Los Angeles Rams Gameplan: Rams Season is at an Early Tipping Point

by Blaine Grisak
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During every season for every NFL team, there comes a point where you can go left or you can go right. If you’re sitting on a see-saw, are you going to go up or are you going to go down? That’s where the Los Angeles Rams are when it comes to Thursday night’s matchup against the Seattle Seahawks.

The Rams season is at an early tipping point and they get to decide which direction they are going to go. After last week’s clunker against the Arizona Cardinals, the Rams have a chance to bounce back. This is a team that is still 3-1, but are 0-1 in the NFC West. Thursday’s game provides an opportunity to go 4-1 and get even in the division or fall to 3-2 and dig themselves an early hole.

While the NFL has implement a 17-game season, 3-2 and 0-2 in the NFC West would essentially put the Rams in a wild card spot and they could kiss any chance of a NFC West title goodbye. A loss on Thursday to the Seahawks would mean the Rams would likely need to win the rest of their division games or at the very least take three of the final four games simply to have a chance at wild card spot.

Yes, the Rams play the Giants, Lions, Texans, and Titans in their next four games. However, 3-2 and 0-2 in the NFC West would certainly complicate things early in a pivotal for the Los Angeles Rams. It’s early in the season, but if there ever was a must-win Week 5 game – this is it.

The Los Angeles Rams didn’t trade for quarterback Matthew Stafford simply to earn a wild card spot for a second consecutive season. No, the Rams traded for Stafford to win the division and compete consistently in the big games and during the playoffs when it matters.

That’s why Thursday Night Football is so pivotal. A second straight loss and the Rams would have ten long days to think about it before traveling to the east coast to play the New York Giants. However, a win on Thursday and its very feasible that the Rams head into their bye week in Week 11 at 9-1 or 8-2.

Compare that to potentially 7-4 and the Rams are in the thick of a race for the top wild card spot.

With wins against the Buccaneers and Seahawks, that would put the Rams in a very good spot in the NFC playoff race heading into the second half of the season. Handing Seattle a loss would put them at 2-3 and in a sizable hole in the NFC West race. It would basically guarantee the Seahawks fighting for a wild card spot late in the year.

It’s only Week 5, but the Rams season is at a tipping point. Is this a team that’s going to rise to the occasion and beat a division opponent on the road? Can the Rams put the Cardinals loss behind them? Or is this a team that’s going to prove to be inconsistent and turn one loss into two?

Thursday Night is pivotal for Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford. Will they rise to the occasion?

Five Los Angeles Rams Players to Watch

1. QB Matthew Stafford

It’s not that Matthew Stafford didn’t play well in Week 4. Given the Rams’ history at the quarterback position, he played well enough to win. The Rams were 32-3 when Jared Goff had a pass rating of 89.5 or better and 31-6 with a 50.2 QBR or better. The “issue” is that Stafford has set such a high bar, that he didn’t play how Rams fans had come to expect. He’ll have a chance to bounce back against the 27th ranked pass defense.

2. WR Robert Woods

All eyes will be on Robert Woods until he finally has a classic “Robert Woods game”. Woods has had a slow start out of the gate, but everyone knows what the Rams wide receiver is capable of. It’s only a matter of time before he finally gets going with Matthew Stafford under center.

3. CB David Long Jr.

David Long had a less than impressive performance on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. By the sound of it, there could be some competition at that cornerback spot. The Los Angeles Rams have Robert Rochell and others who could do what Long is doing. Long needs to have a bounce back performance to keep his spot in the defensive rotation.

4. OLB Terrell Lewis

Opposite of Leonard Floyd, the Rams outside linebackers had a rough performance against the Cardinals. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo did’t hold contain and Terrell Lewis also got caught out of position a time or two. The Rams drafted Lewis in the third round last year. While he has had he knee issue, he needs to show how talented of a player he is. Last season, he sacked Wilson twice in the first meeting.

5. DC Raheem Morris

Raheem Morris isn’t a player, but after last week, he is on the hot seat in the perspective of most fans. That might be unfair as the Rams defense had been executing in the first three weeks. The Seahawks offense ranks top-5 in the league. On a short week, the Rams defensive coordinator will need to have his guys ready to play.

Five Keys to Victory for the Los Angeles Rams

1. Let Matthew Stafford Win It

The Seattle Seahawks have one of the worst secondaries in the NFL despite having Jamal Adams at safety. Sydney Jones is starting at cornerback opposite Tre Flowers with Ugo Amadi in the slot. The Seahawks secondary can be exploited and absolutely should be with who the Rams have at quarterback and at receiver. Kirk Cousins threw for 323 yards and three touchdowns two weeks ago and Ryan Tannehill threw for over 340. Stafford should be able to do damage.

