The New England Patriots (6-6) travel to So-Fi Stadium to face the Los Angeles Rams (8-4) on Thursday, 12/10 at 8:15 PM ET. This game has playoff implications for both teams; the Rams are currently leading the NFC West and have the 3rd seed in the NFC. The Patriots are on the bubble at 3rd place in the AFC East. The Patriots cannot afford to lose many more games and will likely need some help to get a Wildcard spot. This is a rematch of Super Bowl LIII and the Rams are looking to avenge the 13-3 loss even though, by composition, these are two different teams. The Rams enter this game as 6 point favorites according to MGM.
1st Stance: Offense
Today’s New England Patriot’s are not the Patriots you have known for the last 20 years. Gone are the days of Tom Brady, enter Cam Newton. The former prolific passing game has morphed into a ground attack that Vince Lombardi would love. The Patriots are ranked 22nd in YDS/G (342.3), due largely in part to their running game. They are ranked third overall in rushing at a whopping 150.9 YDS/G, the passing game is ranked 30th however at 191.4 YDS/G. Newton is still learning the New England offense after 13 weeks and has been inconsistent. At times he looks like the former MVP, he has also had stretches that looked as is he might be benched. He has been a formidable runner, but as a passer he has often left a lot to be desired. The question is which Cam will show up on Thursday?
In comparison, the Rams are ranked 3rd in YDS/G at 395.3. The passing game is ranked 5th at 271.2 YDS/G and the Run DMC attack is ranked 9th at a respectable 124.2 YDS/G. QB Jared Goff has looked bad in 2.5 of the games this year (Dolphins, second game against the 49ers and the first half of the Bills) which has led to a small outcry from fan(atic)s for his head. Rams head coach Sean McVay, however, knows what Jared can be when playing to his strengths, which has led to 41 wins in 4 seasons, 2nd best amongst QBs in that same timeframe. If Jared plays like he did Sunday, the offense will be in great shape – let’s hope Rich and Jourdan aren’t calling him Jared THOMAS Goff on Friday:
But is Goff the QB for the Rams? This seems to be a constant source of fuel for Rams fans. Take this poll and see how he fares with fellow fans:
Jared Goff Post-Week 13 Approval Poll
— JAKE ELLENBOGEN (@JKBogenDTSN) December 7, 2020
The Rams have the edge on offense, but Patriots head coach Bill Belichick will have a plan to keep this offense in check like he did in Super Bowl LIII.
2nd Stance: Defense
The Patriots defense can be stout. The thrashing they gave last week to the Los Angeles Chargers proved that their defense can stand with anyone but they’ve been inconsistent. They are ranked 12th in YDS/G (344.6) and 7th overall in PPG (21.3). They have only given up 30 points or more twice this season and the defense is improving, a calling card for Belichick. This defense, when clicking on all cylinders, can win games for this team.
The Rams have been consistent all season on defense. They are 2nd in YDS/G (291.3) and 5th in PPG (20.3) and have won games for the Rams this season. Although it is a short week, expect Jalen Ramsey to get back to playing the star position as there is no true number one receiver to cover. Last time the Rams faced Cam Newton (albeit with the Carolina Panthers), he went for 239 yards, 1 INT, was sacked 3 times and 1 lost fumble. This Rams defense is better, and that Panthers offense was better.
Rams fans can get creative, hope to see something along these lines this week:
Aaron Donald vs Kyler Murray today pic.twitter.com/lvOvhBVeNr
— kyle/Free agent nba fan (@knicks_tape99) December 6, 2020
The Rams defense is better than the Patriots, but the scheming from Belichick gives me PTSD. Big edge to the Rams, I would not bet the over (currently 44.5).
3rd Stance: Special Teams
The Patriots special teams was, well, extra special last week. They scored on a punt return and a blocked FG attempt; this group puts “special” in special teams.
The Rams, on the other hand, seem to find a way to make special teams a nightmare of sorts. Last week Matt Gay missed a FG and Nsimba Webster fumbled a punt that led to an easy score in the red zone for the Arizona Cardinals. In garbage time they gave up a 54 yard KO return that normally would have been downed. If teams think the Rams cannot cover, they may choose to run them out of the end zone (how Belichickian would that be?). Johnny Hekker also had to handle some errant snaps of FGs, something that is out of character for long-snapper Jake McQuaide. Suffice it to say that the Rams special teams need to improve dramatically before it costs them a game.
Bonamego better have the special teams unit ready to go Thursday
— HoldenCantor (@HoldenCantor) December 8, 2020
A note on the Patriots special teams – they were fantastic, but could the Chargers have helped them a little bit?
The Patriots lined up to punt 5 times in this game. The #Chargers had the wrong number of players on the field for 3 of those plays. On one series, they lined for a punt with 12, got flagged and gave up the first down, then lined up with 10 four snaps later. pic.twitter.com/DOum0vObiZ
— Daniel Popper (@danielrpopper) December 7, 2020
Big edge to the Patriots going into this game on Special Teams.
