The player you see in a Rams jersey on the header of this article is running back Xavier Jones. Normally I would not have to point something like that out, but this week would be the week above all weeks where it is time to introduce Rams fans to the Rams players ... who will be attempting to get the Rams into the playoffs in a do-or-maybe don’t Week 17 matchup against the Cardinals.
On top of all the names we’ve already discussed this week — Jared Goff, Cooper Kupp, Michael Brockers, Darrell Henderson, Cam Akers, Andrew Whitworth — the Los Angeles Rams are also in danger of playing without linebacker Leonard Floyd, who went to the hospital on Friday with abdominal pain.
The Rams are 9-6 and a win will guarantee them a wild card berth. If they lose, LA will only get in if the Bears have lost to the Packers; Chicago is playing for a guaranteed trip to the postseason and Green Bay just placed Pro Bowl left tackle David Bakhtiari on injured reserve.
Let’s rundown all the Rams who will or could have a major impact on whether or not the team makes the playoffs this year.
QB - John Wolford
“How will Wolford play?” is a question that can only be met with speculation. We posted some John Wolford breakdown videos earlier this week. How big is the drop off going to be from how Jared Goff has played over the last two seasons if Wolford ends up playing poorly? I don’t think that the drop off would be that significant. The Rams have won 18 games over the last two seasons despite rarely being “carried” by Goff and I don’t think that Los Angeles will be relying on Wolford to lead them to a win on Sunday.
They’re just looking for him to not drag them towards a loss.
RB - Xavier Jones, Raymond Calais
Jones is an undrafted free agent out of SMU and he has more tackles (three) and kick returns (one) than he has offensive snaps. Calais is an undrafted free agent out of Louisiana who has five kickoff returns in three games this season. We know that Darrell Henderson is out. Cam Akers is a gametime decision. With both of those players out, expect at least one to become a featured option behind Wolford as the quarterback and Joe Noteboom as the left tackle.
I won’t place a section here for the offensive line because Noteboom has been the left tackle for six games now, but we should not overlook Whitworth’s absence either. If the Rams make the playoffs, Whitworth is in the conversation to return for the wild card round.
WR - Van Jefferson, Nsimba Webster, Trishton Jackson
Kupp will be out because of landing on the COVID-19 reserve list. Jefferson had five catches for 76 yards on eight targets in the first two weeks of the season, but only 10 catches for 94 yards on 15 targets in the last 13 games. He’s healthy and he drew so much praise in training camp, but Jefferson’s clearly not been trusted by Sean McVay like most rookie receivers drafted on the first two days this year have been trusted by their coaches.
McVay gave him 40 snaps against the Cardinals in Week 13 and he was targeted five times, but he has caught zero of two targets in the three games since.
Webster, undrafted out of Eastern Washington last year, had a few kick returns in 2019 and he’s been active for all 15 games in 2020, but he has eight career snaps on offense. Jackson, undrafted out of Syracuse, made the final 53-man roster and has remained there all season but has yet to appear in a game.
DL - Greg Gaines, Derek Rivers
With Brockers also going on the COVID-19 list, the Rams will need more out of Sebastian Joseph-Day, A’Shawn Robinson and Morgan Fox obviously. Fox has played in 38% of the snaps this season and already had a significant role on the defense. Gaines has played in 19% of the snaps and he had a QB hit and a fumble recovery in the last game against Arizona.
The Rams picked up Rivers at a time that it didn’t really seem all that necessary but he made his LA debut with five snaps against the Cardinals in Week 13. He has played in 16 defensive snaps since but with Brockers out, could Rivers end up filling in next to Aaron Donald more often than anyone had expected at this critical time in the season?
LB - Terrell Lewis, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
The Floyd news is so fresh that we may not get a straight answer on his availability until Sunday. Floyd has 9.5 sacks this season, but five of those came in two games against the Seahawks and two more came against his former team, the Bears. That only leaves 2.5 sacks for his other 12 contests this season. Not having him in on run defense against Kyler Murray and Kenyan Drake could be where his loss is felt.
Lewis returned from a knee injury with 17 snaps last week against Seattle. Lewis had two sacks against the Seahawks in Week 10. This would be his first game against Arizona and only his eighth game all year.