If anyone was interested in my Christmas list going into Week 16 of the 2021 NFL season, it is as follows:
The San Francisco 49ers losing to the Tennessee Titans on Thursday Night football Cam Akers returning from injury
- A Los Angeles Rams win over the Minnesota Vikings
- An Arizona Cardinals loss to the Indianapolis Colts
With two of my four Christmas gifts already afforded to me by football Santa, I will have to wait until this Sunday to see if I get the rest of my wishes — it will be well worth the wait.
After gifting the Seattle Seahawks their first losing season since 2011 last week, the Rams will take on the Vikings as they continue to pursue an NFC West title. It will take a win and a Cardinal loss to catapult themselves onto the throne, but after watching the Detroit Lions stifle Arizona last week, anything could happen. Here are my bold predictions for LA’s Week 16 matchup.
Jalen Ramsey gets the better of Justin Jefferson
Fresh off of a difficult challenge of keeping D.K. Metcalf in check against the Seahawks, Jalen Ramsey will have to turn the page and take on a budding star in second year receiver Justin Jefferson. With Adam Thielen potentially missing Sunday’s matchup against the Rams, Jefferson should be getting most of the looks on the offensive side of the ball. Regardless how many targets the young receiver may procure, I believe a busy Ramsey will frustrate the two-time Pro Bowler and hold him under 70 yards receiving—a feat that has only been accomplished four times this season.
Against Metcalf, Ramsey cashed in one of his most impressive performances of the season when he held the third year receiver to just 52 yards on 12 targets. His day was highlighted by two incredible pass breakups that were instrumental in keeping the Seahawks momentum grounded.
Jalen Ramsey is the BEST CB in the league. Alpha pic.twitter.com/ocnWAQ7DMx— Billy M (@BillyM_91) December 22, 2021
Ramsey may not get many Defensive Player of the Year votes with Aaron Donald playing on the same field with him, but that does not take away the impact that he has on the football field. The hard-hitting, trash-talking, defensive back is one of the best in his position—he will prove it once again this Sunday against Minnesota.
Cooper Kupp does Kupp-like things
Cooper Kupp is just 340 yards away from breaking Calvin Johnson’s single season receiving yards record, though many will point to a padded 17 game season as the reason. The first time pro bowler will need to average 170 yards in two games in order to break Johnson’s record in a 16 game span, who are we to believe that he won’t?
COOPER KUPP. UNSTOPPABLE.— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) December 22, 2021
All season long it has been apparent that the offense runs through Kupp’s playmaking ability, but it was never any more obvious against Seattle. When the offense was struggling to move the chains, Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford leaned heavily on their humbled star and allowed him to carry the way to victory. Kupp finished the game with nine receptions on 13 targets, 136 yards, and the only two touchdowns of the night for LA. Even when the entire stadium knew where the ball was going, Seattle, like many of the teams that the Rams have faced, did not have an answer to the Stafford-Kupp connection.
With this catch, Cooper Kupp broke the Rams franchise record for most receptions!— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) December 23, 2021
| Radio Call of the Game: Kupp's historic season continues pic.twitter.com/svvutldssO
Kupp has an opportunity to put together the single greatest season by a receiver in NFL history. The selfless pass-catcher would argue he just wants his team to win games, but you can bet that both Stafford and McVay want to get their teammate into the record books. That is why the game plan against the Vikings will be to get him the ball, and that is why I predict that Kupp has 170 yards receiving and two touchdowns on the day.
Matthew Stafford has a Jared Goff-like day against Minnesota
It seems like an eternity since the magical 2018 season that Jared Goff and McVay put together on their way to their first, and only, Super Bowl together. In Week 4 of that season, Goff had himself one of the best quarterback performances in recent memory against the Vikings, throwing for 465 yards, five touchdowns, and posting a perfect QB rating of 158.3.
Stafford is coming off victories against the once NFC-leading Cardinals, a divisional foe in Seattle, and a smacking against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Except for a horrid three game stretch in the middle of the season, Stafford has been exceptional for LA and proved to many that he was the upgrade at the quarterback position McVay and general manager Les Snead were looking for. Yet none of that was enough, as Stafford’s name, which was good enough to be whispered in MVP talks, was not loud enough to get the nod for the pro bowl—there is no better time for the veteran QB to have one of his greatest games of the season.
This year’s Vikings are not the typical Mike Zimmer composition, as the defensive-minded head coach has rather turned to his offense to carry his team to victory rather than a once feared defense. Minnesota currently ranks 30th in yards allowed, 23rd in net yards per pass attempt, and overall is 18th against the pass. Stafford’s biggest advantage, however, is that he knows the Vikings better than anyone else after facing them 21 times in his career.
Kupp has gotten much of the recognition for his outstanding season, deservedly so, but much of it has to be predicated on Stafford’s ability to read defenses and get the ball to him in small windows. While Kupp got his first pro bowl accolade, Stafford may have just missed it by a hair. With motivation to show the NFL world what he can do, I predict that Stafford throws for over 400 yards and has five touchdowns, nearly matching the special day that Goff once had against the same team.
Los Angeles finishes the week atop the NFC West
The Rams currently are just half a game out of first place in the NFC West, but that could change this weekend.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Cardinals are just 1-point favorites over the Indianapolis Colts, who boast the only player that may rival Kupp for the Offensive Player of the Year award in running back Jonathan Taylor.
After losing to Goff’s one-win Detroit Lions last week, they will have to get it together for a much more formidable foe. I believe they won’t be up to the challenge.
Los Angeles, on the other hand, will be up to it. With the Vikings best player, Dalvin Cook, out for the game due to COVID-19, the Rams should have an advantageous matchup against a middle-of-the-pact team. After surviving two weeks of a COVID-19 outbreak in their facility, they will be healthier than they have been for some time. With their weapons back in action, I predict that the Rams take care of business against the Vikings, while the Cardinals falter for the third week in a row—giving LA the sole possession of first place in the NFC West.
What are your predictions for Week 15? Let’s discuss below!