The stakes are extremely high for the Los Angeles Rams heading into Week 6.
After dropping a pivotal game last week to the Dallas Cowboys, LA is in the thick of the NFC West division race - another loss could put them in a steep hole. Seahawks QB Geno Smith has been one of the top passers in the league this season - and Seattle is exceeding any real expectations people had for that team. The San Francisco 49ers are formidable, but Jimmy Garoppolo keeps them from running away with the division. And no one really knows who the Arizona Cardinals are. At this point Arizona seems headed for a regime change - it’s just a question of whether it comes mid-season.
The Rams are desperate for a win just to get back to .500, and their upcoming bye week allows a reprieve before a brutal second-half schedule.
Head coach Sean McVay has a number of repeated lines that he uses with the team - one of the more popular ones being “big times players make big times plays in big time games”.
LA cannot afford to lose this game, and their star players will step up to carry them to victory.
First, let’s revisit our bold predictions from Week 5 to see how we fared:
1 - Cowboys will sack Stafford 5+ times
Stafford was sacked exactly 5 times - two by star DE Micah Parsons. It’s been a common theme during Rams losses this season, where Stafford was taken down 7 times against both the Bills and 49ers.
2 - Cooper Rush will throw 2 interceptions
Rush did not light up the scoreboard, but he also did not make many mistakes. LA had opportunities to force a turnover, but couldn’t capitalize.
3 - Malcolm Brown will score a TD
LA’s only touchdown came on a 4-yard catch and 71-yard run to the endzone by Kupp.
1 - Cooper Kupp will catch 10+ passes for 150 yards and 2 scores
Corners Jaycee Horn and Donte Jackson are both questionable for Sunday’s game.
This could bode well for a Rams passing attack that has struggled mightily at times this season - they best outings have come against teams that aren’t adept at rushing the passer. Matthew Stafford could have adequate pass protection in this game, and he’ll use it to find his star receiver Cooper Kupp over and over.
LA has yet to find a secondary option behind Kupp, and that’ll continue into Week 6.
2 - LA will hold Christian McCaffrey to less than 75 total yards
The Rams defense will likely face quarterback PJ Walker this week with Baker Mayfield doubtful with an ankle injury.
The path to victory starts with slowing down Carolina’s best offensive player, Christian McCaffrey, and the rest will fall into place. Without being able to rely on the run game or easy check downs to his star running back, Walker will feel the weight of the game on his shoulders and force the ball into harm’s way.
Christian McCaffrey runs it in for the Panthers touchdown!! pic.twitter.com/ziR8mpIZbX— Brian Y (@byysports) October 9, 2022
3 - Aaron Donald will record 2 sacks playing off the right edge
Rookie LT Ikem Ekwonu has struggled in pass protection this season. When the Rams had a similar matchup last week against Dallas’ Tyler Smith, they moved star Aaron Donald, who usually plays along the interior, to the right defensive edge.
"Aaron Donald has found the weak link of the Dallas Offensive Line and its the Rookie Left Tackle Tyler Smith" (@kirkmorrison) @AaronDonald97 continuing the onslaught! (via @RamsNFL)pic.twitter.com/GVVoFdiq2K— ESPN Los Angeles (@ESPNLosAngeles) October 9, 2022
It’s tough for any offensive lineman to matchup consistently against Donald, but it’s even tougher for a rookie to slow the veteran down.