Rams vs. Broncos
The over/under point total on the Los Angeles Rams/ Denver Broncos game has been set at 36.5. These teams are the 31st and 32nd lowest-scoring offenses in the league. The Rams are averaging 16.4 and the Broncos 15.6. (Do the math. Bet the under on this one)
Other than highlighting the probable low-scoring outcome of this game, this also points out how different the season has unfolded for these two teams. There is a reason that the NFL scheduled the league’s two worst offenses in a premium timeslot on Christmas day. This game was supposed to be an exciting battle between two eventual playoff teams. The Rams were given the second-highest NFC Playoff odds to win the Super Bowl and Denver was given the fourth-highest in the AFC.
Today they are both already eliminated from the post-season with nothing but questions about how these respective franchises will right the ship. Partly because they both traded their 2023 first-round picks for their star quarterback.
But nonetheless, this game is going to happen, and obviously, if you are reading this article you still care about how your football team plays. And, hell, this is a winnable game for the Rams
So in that spirit, I wanted to give you some keys to victory for what will be a meaningless and low-scoring tilt.
Running Cam Akers
I wouldn’t have expected to say this but using Cam Akers in this game is integral to the Rams winning. He is coming off the best game of his season. This isn’t saying a lot, but he did finish with 65 yards at a 5.42-yard clip.
And that is with McVay underusing him against the Packers. That’s a problem for two reasons One: Green Bay is bad against the run. They allow the highest success rate to opposing rushing offenses, yet McVay only opted to run 17 times even though Akers was proving to be a viable weapon in the game. Two: McVay basically had drives with and drives without running plays. This uneven approach isn’t new and hasn’t been effective. In years past, sure, but not this year, and certainly not with Baker Mayfield.
The Broncos have the best defense against passing offenses by DVOA this season, so the Rams stand very little chance of moving the ball through the air. The Broncos aren’t as bad as the Packers against the run but they are league-average rather than elite as they are against the pass. A three-pronged approach, utilizing Akers and Kyren Williams, and Brandon Powell would be ideal, but I’m not holding my breath for that. But at the very least, McVay should lean into it
Make Russell Wilson Human Again
Two weeks ago Russell Wilson looked like himself. He threw for three touchdowns and rushed for 57 yards. The result was 28 points, the highest point total of the Broncos season, and also the team’s fifth straight loss. Obviously, the Kansas City Chiefs offense can toe-to-toe with any high-scoring game, but a major contributor to thwarting Wilson was an exceedingly effective pass rush.
The Chiefs pass rush managed just eight pressures all game (17.8%), but six of those resulted in sacks. With just under 11 minutes left in the game, Wilson scrambled 14 yards to pick up the first down and get the Broncos offense to the Chiefs 16. On that play, Wilson suffered a concussion and left the game. Brett Rypien came in and completed the drive, but the offense was unable to even pick up a first down for the rest of the game. Wilson is on track to play in this game, but if he is allowed to run roughshod the result of this game will be a Broncos victory.
The Rams defense hasn’t been able to get consistent pressure and it hasn’t gotten any better without Aaron Donald. The defensive line is the most recent positional group to get bitten by the injury bug. Along with Donald, A’Shawn Robinson is hurt and his backup Marquise Copeland has been injured too. Greg Gaines has offered some pressure, but with Donald out, the responsibility falls on to the edge rushers.
Leonard Floyd has flashed as of late with over half of his 39 pressures coming in the last four games. Michael Hoecht has provided a viable threat as an edge rusher. He has had 12 pressures in the last four games. That’s more than both Justin Hollins and Terrell Lewis have this season combined.
The Rams defense requires that their outside linebackers get involved in pass protection as well. This is where Hoecht is a liability for the Rams defense. He will be asked to cover Marlon Mack and Greg Dulcich, as well as others. Those two combined for over 100 yards receiving against the Cheifs. Hoecht will have issues keeping up with them. This will also allow the Broncos to target the soft middle belly of the Rams defense, forcing Taylor Rapp to come down and assist in the box more often. That is when Jerry Jeudy becomes a real threat. He provides Wilson with a deep receiving threat that he loves to find when he’s out of the pocket.
What it comes down to is that the entire defense will have to execute and stay extremely disciplined. The good news for the Rams is they still have two of the best linebackers in the game, Ernest Jones and Bobby Wagner.