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How Rams defense can decide outcome versus Commanders

Can LA force Sam Howell to make mistakes?

Philadelphia Eagles v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The easiest and quickest way to lose games in the NFL is to turn the football over. In the same vein, forcing the other team to make mistakes and stealing possessions will give you the best chance to win.

We can distill this weekend’s matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and Washington Commanders down to this same age-old rule.

The Rams need a win to move back to .500 and stay alive in the NFC playoff picture. Being careless with the football could spell an upset for Washington on the road and ultimately end Los Angeles’ playoff hopes. Forcing a young quarterback in Sam Howell to make mistakes would allow Matthew Stafford and a red-hot Rams offense more opportunities to put points on the board, and this would take pressure off of an offense and a quarterback that is often asked to do too much.

When the dust settles on the outcome Sunday afternoon, we should reflect on the impact of turnovers on the final score.

Washington is 4-9 so far on the season. They’ve earned victories over the New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos, and the Arizona Cardinals. Despite Howell’s league-leading 14 interceptions (tied with Buffalo’s Josh Allen), in these four winning efforts he’s mostly kept the ball out of harm’s way. These performances highlight why it will be important for the Rams defense to play aggressively and force Howell to make mistakes. A relatively clean day for Howell could leave LA on the outside looking in on the playoff hunt.

Week 1 vs Arizona Cardinals: 2 TD’s, 1 INT, 1 fumble

Week 2 at Denver Broncos: 2 TD’s, 0 INT’s, 1 fumble

Week 6 at Atlanta Falcons: 3 TD’s, 0 INTs, 0 fumbles

Week 9 at New England Patriots: 1 TD, 1 INT, 0 fumbles

2023 season overall: 23 TD’s, 14 INT’s, 4 fumbles

Howell is as volatile as they come at quarterback. He is also by far the most sacked signal caller in the NFL, and it’s generally never a good thing when you lead the league in both interceptions and sacks taken. Still, Howell is a capable passer and when he’s on he can put up points in a hurry—both through the air and with his legs.

The Rams defense can decide the outcome of this game by forcing Howell and the Commanders to make mistakes. They need to take the football away and give Stafford and the LA offense as many chances to get into the end zone as possible.

If Howell plays a clean brand of football, Washington could keep things close and potentially even pull of the upset—effectively ending the Rams’ hopes of playoff contention in 2023.