must be able to torch a bad Colts defense who have always been bad even when Peyton Manning was there.
Nor is it enough that he makes accurate throws since the receivers must catch it. If that happens, this will be something new which Rams fans didn’t see last year. As a result, how the Rams perform in this area against the Colts without CB Vontae Davis to defend will tell one a lot about this corps of receivers and whether they can be counted on when they’re needed most.
If the Rams can get an early lead and take that into the 4th quarter, the early effective run game with Todd Gurley will be become essential to keeping the clock moving. The Rams’ left side of the offensive line can get the job done, but running to the right side has been a nightmare. If the Rams can be efficient, picking up three and four yards a carry this will aid the passing game in getting that early lead.
This game is going to come to this: Can the Rams stop Colts QB Scott Tolzien?
One would think this should be a piece of cake since Tolzien is nowhere near the QB that Andrew Luck is.
Forget all that.
The Rams need to play as if Andrew Luck is in there, although it’s in reality Tolzien. The Rams need to put the pressure on with the defensive line, even without Aaron Donald. If they can do that in this game, it will be a long day for Tolzien and when the blitz comes, bury him. This will cause Tolzien hurry his throws, make him uncomfortable in the pocket and lead to possible turnovers.
In addition, the Rams have to be stout against the run as well, not perfect but just enough to put the Colts in passing situations on 3rd downs, like 3rd with four or five to go, where the run may not get the job done. Colts RB Frank Gore is good, but he’s not getting any younger. Expect the Colts to be run-heavy on offense by trying to grind their way to victory so that they don’t have to rely on the passing game since Luck isn’t going to be in there.
This is where one learns whether having not played a single down in the preseason affected both OLB Robert Quinn and OLB Mark Barron. They need to play to their expected level despite the lack of playing time.
A turnover here and there by the Colts converted into touchdowns will go a long way for the Rams to establish dominance in this game. If the Rams only come away with three points, this could wind up being a close game, which it should not.
The truth is, without their keys starters playing, the Rams should be able to smoke the Colts. But this is the Rams. Therefore, whatever one thinks will happen won’t and anything that can go wrong, usually does.
If the Rams get down, don’t panic. Keep working at it. Sean McVay has to stay in the now, and this will be telltale sign about his future tenure as a head coach.
These are still the Colts, coached by Chuck Pagano. They play in one of the worst divisions in the NFL, the AFC South. The Colts can afford to lose eight games and still be hunt for first place and a spot in the playoffs.
On the other hand, the Rams need to get off to fast start.
If things go well, the Rams defense holds the Colts to under 20 points and the Rams will win this game.