The Los Angeles Rams embark on the second of a three-game road trip visiting the Denver Broncos in Mile High Stadium on Sunday.
The Rams’ defense will seek to improve upon their dreadful performance in Seattle focusing on stopping the run. The Rams’ offense will once again attempt to keep their streak of scoring 30+ points per game going with or without WR Brandin Cooks or WR Cooper Kupp.
The Broncos have shown signs of life. They played a pretty good game up until the fourth quarter against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs ultimately losing a close one 27-23. Now, they get the chance to spoil the Rams’ undefeated streak this time at home.
The set up for this game couldn’t be clearer. This could be a trap game.
The Rams are the better team; there’s no doubt about that. But if the Rams rest on their laurels having extended their lead in the NFC West Division to three games after a hard-fought win against their division rival Seattle Seahawks, they could fall into a trap of believing they’re too good to be beat.
The Broncos are a Jekyll and Hyde team. One week they play great as they did against KC. The next week, they look like shrubs losing to the New York Jets, 43-16. The Broncos’ troubles stem from a lackluster offense led by former Rams QB Case Keenum via the Minnesota Vikings along with a mediocre defense. At 2-3, the Broncos sit third in the AFC West behind the Los Angeles Chargers at 3-2 and the Chiefs at 5-0. If the Broncos are going to make a run for the playoffs in the AFC Conference, it’s looking like a wild card spot will be their only option.
Yet even with all the statistical information available for analysis on how this game should play out, the most interesting thing I see is mother nature.
X-Factor: The Weather
Angelenos don’t pay much attention to weather reports. We tend to know that it’s going to be another sunny and warm day. God forbid there’s rain bringing the whole city to a standstill. However according to current forecasts, the weather in Denver at game time is supposed to 30 degrees with snow.
What the heck is snow?
The closet Angelenos get to frozen water is the ice dispenser of a refrigerator.
If I heard that the weather in Los Angeles was going to be anything below 70 degrees, I would have to wear two Rams sweaters, underneath my Rams hoodie, with my Rams ear muffs just to get my mail.
Then factor in the cool, crisp, clean air of the high altitude of mile-high Denver. The high altitude does funny things with a football like being able to make 60+ yard field goals as merely standard operating procedure. Visiting teams outside the AFC West Division travelling to Denver are not used to this. They need oxygen.
Inhaling purified filtered air isn’t something Angelenos are used to. We prefer to know what’s going into our lungs. We want to see it. They call the stuff we breathe smog.
After all the weather reports and jokes. The reality for diehard Rams fans is that we know the Rams don’t usually play well in inclement weather. They’re not used to it. Having seen my Rams lose too many times to count in the playoffs in the sub-zero temperatures of the Midwest and East during December and January, this Sunday is scary.
But here’s the key to beating the X-factor which is decidedly in favor of the Broncos—it’s about mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it won’t matter.
So put all this weather stuff behind you and play the kind of Rams football Angelenos having been watching the last five weeks regardless of the conditions.
What the Rams need to do on offense
Rams Head Coach Sean McVay must continue to be aggressive whether or not he has to scratch his starting wide receivers in favor of WR KhaDarel Hodge and WR Josh Reynolds.
The offense starts with giving QB Jared Goff time to throw and our offensive line finding a way to contain All Pro pass rusher OLB Von Miller. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rams Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips, the Broncos’ former DC, knocked on McVay’s door to give him a few pointers about his former players and especially Miller.
If the Rams can control the line scrimmage on offense, they’re destined to score at least 30 points. And if they can convert red zone offense into touchdowns rather than field goals, the Rams’ offense could score 40 or more.
I don’t expect the Broncos’ secondary to get burned as bad as they did on long passes last week by Jets rookie QB Sam Darnold although the Rams may find a matchup they like and exploit it once in a while.
What the Rams need to do on defense
STOP THE RUN!
STOP THE RUN!
And for further emphasis, STOP THE RUN.
All things bad originate from not being able to stop the run. It leads to getting beat with playaction passes. In a close game, being able to run the ball, as the Rams did last week to end the game against Seattle, is a clock killer. Keeping the Broncos in second- and third-and-long is what the Rams need to do.
When shutting down the run, I’ll take my chances that QB Case Keenum isn’t going to be able to light up the Rams’ secondary. The problems the Rams had against the Seahawks in coverage was easily fixable. The more stops by the Rams’ defense, the more opportunities the Rams’ high-powered offense will have to score, and score they will.
What the Rams need to do on special teams
What excites me the most is seeing P Johnny Hekker. I know this sounds silly wanting to see a punter kick, but given the Rams have the lowest percentage of punts per offensive plays is exactly why.
Ram fans already know the kind of leg Hekker has, but seeing him boom just one punt in Mile High if possible is going to be fun. I’ve never heard of an 80-yard punt, but there’s always a first time.
PK Cairo Santos cannot miss any extra points! As for field goals, lets see what that altitude will do. Depending on field position and the time, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Head Coach Sean McVay give Special Teams Coordinator John Fassel the go ahead to try a long one. If the Rams get out to early big lead in the first half or at the end of 1st half or in the 2nd half if the Rams are holding onto a 14 point-lead, I could see Santos trotting out to turn it into a three-possession game.
Depending on whether PR JoJo Natson or Kupp are able to play, I would just want WR Robert Woods, the third guy in line, to just fair catch the punts in order to avoid injury.
I could easily see the Rams struggling in this game having what looks appear to be an insurmountable lead in the NFC West, but there’s a lot at stake for the Rams.
If they don’t want to play outdoors in the cold winter weather at playoff time in Philadelphia or Green Bay or Chicago or Carolina at playoff time, now is the time to get used to it and win this game. This way the Rams can maintain their best record in the NFC Conference which will go along way to securing home filed advantage throughout the playoffs in the sunny confines of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Remember its about mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.
Not even mother nature can beat my Rams.