Is the second week of the Los Angeles Rams season really too early for a must win game? — history says no. L.A. needs to capitalize on the Atlanta Falcons last minute 27-26 loss last Sunday to the New Orleans Saints and kick them while they’re down. It will be a game chock full of storylines and although the Falcons showed glaring weakness on defense, the offensive side was in top form against a respected defense.
Last week the Falcons rolled up over 400 yards of offense. Quarterback Marcus Mariota was 20 of 33 for 215 passing yards. He’s mobile, throws well on the run, and plays a similar style to Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills, a player who gave the Rams fits last week. Although he’s not from the same physical mold, (big as a linebacker and fast as a defensive back) but when healthy he’s shown the same athletic ability to escape pressure and make plays with his feet. Against the Saints, Mariota added 72 yards rushing on 12 attempts, not only scrambling, but on set run plays with a lead blocker.
The ‘Birds also rolled up 201 yards on the ground. Cordarrelle Patterson is a one-off hybrid, a weapon rushing, receiving, and returning kicks. At 6’2” and 220 lbs, the 10-year veteran is large enough to break tackles and his background as a returner (career 7552 yards and seven touchdowns) provides open-field moves and excitement. Atlanta pounded it on the ground for 38 carries and a 33:44 to 26:16 time of possession (TOP) spread.
The good news for the Rams is that the Falcons defense couldn’t seal the deal, giving up 17 fourth quarter points to lose. Although the TOP was wide, Atlanta’s defense gave up 385 yards (151 rushing and 234 passing) at 6.8 yards per play and last season that number would been, by far, the best in the league.
Offensively for the Rams, all eyes will be on the offensive line. While the Falcons were only 20th in week one pass rush win rate (per ESPN), L.A. will have a new starter at right guard (Tremayne Anchrum) and tackle Joseph Noteboom is nursing a strained knee. Although there wasn’t much skill position production in the Bills loss, they have proven they can be playmakers, particularly if Van Jefferson is healthy and can be penciled in at WR#3.
Defensively, it is imperative not to allow Atlanta to dominate the TOP. Last year, the Rams didn’t start playing a more noticeably aggressive style of defense until after the winless November. This season the schedule is backloaded with some really tough games and L.A. can ill afford to lose too many games early games. Fans should expect a sense of urgency by the defense, even if they line up in the soft shell formations.
How to follow the game
Date: Sunday, September 18
Kickoff: 1 p.m. PST
Location: SoFi Stadium, Inglewood Ca.
Watch it live: Fox (regionally) and DIRECTV Sunday Ticket
Live stream: Sling TV, L.A. Rams official app, NFL Plus, Hulu Live, fubo TV, DIRECTV STREAM (formerly known as AT&T TV, Peacock, and many others.
Listen: ESPN LA 710 AM, 93.1 Jack FM, Tu Liga 1330 AM, and ESPN affiliates including KLSD 1360 AM (San Diego), KKUU HD2 (Palm Springs), KTIE 590 AM (Riverside), KAVL 610 AM and 106.7 FM (Lancaster), KSMA 1240 AM and 99.5 FM (Santa Maria), and KMET 1490 AM (Banning).
Current betting odds at DraftKings Sportsbook
Line: Los Angeles Rams -10.5 -110
Over/under totals: Over 46.5 -115 / Under 46.5 -105
Money line: Rams -520 / Falcons +410