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The Los Angeles Rams entered the bye week with a 5-3 record that should have easily been 6-2 with a win at Miami that never transpired. The season is far from a lost cause (3rd in the NFC West) even against the emerging Arizona Cardinals and Russell Wilson’s continued MVP-level play, but the schedule will be getting much more competitive once they exit the bye and the team has to be ready if they hope to live up to their true potential — which is not far from reaching the Super Bowl again with a strong roster now at play.

The Rams are capable of making a contest out of two upcoming games in Seattle and may have a tough time in Tampa Bay, but with two games in Arizona, a game against the ailing 49ers, and a pair of games against the losing Jets and Patriots, Los Angeles could realistically be looking at a 10 or 11-game win column going into the playoffs. Here are some concerns that the Rams must focus on in order to find themselves in contention for a playoff seeding after the bye week.

Biggest Concerns For The Rams To Address Throughout The Bye

Escaping The NFC West

It may be too early to call, but the NFC West has proven to be the most difficult division in football, or at least vying for the top spot. When you take out the recent wave of injuries that have incapacitated the 49ers from a team previously thought to return to the NFC Championship to a lottery pick contender, the cream of the crop in the NFC West has played the best football of the season thus far.

Tag team Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks emerged into the conversation of the best team in the overall NFC with a powerhouse offense that is taking the Kansas City approach of winning games by creating an offensive blueprint that will seek to outscore the opposition no matter what. Their defense is far from the Richard Sherman/Kam Chancellor days, but with an MVP-level quarterback, underrated running back Chris Carson, and hotshot receiving corps now led by D.K. Metcalf, this offense has set its sights on reaching a certain point count and will find any means to get there.

Coming off of a win against the formidable Seahawks and handing them their first loss of the season, the Arizona Cardinals are early favorites for the most improved team of the season. Second in the NFC West race at 5-2, Kyler Murray and the Cardinals — with the addition of DeAndre Hopkins — have turned the conversation of playing as a middling team into that of a contending playoff team. The argument could be made that their schedule is among the easiest in the league, but the savage receiving corps and improved play from top pick Kyler Murray (offense averaging 419.1 yards per game, best in the league) give them a good chance to make the playoffs going forward.

Since the introduction of Russell Wilson and Kyle Shanahan in the once-mediocre division, the Rams’ problems with making the playoffs have been less of a question with whether they’ll reach the win total needed, but more of an aim toward grabbing a wild card spot because of how loaded this division remains. Think about NFC East teams that can win their division with an 8-8 record; unfortunately, this is not the case for Los Angeles.

All Yards, No Score

What gives Rams fans a stronger sense of confidence following a disappointing 9-7 campaign last year is the offense that is playing more consistently than the Todd Gurley-led offense of past. The offense is currently 8th in the league in total offensive yards per game yet 14th in scoring. The dispute does not fall on whether they can move the ball down the field, especially with great running from Darrell Henderson — who I have admittedly been bearish on. Instead, the question ponders on why the Rams are unable to score once they get into the red zone.

Having a poor 45.45% completion rate within 10 yards of the goal-line, a fair amount of blame can be placed on Jared Goff’s inefficiency once he reaches down the field. The reason why I predicted Goff as a leading MVP candidate before the season began this year was based on the surrounding parts and offensive scheme that will ultimately prove whether he is or is not the franchise quarterback the Rams had hoped for with the no.1 overall pick in 2016. The 2x Pro Bowl quarterback has been under a Sean McVay offense that is now susceptible to predictability but still gives him the tools to find open receivers and get the ball into the endzone if he can play as not a good, but great quarterback.

At this point in his career and with this regime, it feels as if Goff should be in the discussion of comparison with fellow quarterbacks such as Dak Prescott or Deshaun Watson, yet he always feels like a QB2 looking in on the realm of QB1’s. The Rams need to find a way to help Goff find those open targets within a distance of scoring or hand the ball off until the committee backs fall in for six to help the still-young QB find a confidence or rhythm. With upcoming contests against offensive juggernauts like the mentioned Seattle, Tampa Bay, or Arizona, McVay and Goff must find a way to not just move the ball, but punch it in.

Special teams coach John Bonamego must work with Forbath to improve on this ranking and help the Rams get on the board when Goff is unable to.

Reliable Kicking

Part of the Rams offensive woes have come from the disappointing performance of rookie placekicker Sam Sloman, who was recently waived and will instead go with newly signed Kai Forbath to handle kicking duties. Being inserted into one of the NFL’s best offenses and expectations to keep up as a rookie kicker may have been a task too tall since the start of Sloman’s campaign, but there is no doubt that reliable kicking from the Greg Zuerlein days is missed in Los Angeles.

The Rams are 29th in the league in field goals made, a far cry from 2018’s 1st ranked spot that fueled the revered offense. Special teams coach John Bonamego must work with Forbath to improve on this ranking and help the Rams get on the board when Goff is unable to or else they’ll fall short in the remaining contests ahead.

Jared Goff And Darrell Henderson. Photo Credit: All-Pro Reels | Under Creative Commons License

Jared Goff And Darrell Henderson. Photo Credit: All-Pro Reels | Under Creative Commons License

Alejandro Avila

Author Alejandro Avila

My name is Alejandro Avila and as far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a journalist. While writing across a spectrum of topics has its rewarding moments, there is a quality to writing about sports that feels natural and most gratifying. Numbers always matter at the end of the day, but in sports, anything can happen beyond the bounds of what’s possible. In covering the day-to-day news, one must also consider the improbable because this sport makes superstars out of underdogs. Without an unlikely helmet catch on February 3, 2008, I wouldn’t be as passionate about football and it hasn’t let me down. Being a SoCal kid all my life, I’m ready to see Los Angeles take the credit it deserves in the world of football and cover it every step of the way. Also interested in fantasy football (never bet against Fred Jackson), Thai food, garments, jiu jitsu, and good films.

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