Los Angeles Rams Gameplan: A Significant Opportunity Awaits

by Blaine Grisak
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When the Los Angeles Rams take the field on Sunday, it will have been 10 days since they last took the football field. However, that 10 days has seemed like 10 years. The Rams beat the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday Night Football and now head to the east coast to take on the New York Giants.

As it stands, the Rams sit at 4-1 and have arguably made it past the hardest portion in the schedule. Yes, meetings with Tennessee, Green Bay, San Francisco, Minnesota, and Baltimore await. However, it won’t get much harder than Tampa Bay, Arizona, and Seattle on the road this season. The Rams have played four playoff teams from last year and are an impressive 4-0 in those games.

The NFL is a week-to-week league. You’re not supposed to look ahead down the line. When it comes to the Rams current schedule, however, it’s hard not to. The Rams sit at 4-1 and have an opportunity to take control of their season. They have an opportunity to put themselves in a great position in the second half of the schedule.

Over the next four weeks, the Los Angeles Rams will play:

Week 6 – @ New York Giants
Week 7 –  vs. Detroit Lions
Week 8 – @ Houston Texans
Week 9 – vs. Tennessee Titans

In those games, the Rams have one long road trip and it comes this week after they’ve had a mini-bye. The combined records of those opponents are 5-15, with the Tennessee Titans making up three of those wins. Three of the four teams in this next stretch have one win or less. That’s night and day compared to the current 13-8 record of their first five opponents.

With that said, the Rams have an opportunity ahead before a Week 10 clash with the San Francisco 49ers. The next four weeks are opportunity for the Rams to take control of their season because it doesn’t get much easier in the second half of the schedule.

Realistically speaking, the Rams are looking at a potential 8-1 record after these next four weeks and at bare minimum should be 7-2 if they slip up against Tennessee. However, 8-1 really should be the expectation. And the thing is, the Rams need to be 8-1 heading into Week 10.

Both the NFC and NFC West look very competitive at the top. The Arizona Cardinals are 5-0 and just traded for a top tight end in Zach Ertz. Good luck defending that offense. The Cardinals are all-in. The Dallas Cowboys are 4-1 and play in one of the weaker divisions in football. Losses are going to be few and far between.

Tom Brady and the Buccaneers look very good and also play in a relatively easy division and don’t have a lot of challenges on their schedule. Lastly, the Green Bay Packers are sliding under the radar after near losses to the Bengals and 49ers.

As of right now, those are the juggernauts in the NFC and there is only one first round bye. That doesn’t even mention that the Rams share the NFC West with arguably the best of the bunch in the Cardinals.

It’s too early to have playoff seedings and first-round byes in mind as it’s only Week 6. However, that stuff can’t be completely pushed aside either. The ultimate goal is a Super Bowl title, especially with the pressure of the Matthew Stafford trade. Since 2013, a number one seed has made it to the Super Bowl in every season. To add to that, in that same time span, there have been six Super Bowls in which both number one seeds have faced off for the Lombardi.

A loss in one on these next four games could be the difference between hosting a playoff game at SoFi or playing on the road. Just like last year in which losses to the Jets and Dolphins were the difference in traveling to Green Bay in the Divisional Round or getting a more favorable matchup against the Saints.

Heading into Week 6, the Los Angeles Rams have the fifth easiest strength of schedule for the rest of the season. An opportunity awaits for them to take control before they head into the season’s second half. It all starts Sunday against the Giants.

Five Los Angeles Rams Players to Watch

1. DL Aaron Donad

Aaron Donald has been limited at practice this week with an injured knee, but is expected to play on Sunday. While it is the New York Giants, the Rams need to be able to dominate up front on the defensive line. That starts with number 99. The Giants have issues on the offensive line and Daniel Jones and the rest of the offense are also dealing with injuries. The defense needs to be able to put pressure on the Giants offense.

2. WR DeSean Jackson

DeSean Jackson has spent most of his career in the NFC East. In his career, he’s played against the Giants 20 different times and in those games he has 76 receptions for 1,254 yards, and six touchdowns. Jackson has gotten more involved in the Rams offense which has been evident on the deep ball. We’ll see if he gets involved again on Sunday.

