The Los Angeles Rams will take on their second 2020 playoff team of the season when they visit the Indianapolis Colts this Sunday. Its been four years since the two teams have played each other in the regular season, and much has changed since LA pounced Indianapolis 46-9.
In 2021, these are the matchups you should be watching for on Sunday.
Aaron Donald vs. Quenton Nelson
There might be an asterisk next to the long-awaited Donald vs. Nelson matchup after Nelson missed practice with a foot/back injury. Regardless, its a matchup that is worth talking about, and one we hope to see on Sunday.
Nelson is an absolute wall of a guard. In 2020, the All-Pro defender only allowed one sack the entire year, keeping his aging quarterback Philip Rivers healthy on route to a playoff appearance. The sixth overall pick of the 2018 draft has not missed a single Pro Bowl since entering the NFL. In those same three years Nelson has been given first team All-Pro honors.
Unreal block & mental processing from Quenton Nelson to read this LB blitz and work back across the formation to pick it up. pic.twitter.com/3PeQIZV1jh— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) November 19, 2019
If Nelson is a wall, then Donald is a bulldozer.
Donald is a six-time All-Pro defensive tackle that has been awarded Defensive Player of the Year three times and quite possibly could be the most dominant player to ever play his position. Some say top-10 all-time.
The list of accolades and stats could go on, but for the sake of your time—Donald is really REALLY good at what he does. He may just be the most dominant player in the NFL.
Aaron Donald knocked a house down pic.twitter.com/D3G1Qj0Wc3— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) September 13, 2021
Donald lining up across Nelson would pit two players who are top in their positions against one another. Can Nelson sure up his technique and stop the absolute truck of a human-being bearing down on him each play? Hopefully an injury will not inhibit a matchup of the ages, and we see who is more dominant this Sunday.
Carson Wentz vs. Matthew Stafford
It is hard to compare two quarterbacks going against two very different defenses and be fair, but the matchup of Wentz and Stafford draws some interesting parallels to one another. Both quarterbacks are entering this season with a new team and a new path in their careers.
Wentz is coming off of his worst year in the NFL after going 3-8-1 with the Philadelphia Eagles. He only completed 57.4% of his passes and nearly threw as many interceptions as he did touchdowns. The second overall pick in the 2016 draft started 12 games in 2020 before handing off the starting position to rookie Jalen Hurts, and was then subsequently traded to the Colts for a 2021 third round and 2022 second round pick, with the stipulation he stays healthy all year. With his new team, Wentz is looking for a fresh start to prove he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL, and despite a loss to the Seattle Seahawks in week one, he had a decent stat line with 251 yards, a 65.79% completion rate, and two touchdowns.
Stafford did not get traded away from his former team because of a bad year, but after 12 years on a mediocre if not bad Detroit Lions team that only appeared in the playoffs three times in his tenure, the long-time QB requested a trade that put him in a position to win a championship.
In a recent report written by Ian Rapoport, it happened to be the Rams who Stafford thought could provide a supporting cast worthy of a Super Bowl appearance. Time will tell how long Stafford has with LA as he enters his 13th season in the NFL, and much can be predicated on the ability of Los Angeles’ offensive line to keep him upright, but for right now Stafford is looking to get somewhere he never has been before.
In a ESPN feature story written by Seth Wickersham, Stafford explained, “I just want to play in big games, you know? ... I want to have opportunities to make big-time plays in the fourth quarter against really good teams, in big moments, rather than a 1 o’clock game on a Sunday somewhere.”
On Sunday we will watch two quarterbacks attempt to re-write their history—Wentz, who is looking to prove he is worthy of a starting gig at the most important position in football, versus Stafford, who is looking to prove he can win in the big games and take a team all the way.
Jonathon Taylor vs. Rams run defense
It may be an overreaction after a single game played this season, but the Rams had some trouble stopping the run against the Chicago Bears, allowing running back David Montgomery to rush for 108 yards on 16 carries which included a 41 yard scamper. LA’s number one defense last year did not allow a single 100 yard rusher, so it would be safe to assume they will be able to shake off the rust and improve against the Colts, but if they do not, the defense could be in for a long day against the likes of Taylor.
The rookie running back ran for 1169 yards and averaged five yards a carry in his rookie campaign. Taylor is a bruising back that is not afraid to lower his head and run through tacklers, but also has a bit of elusiveness in him, and a 4.39 40-yard dash time, that can allow him to break free for big gains. It also helps that he plays behind one of the best offensive lines in the game, an offensive line that only allowed opposing teams to sack Rivers 19 times last season.
The Rams know what it means to be the best defense in the NFL and is striving to be the same in 2021, but after losing defensive coordinator Brandon Staley to a head coaching job with the Los Angeles Chargers along with key players John Johnson and Troy Hill, it remains to be seen if Raheem Morris can do the same this year. Sunday’s week two matchup against the Colts will be a great test for the Rams run defense. After watching Montgomery’s success on tape, a significant area of focus will go towards stopping Taylor this week.
What are the matchups you are most looking forward to ahead of this Sunday? Will Nelson get the better of Donald? Will the Rams defense be able to stop Taylor? Let’s discuss!