The Los Angeles Rams will be back at home in Week 15 as they take on the Washington Commanders. For the fourth time this season and second week in a row, the Rams will be playing against a team coming off of their bye week. The Rams lost to the previous three teams coming off of their bye week this season. In fact, Sean McVay has lost his last six games against teams off of their bye week.
For the second week in a row, the Rams are facing a team coming off of its bye week. The Rams have lost six-straight games to teams coming off the bye.— Sarah Barshop (@sarahbarshop) December 14, 2023
While the Rams gave the Baltimore Ravens a good fight last week and the Dallas Cowboys were the better team, it can be argued that the extra week benefitted the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this season. According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Rams are 6.5 point favorites against the Commanders on Sunday. The Rams need to win to keep their playoff chances alive, but may get a feisty Commanders team.
Rams offense vs. Commanders defense
Over the last few weeks it has been critical for the Rams to be able to rely on Kyren Williams and the run game. With that being said, the opposite will be true against the Commanders. While the Rams still need to have some sense of balance on offense, this is going to be a game for Matthew Stafford to sling the ball around the field.
The Commanders defense this season ranks dead last in pass defense EPA per play by a wide margin. Without Chase Young and Montez Sweat, the Commanders will struggle to put pressure on Stafford. Don’t be surprised to see McVay come out and look to attack the Commanders defense in the passing game. The Commanders will be in just their second game since firing Jack Del Rio, but have allowed 40 or more points in each of their past two matchups.
Matchup to Watch: Benjamin St. Juste vs. Puka Nacua
St. Juste has allowed the second most yards among cornerbacks this season with 762. Look for McVay to exploit those matchups in the passing game, especially with Puka Nacua. The rookie fifth-round pick could be in for a big day as he gets closer to the all-time rookie receiving record.
Rams defense vs. Commanders offense
The Rams defense will need to be ready on Sunday. While the Commanders defense has struggled, the offense at times has looked good. Sam Howell may not be the long-term answer, but he’s shown that he is at the very least a capable starting NFL quarterback. He’s going to make flashy plays, but will also give defenses opportunities with turnovers. Howell has 18 touchdowns to 14 interceptions this season. The defense needs to be ready to take advantage of those opportunities.
Sam Howell leads the league in sacks but only 48% of his sacks have occurred in 2.5 seconds or less, the 8th *lowest* rate, per TruMedia.— Ryan McCrystal (@Ryan_McCrystal) December 12, 2023
Which means over half of his sacks are happening when he reasonably has time to make a decision and get rid of the ball.
While Howell’s sack numbers have gone down as of late, he’s still taking losses 3-4 times per game. Aaron Donald, Byron Young, and Kobie Turner should be able to have an impact on this game. It’s going to be important, however, for the secondary to take away Howell’s first read and force him to hold on to the ball.
Matchup to Watch: Washington tackles vs. Rams edge rushers
The Rams edge rushers need to have an impact in this game. Byron Young has hit a bit of a rookie wall as of late, while Hoecht remains inconsistent as a pass rusher. This could be bit of a ‘get right’ game for Young. Look for Raheem Morris to also get Aaron Donald some matchups on the edge and lined up as a wide-9.
If Jeff Fisher were a head coach in 2023, he would be Ron Rivera. This is a team that consistently finds a way to go 6-11 or or 7-10. They’ve lost four straight, but will have had a week to reset and refresh which should be beneficial at this point in the season. With Jack Del Rio recently out, they will have had time to focus on changes now that Ron Rivera is calling the defense.
Still, right now the Rams are the better team. This is a game that they should win. As long as they are able to stay disciplined on defense and limit explosives, it could be a long day for Washington. Expect Los Angeles to take care of business and then quickly turn their focus to Thursday.
Prediction: Rams 30, Commanders 20