2. Contain the Big Play

The Seahawks’ passing game is known for utilizing the big play and taking shots down the field. David Long giving up a 40-yard reception this week can’t happen. If the Los Angeles Rams tart allowing big plays over the top against the Seahawks, it’s going to be a long night. Seattle ranks 10th in passing plays of 20 or more and second is passing plays of 40 yards or more. The secondary needs to play disciplined.

3. Feed Cooper Kupp

Among slot corners with at least 50 reps, Ugo Amadi is allowing a passer rating of 133.3 which is the third-highest in the NFL. Amadi has allowed seven receptions on nine targets to slot receivers. Meanwhile, Cooper Kupp has been one of the best slot wide receivers this season. The Rams should try to do a better job of distributing the ball. However, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Cooper Kupp ain’t broke.

4. Play Within Themselves

It’s no secret that Week 5 is a big game for the Los Angeles Rams. As mentioned above, the season is at a bit of a tipping point right now. Two weeks ago, the Rams did a good job of playing within themselves against Tampa Bay. They didn’t force anything and were very efficient on offense. The Rams need to repeat that on Thursday Night. If the Rams play the style of football that we know they can, they will absolutely come out with a win in Seattle.

5. Disrupt Russell Wilson

Russell Wilson was the third most-sacked quarterback last season and is already the sixth most-sacked quarterback in 2021. The Seahawks offensive line, specifically on the interior, can be exploited. Kyle Fuller has allowed a team-high eight pressures and Damien Lewis has given up four quarterback hits. Aaron Donald and Sebastian Joseph-Day need to get to Wilson. The Rams have done a good job of getting to Wilson in the past and will need to once again.

6. Win on First and Second Down to Win on Third Down

I know this is five lists of five, but this one requires mentioning. The Seahawks rank 27th in the NFL in third down conversions at just 33%. The Seahawks do well converting in the third and six yards or less. However, when first and second down haven’t gone well, that’s where Seattle has struggled. Almost 50% of the team’s third downs this year have been seven or more yards to gain. The Rams need to win on early downs.

Five Matchups To Watch

1. Jalen Ramsey vs. DK Metcalf

DK Metcalf is one of the more physically imposing wide receivers in the NFL. In three games last year, Jalen Ramsey completely shut him down. Ramsey has played a lot in the slot this season, but it would not be surprising to see him line up more on Metcalf this week.

2. Aaron Donald vs. Seahawks iOL

The Los Angeles Rams will likely move Donald around as they normally do, but Donald needs to disrupt Wilson. Last week might have been Donald’s worst performance in a couple of years. A ‘get-right’ performance against the Seahawks is necessary. In 15 games against the Seahawks, Donald has 15 sacks, including four games with two or more.

3. Cooper Kupp vs. Ugo Amadi

As mentioned, the Seahawks have not been good in the secondary, but that’s especially the case at nickel cornerback. Meanwhile, Cooper Kupp has been one of the best slot wide receiver. The Seahawks will try to lock in on Kupp given his start to the year, but don’t be surprised to see Kupp have another big game.

4. Tyler Lockett vs. Darious Williams

Tyler Lockett is a very streaky wide receiver. In the first two games of the season, he went off for over 100 yards in both games. The last two, he’s been held for 55 yards combined. With Ramsey on Metcalf, the Rams need a solid performance from Williams on Lockett. The Rams struggled handling the plethora of weapons from Arizona last week. One of the few teams can match that number of options is Seattle.

5. Raheem Morris vs. Shane Waldron

Shane Waldron left the Rams in the offseason to take the offensive coordinator position with the Seahawks. The result has been Seattle running much of the similar things the Rams run with McVay, but up north in Washington state. This will be Waldron’s first game against his mentor while Morris will need a bounce back game. Will going against the Rams offense every day in practice help the Rams defense?

Five Bold Predictions for the Los Angeles Rams

1. Matthew Stafford throws for 350 yards and 4 Touchdowns

Is it really bold if Stafford was seven yards away from reaching this mark two weeks ago? Kirk Cousins and Ryan Tannehill each had success against the Seahawks secondary. Matthew Stafford is at the very least in that same tier of quarterback if not higher. Stafford will be the best quarterback that the Seahawks have faced this season. It’s going to be a big Stafford game.

2. Cooper Kupp Eclipses 200 Yards

One of the most memorable images from last season’s playoff game was Cooper Kupp posterizing Jamal Adams. While Kupp had 78 yards in that game and has only one 100-yard game in his career against Seattle, this is a different Cooper Kupp. The Seahawks secondary can be exploited and we’ve seen Kupp go for 163 and 96 yards against bad secondaries this season. Expect a big Kupp performance.

3. Darious Williams Intercepts Russell Wilson

In three games against the Seahawks last season, Williams intercepted Wilson three times. The playoff pick-six is the most memorable, but Williams also intercepted Wilson twice in the regular season victory. Williams has been off to a slow start in 2021, but he gets on track in Week 5 against Seattle.

