After a thrilling performance against the Chicago Bears in week one, the Los Angeles Rams are heading to the Midwest to take on the Indianapolis Colts. The Rams are coming off of a convincing win against the Bears while the Colts are coming off a rough loss against the Seattle Seahawks. What will be the x-factors to watch against the Colts?
Keep Stafford Clean
The Rams offensive line graded as a top-five unit against the Bears tough front seven. Rob Havenstein in particular played exceptionally, shutting down four-time All-Pro Khalil Mack. Brian Allen also played admirably after speculation in the offseason that he may be the weak link of the offensive line. The Rams gave up seven total pressures and one sack to the Bears. Meanwhile, the Colts pressured Russell Wilson 16 times and sacked him four times.
Protecting Sean McVay‘s new best friend will be paramount to getting a win in a hostile environment. We witnessed firsthand what Matthew Stafford can do within a clean pocket as he hit Van Jefferson and Cooper Kupp with 69 and 57-yard touchdowns respectively. DeForest Buckner, in particular, has the ability to be a one-man wrecking crew. Rookie Kwity Paye is also a dangerous threat and will challenge the Rams offensive line as Buckner receives double teams. How the Rams respond to their second talented defensive line matchup in as many weeks will be one of the most important x-factors to watch against the Colts.
Contain The Colts Running Backs
The Colts running backs accounted for 198 of their total 336 yards against the Seahawks. Although Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines only averaged 3.4 yards per carry, they are still dangerous runners if given an opportunity. The Rams were more than willing to give those opportunities to David Montgomery in week one. The Rams will likely look to prevent explosive passing plays but they shouldn’t ignore the potential of explosive running plays either like Montgomery’s 41-yard run last week.
Where the Rams may really need to focus is how Taylor and Hines are utilized in the passing game. Carson Wentz targeted the duo 13 times while they combined for 12 catches and 108 yards receiving. After having a bit of a coming-out party against the Bears, Kenny Young will be tasked with a tough test against the Colts. Young will need to ensure he is both sound in his run fits while also looking out for the talented tandem on passing downs. How the Rams attempt to limit the Colts running backs will be one of the most exciting x-factors to watch against the Colts.
Establish The Run
McVay didn’t really establish any real running threat through three-quarters of football last week. Some of that was likely because he knew the Bears weakness was their secondary. However, we also saw how the lack of a running game allowed the Bears to control the time of possession and keep the game close in the first half. It also left the defense out to dry a little too much. The Rams should look to be more balanced this week and establish a flow for Darrell Henderson as he has the talent and efficiency to carry the load.
Henderson ended last week’s game with 16 carries for 70 yards. He averaged 4.4 yards per carry which is very good. However, 10 of those carries came in the fourth quarter. That lack of balance could hurt the Rams against better teams so it will be important to figure that balance out early in the season. Establishing the run will also only open up the play-action for Stafford even more and keep players like Buckner and Paye honest. How the Rams utilize the run game will be one of the most interesting x-factors to watch against the Colts.