2018 NFL Power Rankings Summary - Week 16
|Average ranking (# of rankings)||4.29|
|Average change from last week||-1.57|
|Highest ranking (source)||3rd (CBS Sports)|
|Lowest ranking (source)||5th (multiple sources)|
|Biggest positive change (source)||0 (multiple sources)|
|Biggest negative change (source)||-2 (multiple sources)|
I would maybe be worried about the Rams a little bit. These last two losses weren’t just the usual “hey, you lost a tough game on a couple of bad bounces” kind of thing. As Geoff Schwartz pointed out this week, they’re turning the ball over (7/4 ratio in their last two), defenses are challenging their offensive line and winning, and they don’t seem to use the middle of the field much anymore. McVay and his well-attended facial hair can fix this, right?
Biggest breakthrough: S John Johnson III. Johnson is a second-year pro whom the Rams drafted in the third round from Boston College. He made his way into the starting lineup five games into his rookie season, but in 2018, Johnson has taken his play to the next level. He has intercepted a team-best four passes, has 10 pass deflections and is second on the team in total tackles with 106.
Another so-so showing from the Rams has many league observers wondering where Sean McVay’s team resides in the pantheon of Super Bowl wannabes. Two weeks ago, Los Angeles sleepwalked through most of an afternoon in Detroit and won. One week back, the Rams were clobbered in Chicago. This past Sunday night? They were taken down by the Eagles, who appeared more Super Bowl-ready than their hosts. Maybe it was the Nick Foles effect. Or maybe opposing DCs are preparing more effectively for McVay’s offense, with a 30-game catalogue to study and no Cooper Kupp to cover. There is not a high quantity of slot receivers who can get open vertically.
The offense needs to get back on track. But don’t buy this idea that it’s been figured out. The line has been the issue the past two weeks.
We’re far beyond asking if Sean McVay is a great coach. He is. We all know that.
But this is a new challenge. Amazingly enough, this is the first time McVay has ever lost back-to-back regular-season games. It took almost two full seasons.
In the late afternoon of Dec. 9, before the Rams and Bears kicked off in Chicago, the Rams were the best team in football. It wasn’t much of a debate. They were 11-1, and a 15-1 season seemed possible. That changed fast.
It’s not just that the Rams have lost two straight, likely giving up a shot at the NFC’s No. 1 seed. It’s that they were dominated each time. The Bears blasted the Rams. That was excusable; the Bears are a very good team and it was in Chicago. But losing at home to an Eagles team that was 6-7 and turning to backup quarterback Nick Foles? Don’t let the Rams’ late rally fool you. The Eagles were clearly the better team on Sunday night, although they tried to blow it at the end.
Back to McVay. He has to figure out why his fantastic Rams team, especially on offense, suddenly looks average. If he’s as great as we all think, he’ll make the adjustments.
Former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky theorized that the Lions actually exposed some things in the Rams offense a few weeks ago. Orlovsky tweeted that the Lions didn’t sell out to stop the run, and therefore didn’t open up lanes for the Rams to gash them with play-action passes. Then the Bears and Eagles did the same, effectively taking away the Rams’ strong play-action game. Bucky Brooks of NFL Media noted that the Rams are using play-action passes far less frequently the past two weeks. For most of Sunday night’s game the Eagles were intent on taking away deep passes, forcing the Rams to settle for underneath throws.
The entire offense has gone in a funk, which happens when opponents take away one of your biggest strengths. Goff’s numbers tell the whole story. He was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL through 11 games. Over the past three he has been one of the league’s worst: 726 yards (a lot of which came late against the Eagles after the Rams dug a big hole), one touchdown and seven interceptions. He has a miserable 51.3 rating.
The Rams’ season is far from over. Even if they don’t catch the Saints for the top seed in the NFC, they are capable of winning in New Orleans. Back there in Week 9, they trailed 38-35 with about four minutes left and had the Saints in a third-and-7, then Drew Brees hit Michael Thomas for a 72-yard score. The Rams were right there, rallying after a bad start in that game. And there’s a long list of teams that have stumbled late in the regular season and still won a Super Bowl. It’s not like the Rams don’t have the talent to join that group.
McVay is the reason they should believe this two-week stretch is an aberration. We’ve spent a year or more praising McVay, talking in grandiose ways about how amazing he is and how he is changing the game. Now, saddled with fixing a losing streak for the first time, we should see McVay’s true value.
I’m not going to dump the Rams way down the list, but the last two weeks don’t look very good. And obviously, if Todd Gurley’s knee injury is worse than it appears, this becomes a different team.
Pro Football Talk: 5th (3rd)
Maybe the right answer to Jared Goff vs. Carson Wentz is “Nick Foles.”
USA Today: 4th (2nd)
Rough couple weeks for a team limping to regular-season finish line. Luckily for them, Cardinals and 49ers poised to cheer them to the tape.