The first five contests for the Los Angeles Rams have been underwhelming to say the least, as the defending champions have struggled mightily to find their identity to begin the season. Issues with the offensive line, interceptions, and poor tackling (at times) are just a few problems that have hindered Los Angeles thus far.
Nonetheless, there is still a ton of football left to be played in a long 17-game season, meaning there is no need to panic so early. Sitting at 2-3, the L.A. is just a game behind the NFC West leading 49ers, so stringing some wins together could go a long way towards winning the division.
The Rams will have a great chance to get back on track against a struggling Carolina Panthers (1-4) football team, as they have their starting quarterback out along with having just fired their head coach Matt Rhule along with their defensive coordinator. If there was ever a game to “get right”, this is the one and DraftKings Sportsbook has the Rams as 10-point favorites. Here are 3 reasons as to why the Rams WILL beat the Panthers Sunday, along with 3 reasons they could suffer their third loss in a row:
3 REASONS THE RAMS WILL WIN
1) LONG, SUSTAINED DRIVES BY THE OFFENSE
Sustaining long drives is something that the Rams have rarely been able to do thus far, as the run game simply has not been consistent enough through five games to do so. Facing a Carolina defense that has given up an average of 387 yards of total offense in their past three games, this contest represents a chance for the L.A. offense to catch their rhythm both on the ground and through the air.
The Panthers defense is not bad whatsoever, however their offense has been so horrible that the defense has been on the field a ton in each of their games, causing some serious fatigue with the high number of snaps. If the Rams can establish the run early, they can have long scoring drives that can get the team going up front.
When the Rams win on Sunday, expect for the offense to dominate the time of possession en route to an L.A. victory.
2) SECONDARY ALMOST AT FULL STRENGTH
For the past few games, the Rams have trotted out a bevy of back-up players to man the secondary in a pass heavy league. The fill-ins, like Derion Kendrick and Grant Haley, have not played poorly at all. However, having the experience of David Long and the extreme upside of Cobie Durant will certainly help the Rams defense in terms of defending the pass and making plays on the ball.
While Panthers running back Christian McCaffery gets most of the attention, the team possesses two really solid wide receivers in D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson. Couple those two with a Deebo-lite type player in Laviska Shenault, and the Panthers all of a sudden have some good play-makers on the outside at their disposal.
Having a healthier back-end of the defense will go a long way towards neutralizing the players that Carolina has, so the possibility of getting both Durant and Long back impacts the defense for the better. When the Rams win on Sunday, expect for the close-to-all-the-way healthy secondary to have a big game.
3) OFFENSIVE LINE RESPONDS
There is an old saying that claims the following: “You are only as strong as your weakest link.” With that being said, the Rams weakest link as far as position groups thus far has been the offensive line. Through just five games, L.A.’s men up front have conceded a ridiculous 84 pressures to go along with 21 sacks given up.
For contrast, QB Matthew Stafford was sacked 30 times ALL season in 2021-2022, just nine more than how many times he’s been sacked through just five contests. In the three losses, Stafford was sacked a total of 19 times, while only being sacked once per game in their two wins. There is a clear recipe for Los Angeles to get back into the win column, and it clearly starts with protecting their quarterback.
When the Rams win on Sunday, expect the offensive line to step up and have their best overall game of the season.
3 REASONS THE RAMS COULD LOSE
1) O-LINE CONTINUES HORRENDOUS PLAY
While this may be a common theme throughout this series as to why the Rams may lose, it has quite literally been the main reason for each of the teams three losses. As said before, the Rams have given up 21 sacks so far this season, as well as having only one game with over 100 yards rushing thus far. For purposes of comparison, in last season's first five games, the Rams rushed for over the century mark in three out of those five games en route to a 4-1 start.
Winning and losing in the NFL is decided in the trenches, an area Los Angeles has not gained any sort of footing in to begin the season. Carolina has a very formidable front four, so there is a possibility that the L.A. offensive line gets embarrassed once again. If the Rams lose to the Panthers this Sunday, expect for Matthew Stafford to get demolished once again.
2) MCCAFFREY HAS HIS WAY EARLY AND OFTEN
The Panthers have had three of their first five games come down to the wire, and in two of those contests they were able to have major success on the ground. Carolina rushed for a whopping 145 yards in their lone win against New Orleans, as well as 146 yards on the ground in a three point loss to the 4-1 New York Giants.
Running back Christian McCaffrey is one of the best backs in the league today, a dual-threat back who is just as effective as a pass catcher as he is a pure runner. The success of the Panthers offense starts and ends with number 22, so the Rams will need to neutralize him in order to neutralize the Carolina attack.
If the Rams lose to the Panthers, Christian McCaffrey will most likely be the best player on the field for both teams that day.
3) P.J. WALKER PLAYS OUT OF HIS MIND
The Panthers will have a new starting quarterback for the first time this season, as starter Baker Mayfield will miss some time with a high ankle sprain. The man who will replace him is P.J. Walker, a young man who made a name for himself by dominating the XFL en route to an NFL roster spot.
Walker has played pretty poorly when he has had the chance to play, however there is two glaring exceptions. Back in 2020, in his first career NFL start, Walker went a serviceable 24-34 for 258 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions, good for his first win as a starter. Then, in his first start last season, Walker completed 22 of 29 passes for 167 yards with zero touchdowns and a single interception in a blowout victory in Arizona.
While the solid performances have been few and far between for Walker in his young career, he has shown he can play efficient football at the highest level of football. If the Rams lose on Sunday, expect for P.J. Walker to have one of those outlier performances in an upset victory over L.A..