4. The Rams Combine For Five Sacks

Russell Wilson has been sacked at least three times in three of four games this season. The Rams defense meanwhile ranks sixth in the NFL in sacks and have a pass rush win-rate that also ranks inside the top-10 at 51%. The Seahawks struggle in pass-blocking. If Hollins were playing, this number might be higher, but Leonard Floyd, Aaron Donald, Sebastian Joseph-Day, and Terrell Lewis should be able to combine for at least five sacks.

5. Jalen Ramsey Shuts Down DK Metcalf…again

Is it really a bold prediction if it’s happened every time the two players have gone head-to-head? You have to assume Metcalf wins at least once sooner or later, right? Wrong. Jalen Ramsey plays a huge role in the Rams secondary and will be locked on to Metcalf on Thursday night. It’s clear that Ramsey is in Metcalf’s head. If Ramsey can win early, he can take Metcalf out of the game.

Five Storylines to Follow

1. Matthew Stafford is 0-3 in Seattle

Matthew Stafford has never won in Seattle with the notable losing coming in the playoffs, 26-6. However, Stafford was injured in that game with a throwing hand injury. Additionally, in 2015, the Lions were on the brink of beating the Seahawks. However, due to an illegal batted ball that wasn’t called, Seattle escaped 13-10. Stafford will have a chance to do a first in Week 5.

2. Shane Waldron Going Against The Rams

The Seattle Seahawks were so tired of the Rams offense always having success that they hired the Rams’ quarterback coach and student of McVay. Waldron has the Seahawks in the top-5 in most offensive metrics and has Wilson playing at a high level. Waldron going up against his former team will certainly be a  story line.

3. Pete Carroll vs. Sean McVay

Since losing his first game against the Seahawks, Sean McVay is 6-2 against Pete Carroll. The Rams had success against the Seahawks with Jeff Fisher and that has only continued under Sean McVay. The two teams have split the regular season games each of the last two years. However, the Rams will look to get back to dominating the rivalry this week.

4. NFC West Battle on the Line

As mentioned earlier, the NFC West is going to be a dogfight this season. With Arizona playing at the level that they are, the Rams being as good as they are, the Seahawks having the history that they have, and the 49ers finding their groove, this is going to be a tough division. The Seahawks are 2-2 and the Rams are 3-1. A win for either of these teams will put them in a much better spot going into next week one way or the other. If Seattle wins, they’ll be 2-0 in the NFC West while the Rams are 0-2.

5. Battle of the Uniforms

This might not be a top storyline or an important storyline, but keep an eye on the uniforms tonight. In primetime games, the Seahawks are 4-0 in their “Action Green” uniforms. Those are the uniforms that they will be wearing on Thursday Night. Meanwhile, the Rams are 1-0 in their bone on blue uniforms against the Seahawks in Seattle. The Rams lost to the Packers in them the following week, but they are the uniform that the Rams beat the Seahawks in during the playoffs.

Downtown Rams Mailbag

Question 1

Terrell Burgess not playing a lot is very confusing, especially considering how David Long is playing and how Taylor Rapp and Jordan Fuller have been performing. The Rams could use some help in the secondary. Some have thought that Burgess is still coming back from the injury that he suffered at the end of last year. Hopefully after this mini-bye coming up, we see more Burgess. The Rams defense could definitely use his range and length.

As far as Gerald Everett, I don’t think we’ll see him get involved a lot. He’s been out much of the last two weeks due to COVID and hasn’t been able to practice. He still needs one more negative test before he can even play. If he does play, it’s unlikely he’ll be involved.

Question 2

This is a question that goes both ways. Sure, Waldron might know some of the ins-and-outs of the Rams offense. However, McVay was Waldron’s mentor for four years and also knows what he knows. The Rams offense also looks different with Stafford under center as they are running less play action. McVay might have to change of some verbiage, but this is a division battle and both teams already know each other very well.

Question 3

The defense will certainly be something to keep an eye on as the season goes on. As Morris grows more confident in the system, it’s possible that he does get a little more aggressive. After last week, we might start to see that as soon as Thursday night. The Rams have a lot of youth on the backend of the defense and this is Morris’ first time calling this defense. It’s better to keep things simple right now than get caught out of position and overcomplicate things.

Game Prediction

Last week was certainly a wake up call. I had the Rams winning 30-20 and instead they lost 37-20. However, last week’s loss doesn’t leave me any less confident than I was last week about this team. Had the Rams performed better in the red zone and played slightly better defensively, it’s possible that the Rams get a close win.

The Seahawks defense simply isn’t good and could be out some of their top pass rushers. Stafford and the Rams offense should be able to have their way with the Seahawks secondary. If the defense can get a stop or two, the Rams will be able to take control of this game.

The Rams season is on a bit of a tipping point, but with this being a short week, the Rams were able to quickly put the Cardinals behind them. I believe the Rams will rise to the occasion and get a win.

Rams 34, Seahawks 20

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