Is it just me, or did this bye “week” feel like two? Maybe it was the holiday, or the fact that the New Orleans Saints hype-train may as well have been conducted by Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson (yes, this is a “Money Train” reference), but it sure feels like it’s been a while since the Los Angeles Rams suited up.
In what figures to be a lopsided affair in the Motor City on Sunday, here are five Rams who will provide the cure for your bye-week blues.
CB Aqib Talib
Talib’s signing in the offseason garnered far less fanfare than the CB Marcus Peters acquisition, but if the play of the defense in his absence has been any indication, Talib’s role is far more important. We’ve got a limited sample size against some truly mediocre offenses in Arizona and Oakland (he went down Week 3 against the Los Angeles Chargers), but if he can return to form down the stretch and allow Peters to return to his natural freelance/zone position, the results could be transformative. His play in his return on Sunday, which may be slightly limited, will speak volumes.
RB Todd Gurley
After getting his ankles rolled up on in the Rams’ thrilling victory against the Kansas City Chiefs, Gurley’s role in the run game seemed to be significantly reduced. He was still an effective pass-catcher, but seemed to be more of a decoy in that epic clash. Rams fans will want to see him carry a full load against Detroit’s 19th-ranked rush D, and display the explosiveness and nose for the end zone that had him atop many NFL MVP lists heading into the Chiefs game. He’s not on the injury report, so expect 150+ all-purpose and a few tuddies for JTG this week.
LT Andrew Whitworth
Last season, Whitworth’s play seemed to decline just a notch down the stretch, and dare I say we’ve seen a bit of the same thing from the aging great this year. He’s still elite, but he’s getting beat a little bit more often, and the Detroit Lions’ D looked pretty feisty against the Chase Daniel-led Chicago Bears on Turkey Day. With ferocious Lions DE Ezekiel Ansah on the other side of the ball, big Whit will need to drink from that bye-week fountain of youth to keep Rams QB Jared Goff clean on Sunday.
OLB Samson Ebukam
So, remember the movie “Freaky Friday,” where mother and daughter Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsey Lohan switch bodies for a day and learn about each other’s trials and tribs? (Note: If you don’t, safe bet Sosa sure does) Pretty sure Samson Ebukam and Denver Broncos EDGE Von Miller had a little soul-swap last Monday night, because the second-year man from Eastern Washington (by way of Portland, Oregon) was a HOLY TERROR against the Chiefs. 2 defensive TDs, a hit that forced a pick, and nonstop pressures earned him NFC defensive player of the week honors. Was his breakout game a sign of things to come? Or will he return Von Miller’s game and resume an otherwise mediocre season? Must-see TV, in my book.
TEs Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee
Absent WR Cooper Kupp, the Rams turned in part to WR Josh Reynolds in the KC game, but as many have hoped to see all season, HC Sean McVay found a way to weave his tight ends into the passing game as well. Second-year man “Young” Gerald Everett hauled in 2 TDs, including the game-winning dime from Jared Goff, and Higbee also had his best day of the year with 6/63 (including a TE screen which nearly made me cry.) Will McVay continue to let the big boys eat, or did matchups dictate the emergence of the unit? Personally, I think he has intentionally kept them under wraps for much of the season and will now start to give defensive coordinators even more to worry about down the stretch. I really do think he’s a little bit Russell Crowe in “A Beautiful Mind,” and is dropping hints and Easter eggs weeks in advance to set up future Machiavellian savagery. Watch your TEs closely on Sunday, my friends.