Rams vs. Giants - Week 4 preview
Updated: Oct 2, 2020
5 key factors for Rams
1.) Nothing to gain v. nothing to lose
The Los Angeles Rams are entering the softest stretch of their 2020 schedule. Weeks 4 and 5 offer games against the New York Giants and Washington Football Team who to this point look to be among the worst teams in the NFL. And with the Miami Dolphins looming in Week 8 ahead of the bye, it's the most favorable stretch on the Rams' 2020 slate.
That doesn't give the Rams wiggle room to achieve much. Should they win big against New York and Washington, it will follow existing expectations more than establish any new ones (the Rams are currently 12.5-point favorites over the Giants). The pressure will be on the Rams on both sides of the ball to dominate.
As for the G-Men, what do they have to lose (besides the current pace-setting for the 2021 NFL Draft #1 pick chase)? They can, and probably should, throw caution to the wind. And early! Perhaps it's too early for HC Joe Judge to toss every page of the playbook open, but I'd expect a bit of devil-may-care from New York.
Which might or might not be a good thing for the Rams.
2.) Rams' pass rush
It's been a topic of concern this week as the Rams' pass rush, long offering concern on paper in the offseason, proved to be quite ineffective against the Buffalo Bills and QB Josh Allen. While the Rams are hoping to combine Leonard Floyd's strength with Samson Ebukam's determination along with the occasional sprinkling of pass rush quality from Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and perhaps Jachai Polite (at least until the return of rookie Terrell Lewis who was placed in the 21-day activation window on Wednesday and can now practice with the team), that doesn't offer much in the way of consistent pressure in passing situations especially against talented offensive fronts. While those kinds of battles loom especially after the bye, this is not one of those.
The Giants are initiating an offensive line building project which delivered the result in Week 1 of providing RB Saquon Barkley the opportunity to run the ball 15 times for 6 yards. Long project! That's not to suggest the Rams should dominate up front, but it's a more inviting contest to see the Rams help respond to a soft performance in Week 3.
3.) Hendo extendo
RB Darrell Henderson, Jr., had a breakout game of sorts in Week 3 with his first 100-yard game of his career. With RB Cam Akers out due to a rib injury and RB Malcolm Brown smarting with a finger issue, Henderson was afforded something he wasn't in 2019 and wasn't really expected to this year: the keys to the car.
Many thought by this point it would be Akers taking the heavy majority of the carries, but the injuries shifted things and Hendo performed extremely well. We'll have to see how Akers' injury develops, but we're facing a bit of an odd recalibration as HC Sean McVay and Run Game Coordinator and Offensive Line Coach Aaron Kromer try to figure out how to deploy their three-headed rushing attack especially (a) given the injury situation and (b) given the likelihood that the Rams will be trying to commit to the run to protect a lead in the 2nd half.
4.) Rotation rundown
A lot of this will depend on the flow of the game, but if the Rams are able to build up a sizable lead it might create the first opportunity to get some playing time to the functional depth of the roster. On offense, that could mean more time for WR Van Jefferson and looks for OL Tremayne Anchrum, OL Bobby Evans or even backup QB John Wolford. Defensively, DT Greg Gaines, Okoronkwo, Polite, LB Justin Hollins, CB David Long, Jr., and DB Terrell Burgess could all benefit.
I wouldn't go as far to assume a blowout, but the potential is there on paper. And if things head that way at least by the 3rd quarter, it could serve some of these young Rams well.
5.) Mental readiness
McVay has long shown a proclivity for having his teams mentally prepared. From his debut in Week 1 of the 2017 season to the postseason after the 2018 season to the aforementioned soft two-game stretch in 2019, the Rams are more often than not in the right headspace for the variety of challenges the NFL throws at you.
This, of course, is a test of commitment. A casual opening to the game could either put the Rams into an uncomfortable requirement to work on a tight lead or even an unpredictable deficit. The Rams can't work off the assumption that this game will be handed to them in the first 30 minutes. I doubt they will, but a dedication to supremacy would certainly be a welcome beginning to the match.
3 key matchups
1.) Rams' O-line v. Giants' defensive front
The Rams' line has, to this point, been the story of the season. Despite any major personnel moves, the Rams' performances up front have been well above expectations allowing McVay to scheme up all kinds of lateral expansion as well as allowing QB Jared Goff and the rushing attack to flourish. Unlike the first three games however, this is likely the first where the Rams' line would be favored to perform well against their opposition.
While the fifth key factor is obviously in play here (the line certainly needs to be as hungry to perform well as they have been in the first three despite the downshift in opposing talent), the line could make things operably comfortable early and allow for the Rams to play a gameplan nursing a comfortable lead like much of Week 2.
2.) Rams DT Aaron Donald v. Bills' O-line
I could see the Bills triple-teaming Donald at points throughout this game. Whether they do or not (and especially whether they do early), expect much of the Bills' gameplan to be directed at trying to deal with 99. It's certainly doable, but it means (a) assigning extra manpower his way and/or (b) scheming plays to minimize his impact which makes it much easier for everyone else up front.
3.) Rams HC Sean McVay v. himself
This is the first game of 2020 in which the Rams can be expected to comfortable walk away with a win. While that means McVay won't necessarily be required to implement a favorable offensive game plan or oversee a dominating defense (especially in the second halves as we've seen), it does mean he's got to refrain from either getting too cute or overthinking things. The Rams have employed the running game fantastically this year highlighted by McVay not abandoning it in the second half last week as he's proven prone to do. And look at the result! The Rams' playaction remained effective as the Rams used it to fuel the successful comeback...that was then thwarted.
The Rams don't have to force a large lead. It should come to them over time as long as they play mistake-free which should be relatively easy given the opposition.
Broadcast maps (via 506sports)
Thursday Night Football (8:20pm ET/5:20pm PT): Denver Broncos @ New York Jets (NFL)
Sunday Night Football (8:20pm ET/5:20pm PT): Philadelphia Eagles @ San Francisco 49ers (NBC)
Monday Night Football (8:15pm ET/5:15pm PT): Atlanta Falcons @ Green Bay Packers (ESPN/ABC)
CBS Sunday Early
o Los Angeles Chargers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (red)
o Indianapolis Colts @ Chicago Bears (green)
o Baltimore Ravens @ Washington Football Team (yellow)
o Jacksonville Jaguars @ Cincinnati Bengals (orange)
CBS Sunday Late
o New England Patriots @ Kansas City Chiefs (red)
o Buffalo Bills @ Las Vegas Raiders (blue)
o New York Giants @ Los Angeles Rams LATE (blue)
o Cleveland Browns @ Dallas Cowboys (red)
o Minnesota Vikings @ Houston Texans (green)
o New Orleans Saints @ Detroit Lions (yellow)
o Seattle Seahawks @ Miami Dolphins (orange)
o Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers (teal)
Date: Sunday, October 4, 2020
Time: 4:05pm ET/1:05pm PT
Location: SoFi Stadium | Inglewood, CA
Announcers: Adam Amin (play-by-play), Mark Schlereth (analyst), Lindsay Czarniak (sideline reporter)
Radio (English, Local): ESPN 710 AM
Announcers: J.B. Long (play-by-play), Maurice Jones-Drew (analyst), D’Marco Farr (sideline reporter)
Radio (Spanish, Local): Tu Liga Radio 1330
Announcers: Troy Santiago (play-by-play), Ricardo Lopez (analyst)
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