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Rams Week Four Preview: Three Rams MUSTS

The Los Angeles Rams are set to roll into Week Four off of two consecutive wins after their season-opening loss to the Bills. Appearing in another primetime slot this Monday, the Rams will be heading into the home of division rival San Francisco 49ers; Levi’s Stadium.

Rams players have been forthcoming with the idea that they need to “clean up some stuff.” This week they hope to fix those problems against a familiar face in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Garoppolo, who took over starting duties mid-game in Week Two, has a 6-1 record versus the Rams. So even as a second choice to injured QB Trey Lance, the Niners still present a large challenge for LA.

Last season the Rams finally got a long-awaited win over the Niners in the NFC Championship game, taking the contest 20-17. If they hope to do this again, they’ll need to take care of the ball, use efficient runs, and play tough defense the full length of the game.

Let’s dive in…

First, Taking Care Of The Ball

Rams QB Matthew Stafford enters week four tying the league lead for most interceptions (five), alongside New Orlean Saints QB Jameis Winston and New England Patriots play-caller Mac Jones. These, as well as a goal line fumble and blocked kick returned for a touchdown, have decidedly made the Rams’ path to a win much more difficult. Through just three games, 27 points have been scored as a by-product of the Rams’ turnovers.

Early reports out of training camp suggested that Stafford may be having trouble with his throwing elbow. Seeing as though his slew of interceptions only took place in the first two games, one may wonder if maybe that injury still lingers.

Stafford tonight: 1 TD 3 INT 7 SCK How worried should we be about that elbow? — StatMuse (@statmuse) September 9, 2022

McVay is at a critical point in the season already, having to plan on how to loosen the reliance on Stafford’s arm whilst still competing at a championship-defending level. He took a “rest” last Sunday only throwing 25 passes total, and we may see this a bit more when the Rams have a chance to lighten his load.

Second, Cam Akers And Darrell Henderson Need More Runs.

So far, L.A. is bottom three in the league for; yards per game, rushing yards per attempt, and total rushing yards. This may seem ridiculously low for a team fresh off of a Super Bowl win, but even in the playoffs the Rams only averaged 81.5 rushing yards per game. For context, the Rams’ running backs put up 91 rushing yards in Week Two against the Atlanta Falcons.

RB Cam Akers has made an obvious push for more touches since being held out of the season-opener. But these touches have come at the deterioration of RB Darrell Henderson’s touches. Henderson took a hit in Week Three (once Akers finally achieved a 50% snap count) only carrying the ball four times for 17 yards and failing to catch his only target.

This is troubling since it’s not only his snap count that is fading but his usage overall. Henderson showed receiving prowess last season catching 73% of his passes for 176 yards and three scores over 12 regular season games. It doesn’t end there… once over his postseason injury, Henderson also had three catches in the Super Bowl for 43 yards.

Some Ram fans are hoping someone implores McVay to allow the duo to be used in tandem.

You know who doesn’t have a fumble? Darrell Henderson — JAKE ELLENBOGEN (@JKBOGEN) September 25, 2022

Currently, the rushing game is suffering because of this lack of overall usage for the two backs. While the efficiency is remotely intact (both averaged over 4.2 YPC vs. Cardinals) teams seemingly know the Rams will have a pass-lopsided game script. And when players like defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead are next on the docket, allowing them to “pin their ears back” for Stafford is a good way to start in a hole. Especially with the plethora of offensive line injuries that plague the Rams.

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Third, The Defense MUST Play All Four Quarters.

In Week Two the blocked punt mentioned earlier set off a switch in momentum that led to the Falcons scoring 17 points in the fourth quarter. This shift nearly blew a 28-3 lead the Rams once held. Admittedly, the defensive stars have been taking to interviews and social media after games to let the world know they knew they needed to clean things up.

Aaron Donald Post Game Press Conference, Interview FOX, Talks 100 Sacks | Rams Beat Cardinals 20-9 — RamsTalkLine (@RamsTalkLine) October 1, 2022

But this performance goes to show what can happens when the team gets too comfortable. To reiterate, the offensive line and turnovers aren’t helping the team, so the defense has to step up and make every team work hard for every yard and point.

Garappolo, who is widely labeled as “lackluster,” is also extremely efficient versus the Rams. In the last pair of regular season matchups between them; he completed 73% of his passes for 450 yards, five TDs, no interceptions, and averaged a passer rating of 133.

Garoppolo also had the largest PFF grade margin between a clean pocket (90.2) and a pressurized pocket (29.2) in the league last season. The 61-point difference, according to PFF’s Bryan Horn, is due to 14 turnover-worthy plays and no big plays coming under pressure. So, the Rams will have to get after the nine-year veteran early and often if they are hoping for success. Especially with All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams out this Monday.

The same goes for the secondary. All eyes are on Wide Receiver Deebo Samuel and Tight End George Kittle to make plays for the Niners, and the duo can absolutely rip defenses apart. Samuel averaged 110.6 total scrimmage yards per game last season while Kittle averaged 12 yards per reception. These two deadly weapons need to be closely watched this Monday if the Rams want to prevent any field-flipping big plays.

Here’s How The Rams Win

With starting RB Elijah Mitchell on Injured reserve, the Rams may have caught a break in the backfield. Nevertheless, the Niners are a formidable foe that will require the full potential of the Rams’ active roster to overcome. If they can stifle their star players, take care of the ball, and RUN IT… then I believe the sky’s the limit for this team’s ability, and can even develop further chemistry as the season continues.

My prediction is that Garoppolo and Company will have some trouble and even give up the ball once or twice, but the Rams won’t run away with it. With the heavy front-eight in San Francisco paired with an absolutely demolished offensive line, the L.A. backfield should be anything but pretty. The lack of trust in either RB is very alarming, and hopefully just an early season scare, but it will continue to take a toll on the passing game until corrected.

I see a defensive battle here ending in a narrow Rams’ victory of 13-10. Temper expectations on most fantasy candidates in this contest other than WR Cooper Kupp of course.

Unders I would consider: Jimmy Garoppolo (224.5 pass yds) and 42.5 point total.

Overs I would consider: Tyler Higbee (4.5 rec) and Deebo Samuel (55.5 rec yds.)



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