The Los Angeles Rams will take on the Denver Broncos for what could be the most irrelevant Christmas showdown to ever be played. Both teams are out of contention for the playoffs and neither team have a first-round draft pick to lose. Sunday’s headliner is all about pride. The Rams are just a year removed from meaningful January football as they continue to define what the opposite of “run it back” looks like.
Meanwhile, the team that will be lining up across from them have failed to play LA-copycat after making a blockbuster trade for longtime Seattle Seahawk Russell Wilson during the offseason. Many thought Wilson was the missing piece but the season has turned into a disaster with the veteran quarterback at the helm. He will be back this holiday weekend after sustaining a concussion in Week 14 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Rams open as (-1) favorites against the Broncos according to DraftKings Sportsbook, let’s break this one down.
The Los Angeles #Rams became the first defending Super Bowl champions to fail to make the playoffs in 6 years. Overall, 32% of defending champions have failed to make it back to the playoffs the following season. Here's a list of how each one's next season turned out. pic.twitter.com/rBtit5kxNr— Deniz Selman (@denizselman33) December 20, 2022
Los Angeles was officially removed from the playoff race after sustaining their 10th loss of the season at the hand of the Green Bay Packers. The 24-12 defeat could have been much worse if not for an admirable effort from Raheem Morris’ defense that lacked their greatest weapon in Aaron Donald. Two turnovers gave LA a fighting chance as Taylor Rapp was gift-wrapped an interception on an errant throw by Aaron Rodgers and Jalen Ramsey muscled the ball out of the hands of Aaron Jones when the Packers were in scoring-range.
The defense for LA can be hard to watch most days, but give them credit for their continued passion for the game during a disappointing season. Leonard Floyd has show why the Rams were willing to pay him finishing with two sacks while Greg Gaines continues to make his case for a big deal next year. Denver allowed seven sacks against the Arizona Cardinals which could mean a big day for LA’s pass rush.
The Rams offense, on the other hand, came crashing back to Earth after Baker Mayfield pulled off a miracle against the Las Vegas Raiders after just two days with the team. In his second start with LA Mayfield looked mediocre at best with 12 completions on 21 attempts for 111 yards passing, a touchdown, and an interception. He also lost the ball on a sack but it was recovered by lineman Rob Havenstein. The former first overall pick did not get much help from his offensive line on the night.
LA’s ever-revolving offensive line allowed their quarterback to hit the ground five times. The one bright spot for LA’s offense was running back Cam Akers who cashed in his best performance of the season. He averaged 5.4 yards-per-carry on 12 attempts for a total of 65 yards on the ground.
They will have a tough matchup against one of the league’s better defenses this weekend. Against the second and third-string quarterbacks for the Arizona Cardinals the Denver defense allowed just 240 total yards, forced three turnovers, and only allowed 13 first downs. Justin Simmons played a key role in the Broncos victory, finishing with two interceptions and two pass breakups.
The Rams porous offensive line may have some difficulty stopping DeShawn Williams who is on an absolute tear with four-and-a-half sacks in just three games. They have done a great job stopping big-plays all season long, allowing just one big play (a 29-yard gain) against the Cardinals.
Much like LA, the Broncos offense is the Achilles-heel of the team. With Wilson leading the team the majority of the season, they rank sixth-worst in yards-per-game (316.1 yards on average) and rank dead last in points-per-game (15.6 points on average). Running back Latavius Murray is the x-factor in an otherwise unspectacular offensive group. He had his best game of the season in Week 15 with a total of 130 yards on the ground, a rushing and receiving touchdown, and averaged 5.42 yards per carry and may have carried many fantasy football enthusiasts to a playoff victory.
Latavius Murray waltzes his was into the end zone pic.twitter.com/hw06Spk3ny— Broncos Country (@BroncoCountryCP) December 18, 2022
He will have a decent challenge against the Rams who have been good against the run all season, but have shown a weakness in recent weeks with All-Pro Donald out of the lineup. The game plan could be to keep QB Wilson out of the kitchen and play a physical game with Murray as head chef.
This may be a game that bettors stray away from with both teams on a rollercoaster this season. If anyone is ready for the matchup it is Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner. This might not be another revenge game against the his longtime team in Seattle, but something tells me he will be bringing everything he has against the quarterback he played once played with. You might have a better chance on flipping a coin to predict the outcome of this one, but my money is on LA to cover the spread on Christmas Day. It is, after all, on my Christmas wish list.
Can Mayfield pull off another miracle? Or will Wilson cook? Let us know what your predictions are in the comments below!