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Is Cam Akers’ hot streak an illusion or a sign of things to come?

Is Cam Akers’ recent run of form just a hot streak?

NFL: Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Rams Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last three weeks of the NFL season, there may not be a player standing out more on the Los Angeles Rams than running back Cam Akers. After an overall disappointing 2022 season, Akers has turned it around recently and has shown why the Rams were so excited about him heading into the 2021 season prior to tearing his achilles.

Against the Los Angeles Chargers, Akers became the first Rams running back since CJ Anderson at the end of 2018 to have back-to-back 100 yard performances. In the last three games, Akers has a combined 54 carries for 306 yards, averaging 5.67 yards per carry.

That’s quite the turnaround from where Akers was earlier in the season. Through the first nine weeks, Akers had 62 carries for 176 yards, averaging 2.84 yards per carry. His 5.67 yards per carry over the last three weeks is exactly double what he was averaging earlier in the season.

The big question that the Rams will need to figure out, is this a sign of things to come and a sign that Akers is back and fully healthy from his torn achilles? Or is this simply Akers taking advantage of bad run defenses?

Not a lot has changed over the last three weeks when it comes to the situation that Akers is running in. The offensive line hasn’t gotten gotten considerably healthier. Yes, they’ve been able to develop some consistency as it hasn’t been a new group every week. Still, the offensive line is without key pieces. Additionally, the Rams are without their top two options in the receiving game as Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson are on injured reserve.

The only significant change has been Thomas Brown taking a more prominent role as the running backs coach following the departure of Ra’Shaad Samples.

Throughout his career, Akers has just seven career games with 10+ carries and over four yards per carry. Only two of those seven games have come against run defenses that ranked in the top-half of the NFL and four of the seven ranked inside the bottom-10.

The notable game among those is the 2020 wild card game against the Seattle Seahawks in which Akers had 131 yards. The Seahawks run defense ranked seventh in the NFL at the time in both EPA and DVOA.

Outside of that, the highest ranked run defense was the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3 of this season that had a 14th ranked run defense in DVOA.

To add to that, Cam Akers has four career 100 yard games. Three of those four games came against bottom-10 run defenses. Half of those came against run defenses that ranked in the bottom-5.

Akers’ first career 100 yard game came against the New England Patriots in 2020. The Patriots ranked 28th in run defense DVOA at the time and finished the season ranked 32nd. In that game, the Rams running back had 29 carries for 171 yards.

Much of the same can be said about the game last week against the Chargers. Brandon Staley’s defense had been allowing over five yards per carry for the season and ranked 28th in run defense DVOA. By most metrics, the Chargers are a bottom-5 team when it comes to stopping the run.

While the Denver Broncos have a very good defense, they also hovered around that bottom-10 mark, ranking 23rd in run defense EPA and 22nd in DVOA.

This isn’t to take away from Akers’ performances. It’s simply adding context. It’s fair to be optimistic about what Akers can do moving forward. The eye test shows a more confident runner. He’s been better in pass protection as well which is an area that he needed to improve.

If there are two areas where Akers need to get better, it’s protecting the football and down the field as a receiver. Akers had a drop last season in the wild card round against the Cardinals. Earlier this year he had an opportunity on a pass from Kupp against the Dallas Cowboys. Last week, Baker Mayfield gave him another chance on the sideline, but was unable to make the catch. These are missed opportunities for big plays in the passing game.

There are two completely different sides of Akers’ career. The three-game stretch to end 2020 combined with his last three games are much different than the 16 games in between. 306 of his 682 yards for the season have come over the last three weeks. In other words, 44.9 percent of his rushing yards this season have come against the Packers, Broncos, and Chargers.

The same is true about his run at the end of 2020. Including the postseason, Akers finished with 846 rushing yards. However, 392 of those yards came against the Patriots, Seahawks, and Packers or 46.3 percent.

During the three game stretch to end 2020 and the past three games this season, Akers recorded 129 carries for 727 yards, averaging 5.66 yards per carry. In the 16 games in between, which is almost a full season of data, he had 175 carries for 551 yards, averaging just 3.15 yards per carry.

Akers has more yards in six games than he did in the 16 games in between those. Akers needs to find consistency. The big caveat here is that also he did suffer an achilles tear. Is Akers getting healthy and finding that consistency or is this just another hot run against bad defenses?

This is likely something that will be answered in 2023 as Akers gets another full offseason and can hopefully build on his current form.