Cam Akers Expectations For Super Bowl LVI
By Scott Engel, The Game Day
When the NFC Playoffs began, Cam Akers was one of the biggest stories surrounding the Los Angeles Rams. Six months after suffering a significant Achilles injury, he totaled 95 yards from scrimmage in the Wild Card Round win over the Cardinals.
Akers had seemingly made a stunning return to recapture much of his pre-injury form, and there was added optimism about his role in the offense in a run to the Super Bowl. But now that the Rams have actually advanced to the title game, the buzz around Akers has died down after two uninspiring outings.
Will we see the Wild Card Round version of Cam Akers again in Super Bowl LVI? And if you’re looking to place a prop bet this Sunday, will it involve Cam?
Cam Akers: Super Bowl LVI Expectations
Two Consecutive Disappointing Games
Akers is coming off a pair of mediocre performances as he prepares to face Cincinnati. He has rushed for 48 yards in two straight playoff games. One could raise the fact that he faced Tampa Bay and San Francisco, two of the best run defenses in the NFC, in those contests. And he is still in the early stages of his on-field return from a major injury.
The Rams also overcame their lack of an outstanding running game to win the NFC Championship. No Los Angeles running back has totaled more than 58 rushing yards in a postseason game thus far.
The Rams have succeeded for much of the year without a prime rushing attack. Sony Michel rushed for 90-plus yards in three games between Weeks 13 and 16, but those were the only times all season when any Los Angeles RB rushed for more than 90 yards. Yet the Rams have still won 15 of 20 games played across the regular season and playoffs.
Akers has averaged 2.8 yards per carry in the postseason so far. He has yet to rush for a touchdown and fumbled twice in the Divisional Round. There cannot be much optimism for an explosive outing heading into Super Bowl LVI. But the Rams have shown they can win it all without Akers looking like a rising star again.
Time Share Concerns For Cam Akers
The workload Akers will get against the Bengals is also a concern when hoping for a successful outing. After showing renewed promise in the Wild Card Game, Sean McVay committed to Akers fully in the Divisional Round and gave him 24 carries against Tampa Bay.
The results showed that maybe McVay expected too much, too soon from Akers. He averaged two yards per carry and lost the two fumbles. One led to a late Buccaneers score, and the other came deep in the red zone within range of the goal line.
In the win over San Francisco, Akers carried 13 times, while Michel had 10 attempts. McVay obviously did not want to fully go away from Akers but chose not to overwork him, and there also may have been some concerns about the fumbling issues carrying over from the Tampa Bay game.
Michel played very well down the stretch for the Rams, and he has already proven he can excel in the postseason, as he was a standout performer in the 2019 playoffs for the New England Patriots. We should expect another split workload between Akers and Michel against Cincinnati.
Another Challenging Matchup For Rams RBs
Nothing comes easy in the NFL Playoffs, and the Rams running backs will take on another team that has effectively defended the run for most of the season. The Bengals were fifth-best in the NFL against the run during the regular season.
Los Angeles won’t avoid running the ball, though. Savvy NFL watchers know well that a team must continue to run the ball to keep the defense honest. The Rams cannot become predictable on offense, because if they do, Matthew Stafford could face a heavier pass rush.
Even though he has not produced much in the last two weeks, opponents still respect the talent and potential of Akers. While recent returns have been far from ideal, he still has the ability to rip off a long run at any time, and the Bengals do have to try to keep him in check for another week.
Another Path To Success For Cam Akers?
Utilizing Akers as a receiver could boost his Super Bowl LVI outlook. The Bengals were 27th in receiving yards allowed to running backs during the regular season.
Akers has not been able to bang or cut his way for enough yardage so far in the NFL playoffs. Getting him the ball in space may be the way to get him untracked.
In the NFC Championship Game, Akers caught one pass for two yards. But he had a 40-yard catch on a trick play in the Wild Card Round and got open for another deep ball. With Cincinnati paying so much attention to Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr., swing passes in the flat and a downfield shot or two to Akers could work well.
Lowered Expectations for Super Bowl LVI
It is apparent that many of us, maybe even McVay, became too excited about what we saw from Akers against Arizona. Invoking the matchups in the next two games can also be seen as excuse-making. The sheer reality is that Akers is still in his first few games back after recovering from the Achilles injury.
The Rams have come this far without an outstanding running game in the postseason. As Akers gets more reps and carries, his performance can indeed improve. He will still command much defensive respect.
But after the last two playoff games, we have to expect a somewhat limited, split workload and if Akers delivers his best performance of the postseason so far, the Rams can take that as a very welcome bonus. Los Angeles may not need Akers to bust out in Super Bowl LVI. But he remains a significant threat, and if Akers does perform well, there could be better chances of a decisive victory.