What The Rams Need To Do To Stay Alive In The NFC West
For the first time in his career Sean McVay finds himself on the outside looking in on the NFC playoff race. Currently, the Los Angeles Rams are a game behind the Seattle Seahawks and the Minnesota Vikings for the wild card spot. The wins and losses tell a very inconsistent tale about the team. So far this season, they have wholloped the elite, then been embarrassed by the weak, and then exemplified the complete opposite later in the season. Halfway through the season, catching the undefeated 49ers seems impossible. But the Rams can do a few things to stay alive in the NFC West.
Compensate For A Bad Running Game
If there is one known achilles heel of the Rams, it is the offensive line. It has made a once league leading ground game into a mediocre shell of itself. There are no signs of the line play suddenly improving. So the Rams have to start looking for other ways to get the running backs involved in the game.
Los Angeles has been using the running backs far less as receivers this year. Last season, Todd Gurley was targeted 81 times. He amassed 580 yards, making him the third most productive receiver on the team. So far this season he has been targeted 24 times through eight games. Gurley was a huge part of the success of the 2018 Rams and in order to beat the teams they need to beat, they have to figure out a way to reinvigorate his role.
The opposite is true, as well. Taking a page from the 49ers playbook the Rams should start using tight ends and receivers as runners out of the backfield. While plays like the “end-around” and the “reverse” have been considered to be gimmick plays, San Francisco has integrated them into the regular playbook and seen great success adding deception and misdirection.
Primarily, a team attempts to establish the run so that when it comes time to pass, the defense might bite on a play action or misread the formation. The Rams have failed to establish the run, so integrating some “gimmicks” may be their last resort. A slippery receiver like Cooper Kupp is the perfect candidate to execute a reverse. Not only is Kupp a great option due to his second-ranked YAC this season, but also because he is having a phenomenal year. Defenses already have to devote a lot of resources to contain Kupp, so it may also free up the other ball catchers down field.
Beat The Seahawks
It’s obvious to say that the Rams have to beat Seattle to stay alive in the NFC west, but according to the NY Times Playoff Predictor, the week 14 Seahawks game is the single most important game left on the Rams schedule. A loss leaves the Rams with a 20% chance and a win gives them a 53% chance of making the playoffs. Furthermore, the week five heartbreaker in Seattle will have major tie-breaking implications at the end of the season. Which makes getting one over on the Seahawks even more important.
It may seem as if beating the Seahawks is damn near impossible, given all the well-deserved hype around Russell Wilson’s MVP-ish play. The Seahawks doubled down on their dynamic offense, adding Josh Gordon What the hype machine fails to notice is how bad the Seattle defense is, particularly the pass defense. They have averaged 273 yards allowed per game, sixth-most in the league. Conversely, the Rams passing game is fourth best in the league. This matchup should be a shoot out and will come down to the last possession. The strength of schedule of the remaining games are evenly matched, both teams will most likely be 8-4 heading into this game. A win will give the winner the edge heading into week 15.