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With the entire NFC West tied at 1-1, Los Angeles looks to get a leg up in first divisional game of the season in Arizona
The Los Angeles Rams got their first win of the season last week against the Atlanta Falcons, although it did not come as easily as some may have thought beforehand. Nevertheless, a win is a win in the ultra-competitive National Football League, so they will take that result no matter how ugly it may have become towards the end of the game.
Now, the Rams will shift their focus to a familiar foe in the Arizona Cardinals, a team coming off an emotional comeback win in OT against a hungry Las Vegas Raiders squad. The entire NFC West now has a record of 1-1, so, even though it is very early, the Rams have a chance to get a leg up on the division in their first divisional tilt of the season.
L.A. will either rise to 2-1, sparking their first win streak of the season, or fall to 1-2, raising some question marks for the defending Super Bowl champions. Here are 3 reasons as to why each could occur:
3 REASONS THE RAMS WILL WIN
1) DEFENSE DOMINATES ON 3RD DOWN
Although the season is young, the Cardinals have an extremely glaring issue right now as it pertains to converting on third down. Through two games, Arizona is just 6/25 on third down, which comes out to a measly 24% conversion rate on perhaps the most pivotal down in football. L.A. has allowed teams to convert 12/20 third down conversions thus far, meaning over half of the time teams are converting. The Rams have forced just one punt thus far this season, so this game is a chance to get their punt return team more opportunities which, in turn, will give the offense more advantageous field position as well. When the Rams win on Sunday, expect the defense to have a big day on third down.
2) STAFFORD HAS FIRST ZERO TURNOVER GAME OF 2022 SEASON
Matthew Stafford has gotten off to a rocky start this season, throwing multiple interceptions in each of his first two games of the year. Against the Bills, two of the three interceptions came at pivotal points in the ball game, costing the Rams possessions against an opponent that is tough to hang with even without giving the ball away. The two interceptions against the Falcons came at tough times as well, although Stafford did get bailed out on the first one with Cobie Durant getting the ball right back to end the first half.
However, even with those interceptions, Stafford’s passer rating is sits at an 80.6, as he turned in a rating of 100.7 against the Falcons. Without those giveaways last week, Stafford played an efficient football game averaging 7.6 yards per completion. If Stafford can take care of the football this week, the offense should be able to move up and down the field with relative ease. When the Rams win this week, expect Matthew Stafford to turn in his first mistake-free ball game of the season.
3) AARON DONALD VINTAGE PERFORMANCE
There is one thing for sure, Aaron Donald will make his presence felt against the Arizona Cardinals. In 16 career games against Arizona, Donald has racked up 15 total sacks, with two of those games in which he had 3 sack performances. The most recent of those 3 sack games came in week 14 of last year in one of the most important games of the season, a performance that had a massive hand in that big win.
Quarterbacks like Kyler Murray, a man who loves to extend plays and hold onto the ball longer than most, often get feasted on by Aaron Donald. When the Rams win on Sunday, expect another vintage performance from perhaps the greatest defensive player of all-time.
3 REASONS THE RAMS COULD LOSE
1) KYLER MURRAY MAGIC
Even though the Rams absolutely destroyed Murray and the Cardinals the last time they saw them, Kyler has found success against Los Angeles at times. In last season’s first meeting between the teams, Murray dominated the Rams defense with a passer rating of 120.3 while completing 75% of his passes and two touchdowns. In that game, Kyler seemed to look like the MVP of the entire league and the Cardinals looked as if they were legitimate title contenders. If the Rams do lose this week, Kyler Murray will be one of the main reasons for the second loss of the season.
2) STAFFORD THROWS MORE PICKS
If Stafford takes care of the football against an Arizona defense that’s given up the most points through the first two weeks, the Rams will win. If Stafford is unable to do so, the Rams have a very good chance of losing this game. No matter the opponent, giving any team extra opportunities to put up points is extremely detrimental to the chances of winning the game, and Sunday is no exception.
Even though the Cardinals defense has given up the most points thus far, they have gained some momentum following holding the Raiders to just three points in the second half of their comeback victory. If the Rams lose this Sunday, expect for Stafford’s turnover woes to continue.
3) OFFENSIVE LINE CONTINUES TO CRUSH RUN GAME
There is one thing certain in this year’s version of the Los Angeles Rams, and that is that fact that the ground game has been basically nonexistent thus far. Through two contests, the Rams are dead last in the NFL in yards per carry, and 31st in the league in rushing yards total. Perhaps the most concerning statistic is the fact that L.A. is only averaging 1.2 rush yards gained before contact, good for 31st in the league.
If such struggles continue, the team could become extremely one-dimensional, a death sentence in the NFL as a solid balance on offense has always been a consistent recipe for success. If the Cardinals do defeat the Rams on Sunday, expect for the Rams run game to continue to be insubstantial.