3. CB Robert Rochell

The Rams could be without Darious Williams for at least the next three weeks. That means that either David Long or Robert Rochell will need to step into that second cornerback role. With how unimpressed the coaching staff has been on long, those duties will likely fall to Rochell. A fourth-round rookie, the Rams will be reliant on him to step up and show that he’s ready for these moments.

4. RB Darrell Henderson

The Rams are one of 12 teams to have a 100-yard rusher this season. The Giants meanwhile have allowed three 100-yard rushers this season. The Giants’ three 100-yard rushers allowed is tied for the league most with the Chargers and Lions. Darrell Henderson has had good games this year. He’s rushed for 82 and 89 yards in his last two games, but could be in for a big game on Sunday.

5. WR Robert Woods

Woods is a second wide receiver on this list. However, he will be one to watch on Sunday. He finally got involved in the Rams offense last week and he and Stafford really connected. The last time Woods played against the Giants, he went for five receptions for 70-yards, including a 52-yard scamper on 3rd-and-22 that went for a touchdown.

Five Keys to Victory for the Los Angeles Rams

1. Run the Football

In most of the games this season, the point of emphasis for the Rams has been to throw the football. Due to a combination of Matthew Stafford under center and the opponents, that has made sense. However, Sunday could be a different story. The Giants defensive line ranks 26th in run defense DVOA and have given up the fifth-most rushing yards. Making a point to run the football could be the smart play on Sunday.

2. Force Daniel Jones into Mistakes

Daniel Jones has actually played well this year and thrown just one interception. However, this is a quarterback that has thrown 10+ interceptions in each of the last two years. He’ll be without his starting running back and top two receivers. If Jones feels like he has to do too much, the Rams defense can play off of that.

3. Play Smart in the Secondary

The Rams are pretty thin in the secondary right now and are down to three cornerbacks. Donte Deayon could get promoted off the practice squad to make it four. However, there will be a lot of youth and inexperience there with Rochell, Long , and maybe Deayon. Don’t be surprised if the Rams keep it simple in the secondary to make things easier on their cornerbacks.

4. Avoid a Slow Start

One of the schedule disadvantages in the NFL is a west coast team playing in the early time slot on the east coast. In two road trips, this has now happened twice this season. The Rams survived a sloppy game against the Colts, but can’t do that against the Giants and give them confidence. Stafford and the offense need to come out and strike fast.

5. Get Off the Field on Defense

The Giants are actually converting third downs at a 40% clip this season which ranks 15th in the NFL. That might not seem impressive, but they also rank seventh in yards per drive. The Giants average 37 yards per offensive drive this season while the Rams defense is giving up almost 40 yards per drive.

Five Matchups To Watch

1. Jalen Ramsey vs. Kadarious Toney

Ramsey may spend some time on Toney, but likely won’t be locked on to the rookie. With that said, Toney has come on in recent weeks. Toney had 10 receptions for 189 yards against the Cowboys and could see a majority of the targets on Sunday. The Rams will need to limit Toney to limit the Giants offense.

2. Leonard Floyd vs. Matt Peart/Nate Solder

The Giants offensive line has been a mess this year. Solder has been the sixth worst graded pass blocker on Pro Football Focus as he’s given up 19 pressures and two sacks. If the Giants bench Solder, it will be for Peart who is inexperienced. This is one matchup that the Rams need to exploit.

3. David Edwards vs. Leonard Williams

Williams is a former top-10 pick by the New York Jets and now plays for the Giants. He’s never lived up to that No. 6 overall pick status. However, he’s played very well against the run this season. Meanwhile, David Edwards will play a key role in keeping Stafford clean and opening up run lanes for Henderson.

4. Kenny Young vs. Daniel Jones

This isn’t necessarily a head-to-head matchup. With that said, with Saquon Barkley out, the Giants could look to use Daniel Jones in the run game. If that’s the case, the Rams need to be able to maintain contain and keep an eye on Jones. Jones ranks third in the NFL in quarterback rushing yards. The Rams defense needs to keep track of him.

