The Los Angeles Rams are one of the hottest teams in the NFL at the moment and a big reason for that has been the play of quarterback Matthew Stafford. Since coming off of the bye week in Week 11, the Rams are 5-1 with their only loss coming to the Baltimore Ravens. Stafford has thrown 15 touchdowns to two interceptions over the past six games.
It can be argued right now that Matthew Stafford is playing some of the best football of his career. He’s currently averaging 0.239 EPA per play since Week 11 which is better than his 0.201 EPA per play in 2021 when he led the Rams to the Super Bowl.
The Rams have seen this version of Stafford once before during the 2021 playoff run. During that four-game stretch, Stafford had an EPA per play of 0.324. The common theme in both stretches was no turnovers. ESPN’s Sarah Bishop discussed this in a NFL quarterback questions piece this week. When answering the question, “What has stood out most over Matthew Stafford’s recent four-game hot streak?”, Bishop said,
“He hasn’t turned the ball over. After throwing more interceptions (five) than touchdowns (three) through the first four weeks of the season, Stafford has not had a game with multiple interceptions since then. In the Rams’ past four games — the only loss coming to the 12-3 Ravens, who have the NFL’s best record — Stafford has thrown 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions. The four-game streak with multiple TD throws and zero picks is his longest since he was traded to Los Angeles, per ESPN Stats & Information.”
Stafford has gone four consecutive games without an interception which is the first time he’s done that in his career since 2018 with the Detroit Lions. Again, this is likely the best version of Stafford that the Rams have seen since the Super Bowl run. The Rams quarterback threw eight touchdowns to three interceptions during that stretch which included no interceptions in the Wild Card and Divisional Round.
Since coming to Los Angeles, interceptions have been a problem for Stafford. In 2021, Stafford was tied for the league lead in interceptions and ranked ninth in turnover worthy play percentage. That was also the case before Stafford was put on injured reserve last season. In Weeks 1-11 last year, Stafford had the fourth most interceptions and ranked 9th in turnover-worthy play percentage.
This season, Stafford is still making elite throws as he leads the NFL in big time throw percentage, but he also has the lowest turnover-worthy play percentage to go with that. If that holds, he’d be just fourth quarterback to accomplish that since Pro Football Focus started tracking data in 2006. The others:
- 2019 Russell Wilson
- 2016 Tom Brady
- 2009 Phillip Rivers
Simply put, Stafford has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL over the past six weeks. If he continues this pace in the next two games, he may have a legitimate outside case for MVP. As The Athletic’s Mike Sando notes,
“The Rams’ special teams have been so bad that L.A. ranks 29th in combined EPA on defense and special teams. The Rams are 8-6 when Stafford starts and rank sixth in EPA per play on offense even with a disastrous performance at Green Bay (they would rank fourth if we excluded that performance)...What would the Rams look like without Stafford? We saw what they looked like without him: three points, 10 first downs, 187 yards...Meanwhile, in games against the elite defenses of Cleveland and Baltimore, Stafford passed for 573 yards with six touchdowns, no interceptions, two sacks and a 106.4 passer rating...If Stafford finishes the season with a playoff-clinching victory over the 49ers, his candidacy should come to life.”
With the way that Stafford is playing, the Rams are a team that nobody wants to play down the stretch. While Los Angeles has yet to beat a top contender, as shown in the game against the Baltimore Ravens, they have the ability to push a top team to the limit.
Stafford is the only active quarterback in the NFC to win the Super Bowl. Right now, he’s arguably playing like the best quarterback in the NFC and that alone gives the Rams a serious chance if they do make the postseason. If Stafford continues to protect the football while elevating the offense, the Rams will be a dangerous opponent that any top team will want to avoid.