4th Stance: Intangibles
- Coaching – Sean McVay versus Bill Belichick. Belichick is the GOAT and is 1-0 against McVay, in the Super Bowl no less. Belichick wins the head-to-head on this one hands down. Interestingly, McVay is 7-1 against teams that beat the Rams the first time round. Belichick, however, is 3-2 against teams they beat in the Super Bowl when facing them next. Belichick get the nod here, but McVay wins the internet:
Sean McVay is officially 7-0 vs. Arizona and 33-0 when leading at halftime. The #Rams improve to 8-4.
— Rams Brothers (@RamsBrothers) December 7, 2020
- Trend/Mojo – Both teams are on a win streak and need the win to solidify playoff hopes and seeding, this is a push.
- Post of the week from Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) – If you are not following Jourdan, you are missing out, she is the BEST. If you are not subscribing to The Athletic, you are REALLY missing out as she goes deep into Rams coverage that you should not miss. She has pointed out many times that Jalen Ramsey has been worth the contract and Brandon Staley can use him in many different schemes, he is LOCK DOWN.
In context here, even if they don’t all go like this, having Jalen Ramsey able to cover two of the premiere WRs in the league, who happen to be in the Rams’ division for four games a year (then playoffs) – and to change an offense’s plan! – is legitimately priceless to a team. https://t.co/BMvFtaoYLJ
— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) December 7, 2020
- “RAM”dom info from the week:
- Both teams owned the weekend:
- The Patriots stayed on the West coast instead of traveling back to New England. This should pan out to help the team with reducing jet lag and maximizing time to practice/prepare but takes a toll this time of year on family. Let us see how many times this comes up on Thursday.
- Jared Goff tied the Rams great Roman Gabriel (@RGabriel4HOF) for number of wins in a 4-year span (41), with another win he will be in the top spot. Let us hope he gets a few more wins!
- Not-so-fun-fact: The Patriots have won more recently at So-Fi than the Rams
- The Rams are 2-4 this season against the AFC East and NFC West. The Rams will have to run the table against these two divisions to finish above .500 against them (collectively) – all four remaining games fall into this category.
- Rams by the numbers:
Safe to say the Packers are clearly the best team in the NFC pic.twitter.com/SrpzegT813
— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) December 7, 2020
— Rick Harriman (@HarrimanRick) December 7, 2020
- Key Injuries:
- New England (if it matters)
- Questionable for this week, limited practice on Monday: Nick Folk (K, back), J.C. Jackson (CB, hip), Adam Butler (DT, shoulder), Ja’Whaun Bentley (LB, groin), Shaq Mason (OG, calf), J.J. Taylor (RB, quadriceps), Byron Cowart (DT, back), Kyle Dugger (DB, toe), Jakob Johnson (FB, knee), Lawrence Guy (DT, shoulder), Matthew Slater (WR, knee), Cam Newton (QB, abdomen), Ryan Izzo (TE, neck), Jonathan Jones (DB, Neck)
- Injured reserve, expected to return this week: Devin Asiasi (TE, undisclosed), Shilique Calhoun (LB, knee), Michael Barnett (DT, undisclosed), Yodny Cajuste (OT, knee)
- Physically unable to perform, expected to return this week: Brandon King (LB, quadriceps)
- Injured reserve, expected to return week 15: Isaiah Wynn (OT, knee), Carl Davis (DT, concussion)
- Injured reserve – COVID 19: Julian Edelman (WR, knee)
- Injured reserve: Rex Burkhead (RB, knee – ACL), Beau Allen (DT, leg), Brandon Copeland (OLB, pectoral), Quincy Adeboyejo (WR, undisclosed)
- Los Angeles
- Questionable for this week, limited practice on Monday: Terrell Lewis (LB, knee)
- Questionable for this week, did not practice on Monday: Michael Brockers (DE, neck), Cam Akers (RB, shoulder)
- Injured reserve, expected to return week 14: Kai Forbath (K, ankle), Taylor Rapp (SAF, knee), Andrew Whitworth (OT, knee – MCL)
- Injured reserve, expected to return week 15: Micah Kiser (MLB, knee)
- Injured reserve: Terrell Burgess (SAF, ankle), Justin Lawler (LB, foot), Travin Howard (LB, knee – meniscus)
- New England (if it matters)
- Weather at SoFi stadium is irrelevant as it will be perfect inside the best digs in the NFL.
The Rams have revenge in their minds for Super Bowl LIII and the most recent loss at home against the 49ers. Rams win this one 24 – 13 and it will be closer than the score will reflect. Living in New England is hard enough but picking against the Pats will make me enemy #1 for a short period, even within the safety of my own home as I have traitors under my own roof.
As it is the Christmas season, here is my Christmas list – keep it simple, share yours:
I don't count on New York for much, so maybe it isn't too much to ask for the New York teams to sweep the Seahawks this season? 2 for 2 so far, make it 3! #Rams #RamsHouse Let's go J-E-T-S! Get that first win of the season!
— Rick Harriman (@HarrimanRick) December 8, 2020
— Rick Harriman (@HarrimanRick) December 6, 2020