NFL’s opening night did not go as planned for the Los Angeles Rams, as the defending champions were flat out embarrassed on primetime television by the Buffalo Bills 31-10. For the first time under Sean McVay, the Rams have fallen below .500 in the regular season, a ridiculous statistic for one of the best head coaches in the NFL today. Nevertheless, the best way to right-the-ship after an ugly loss is with an impressive win the following week, something L.A. will look to do against a better than expected Atlanta Falcons team. The Rams will enter the contest as 10-point favorites against the Falcons, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
The Rams will either right-the-ship on Sunday afternoon or the ship may begin to sink before our eyes, here are 3 reasons as to why either could happen:
3 REASONS THE RAMS WILL WIN
1) RUNNING GAME FINDS GROOVE
In last week’s loss to the Bills, the Rams were only able to muster 52 rushing yards in the game. For anyone familiar with McVay’s offensive philosophy that is not ideal whatsoever, as the main strength of the Rams offensive attack since 2017 has been their ability to throw out of play-action, which becomes far less effective when the run game is no real threat to the defense. With that being said, there is a real shot to get the ground game going this week, as the Falcons gave up a whopping 151 rushing yards to the Saints in Week 1. When the Rams win, expect a heavy dosage of both Darrell Henderson and Cam Akers to secure the first win of the season.
2) MCVAY BOUNCE BACK RECORD
Ever since head coach Sean McVay took over in 2017, the Rams have very rarely gone on losing streaks, as he has a very solid record of 18-7 in the regular season in games following a loss. Coach McVay has always been one to be very critical of himself, often taking the blame for any shortcomings of his team in any given situation. With that critical self-reflection comes a keen ability to make things right at all costs, which is often very beneficial for the team overall. When the Rams get into the win column this week, expect McVay’s offense to be firing on all cylinders in an impressive showing.
3) OFFENSIVE LINE TAKES STEP FORWARD
There are many reasons that the Rams offense was so inefficient in the season opener, with the main one being the horrendous play of the offensive line. The run game never really found it’s footing, and quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked a total of seven times by the Buffalo defense. Those seven sacks given up were the most sacks Stafford has taken in a single game since joining the Rams, which could be cause for concern for the health of an aging quarterback. To make matters worse, the Bills never really blitzed or brought extra pressure, wreaking havoc on Stafford’s pocket with only four rushers at a time.
The offensive line will look a little different this week as the injury to Brian Allen will move Coleman Shelton to his original center spot, as well as catapult Tremayne Anchrum Jr. into the starting lineup at the right guard spot. If Noteboom is unable to go, which McVay has been optimistic he will play, Alaric Jackson would step in for him at left tackle. This new look could give the unit a much needed boost, which will be instrumental in securing a Rams win against Atlanta. When the Rams win this week, expect the offensive line to put up an impressive performance.
3 REASONS THE RAMS MAY LOSE
1) OFFENSIVE LINE CONTINUES STRUGGLES
As much as the offensive line can have an impact on a Rams win with their performance, they can also be the main reason for a Rams loss. Giving up seven sacks and a 48% pressure rate in a game is more than just concerning, especially due to the fact the opposition was getting this pressure with less defensive linemen than offensive linemen tasked with blocking them. If the Rams are unable to give their quarterback time or running backs rushing lanes, the offense will struggle against any defense in the entire NFL regardless of how many play-makers they have at their disposal.
The EDGE guys for Atlanta are unproven, however, the man in the middle is Grady Jarrett, perhaps the most underrated player in the entire NFL. Jarrett is one of the best defensive tackles in the game today, which will put the Rams’ guards and center to the test for the entire 60 minutes in both the ground game and through the air. If the Rams lose to Atlanta this week, expect Grady Jarrett to be one of the most impactful players on the field for either side.
2) DEFENSE CONTINUES TO LOSE ON 1ST AND 2ND DOWN
In the Rams loss to the Bills last Thursday, there was a glaring stat that was awfully concerning. The punt return unit did not get any reps, meaning the defense did not force a single punt all night. The Bills converted 9 of 10 on third down last week, which was tied for the best third down conversion rate (90%) in a single game in the past decade. Obviously the Rams did not do a good enough job of getting off the field in their given opportunities, however there is more to that stat than just third down itself.
One of the best ways to decrease the chances of a team converting on 3rd down is making them convert on third and 7-10 rather than third and short, which is taken care of on first and second down. The Rams defense was giving up too much on the first two downs, setting up the Bills for great success on those third down chances. If the Rams lose this week, expect the defense to continue their trend of losing on first and second down.
One bright spot in the Rams loss last week was their defense’s ability to take the ball away, forcing a total of four turnovers. However, the offense was turnover-ridden themselves, as quarterback Matthew Stafford threw three interceptions in an overall ugly performance. One of the picked off balls was tipped, but the other two interceptions were entirely on Stafford, as he simply sailed the ball over Cooper Kupp’s head on one, and threw the ball well behind Tyler Higbee on the other. The fact that the Rams had four takeaways but only a turnover differential of one is unacceptable, and something Stafford and Co. will need to fix if they want to get back on track. If the Rams lose Sunday, expect Matthew Stafford to throw more interceptions in an upset loss.