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Rams face “Can’t lose” game against Panthers, or they become a laughingstock

Carolina has a new head coach and a new starting quarterback

NFL: SEP 18 Falcons at Rams Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams need to start playing angry. They need to be angry with themselves, upset at their 2-3 record, and pissed off at ranking 29th in offense through five weeks. And they need to make an example out of the next team that they face because if they don’t, the Rams won’t be angry.

They’ll be embarrassed.

The term “must-win” gets used a lot in the NFL. Probably at least 75,000 times per week. But when the Rams face the Carolina Panthers in Week 6, perhaps “must-win” is not the right term. Instead, Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford face a “can’t-lose” situation against the Panthers.

You are the defending Super Bowl champions. They just fired their head coach and their starting quarterback—their bad starting quarterback—was seen in a walking boot after the game on Sunday and is going to miss Week 6.

You’re the L.A. Rams. They’re the Carolina Panthers. This is a CAN’T LOSE for the Rams, otherwise every fan in the league will be talking about how...the Rams lost.

It’s time to channel those frustrations against a team that probably has people up top who are more hopeful to get the number one pick in the draft than to scrum together seven wins this season. The Rams can’t lose.

The last time the Rams faced the Panthers was Week 1 of the 2019 season. It was Jared Goff against Cam Newton, Todd Gurley against Christian McCaffrey, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Brandin Cooks against D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, and Greg Olsen, and L.A. won 30-27.

Now only McCaffrey, Kupp, and Moore remain on those teams. The two Carolina players could soon be traded. Maybe to the Rams.

At the time, the Panthers were coming off of a 7-9 season and still working with Ron Rivera. But Rivera was fired after 12 games and Rhule was hired after the season was over. The Rams never faced Matt Rhule. Now they’ll be facing Steve Wilks, who went 3-13 in his lone season as the Cardinals head coach in 2018.

Wilks lost those games to the Rams by a combined score of 65-9.

In Week 6, the Panthers will also be turning the offense over to quarterback P.J. Walker, who is technically Carolina’s fourth option. Mayfield has a high ankle sprain, Sam Darnold has a foot injury, and rookie Matt Corral is also on IR. Walker went 5-of-6 for 60 yards in relief of Mayfield on Sunday, but has only made two career starts. The former undrafted free agent has a career passer rating of 54.5 on 128 attempts, throwing eight interceptions.

If you think L.A.’s passing offense has been bad this year, wait until you see P.J. Walker throwing to Shi Smith. This is not meant to pile onto Carolina at a time when the franchise is clearly struggling, merely an observation of who the Rams are facing in Week 6 at a time when the offense desperately needs to rebound.

But Carolina does have more talent on the defensive side of the ball than on offense.

Brian Burns has four sacks, Derrick Brown has six batted passes from the nose tackle position, Jaycee Horn is coming into his own at cornerback and all three of those players were recent first round picks. Rhule’s one chance to save his job this season was to not waste the Panthers’ talents on defense but Carolina is 32nd in total yards, 32nd on third downs, and they have scored just 31 points in their last two games—both losses to NFC West opponents by at least 10 points.

The Rams absolutely can’t be the one NFC West team to lose to the Panthers, especially after Carolina makes a change at head coach and quarterback all in the same week.

The pressure is now on McVay and Stafford and Raheem Morris and everyone else on the Rams to slam the brakes on this offensive skid over the past three weeks: 39 points in three games, 31st in the NFL in turnovers, 32nd in the NFL in rushing yards.

The Rams need a win to get back to .500. More importantly, they need to not lose.