5. Sebastian Joseph-Day vs. Billy Price

As mentioned above, the Giants have a porous offensive line. Ben Bredeson hasn’t been good at guard and Billy Price hasn’t played well at center after that team traded for him. The Rams are going to be able to create pressure of the middle. This could be a game for Sebastian Joseph-Day to have a big game.

Five Bold Predictions for the Los Angeles Rams

1. Darrell Henderson Rushes for Over 100 Yards

Henderson hasn’t eclipsed the 100 yard mark since Week 3 last season against the Buffalo Bills. As mentioned earlier, he’s gotten close the last two weeks with 82 and 89 yards respectively. The Giants haven’t done a good job at stopping the run this season. Henderson will have a good chance to have a big game.

2. Robert Woods Has a Second Consecutive 100-Yard Game

Woods has never put together back-to-back 100 yard games with the Los Angeles Rams. However, he seemed to build a connection with Stafford last week and get more involved in the offense. Last week could’ve jump-started Woods and got him on track for the 2021 season.

3. Sebastian Joseph-Day Has Two Sacks

Despite having a porous offensive line, Daniel Jones has only been sacked eight times this year. However, the Giants haven’t faced a pass rush like the Rams just yet. The interior of the Giants offensive line isn’t good and Sebastian Joseph-Day has improved his pass rush skillset. Joseph-Day will put those on display on Sunday.

4. The Rams Drop a ’50-Burger’

The last time that the Rams were in New York to face the Giants, they won 51-17. While I do expect the Giants to score some points, I also expect the Rams to score points. The Giants gave up 44 points to the Dallas Cowboys last week on Sunday Night Football. The Rams offense is better than the one in Dallas and could have a big day as well.

5. TuTu Atwell Returns a Punt

TuTu Atwell got close last week to breaking a big return. A few times he got tripped up just as he was about to hit the big hole. Back in 2010, DeSean Jackson pulled off the Miracle at the Meadowlands. Hopefully the Rams won’t need a miracle, but Atwell needs to make a big play and break his first big return.

Five Storylines to Follow

1. Giants Injury Depleted

The New York Giants have hit the injury bug badly. They’ll be without Kenny Golladay, Saquon Barkley, and Sterling Shepherd. Justin Hilliard is out on defense. This is a team with a long injury list. Daniel Jones has also been on the report all week with a concussion.

2. Rams Can Spark a Small Run

As mentioned at the beginning of the story, the Rams have a chance here to go on a small run and turn 4-1 into 8-1. The Rams are one of the best teams in the NFC and have a chance to prove that record wise by dominating this portion of the schedule.

3. Rematch of Last Year

The Rams and Giants played last season with new head coach Joe Judge at the helm. Judge and the Giants put up a good fight as the Rams won just 17-9. In fact, the Rams led just 10-6 going into the fourth quarter. An interception on the final drive by Darious Williams clinched the win.

4. Containing Kadarious

Last week, Kadarious Toney had 10 receptions for 189 yards. He could have a big week again on Sunday with how the Giants skill positions look health wise. Toney had a disappointing offseason and slow start to the season. However, he’s shown what he’s capable of the last two weeks. The Rams will need to contain him.

5. Daniel Jones’ Turnaround

Daniel Jones has actually played very well this year on a bad Giants team. He has four touchdowns to just one interception. He has a higher QBR than Russell Wilson. lIt’s usually not pretty with Jones, but he’s significantly improved. The Rams secondary can’t underestimate him.

Game Prediction

I fully expect the Los Angeles Rams to come into New York and take care of business. The last trip to New York ended in a loss to the Jets. This time around, I expect the Rams to come out on top. The only question is, do the Rams make it more complicated than it needs to be?

The Rams should be able to run the ball at will and will likely make that part of the gameplan. We haven’t seen the Rams win that way yet this season and will put it on display on Sunday. Stafford will remain efficient while Henderson and Michel carry the rock and the Rams offense.

This could be a close first half while the Rams pull away in the third and fourth quarters. New York has played most of their opponents tight this season, but those came against Washington, Atlanta, New Orleans, and the Broncos pulled away in the second half. Dallas meanwhile won 44-20.

I am 4-1 in my Rams predictions this season and could see a lower-scoring game. The Rams could run clock with how well they are able to run the football.

Rams 31, Giants 16

 

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