Week 13 looks daunting for the Detroit Lions. The team is clearly on the downswing, and although they pulled off an upset against the Panthers two weeks ago—and nearly did it again over the Bears on Thanksgiving—the Los Angeles Rams present an entirely different threat. Head coach Sean McVay has created a terrifying offense that is hanging 35 points a week on opposing defenses.
However, even at 10-1, they are far from a perfect team. Let’s take a closer look at the 2018 Rams to see if there’s even a small chance at an upset this week.
Los Angeles Rams
11-5 record (First in the NFC West)
1st in points scored, 12th in points allowed
Overall DVOA: 2nd (6th on offense, 6th on defense)
Sean McVay didn’t take long making his impact felt on the NFL. In his first year, he immediately turned wishy-washy quarterback Jared Goff into a star, as the Rams immediately stole their division under the new head coach.
Their offense seemed unstoppable and their defense was pretty darn formidable, as well. However, in Wild Card weekend, the offense stuttered and the more seasoned Atlanta Falcons held them to just 13 points.
It was a disappointing end to a wildly exciting year, but it was just the tip of the iceberg for Los Angeles.
Key free agent additions: DL Ndamukong Suh, CB Marcus Peters (via trade), CB Aqib Talib (via trade), WR Brandin Cooks (via trade)
Key losses: WR Tavon Austin, WR Sammy Watkins, LB Alec Ogletree, DE Robert Quinn, CB Kayvon Webster, CB Trumaine Johnson
2018 NFL draft picks:
Round 3, Pick 89 - OT Joseph Noteboom
Round 4, Pick 111 - C Brian Allen
Round 4, Pick 135 - DL John Franklin-Myers
Round 5, Pick 147 - LB Micah Kiser
Round 5, Pick 160 - DE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
Round 6, Pick 176 - RB John Kelly
Round 6, Pick 192 - G Jamil Demby
Round 6, Pick 195 - DL Sebastian Joseph
Round 6, Pick 205 - EDGE Trevon Young
Round 7, Pick 231 - LB Travin Howard
Round 7, Pick 244 - DE Justin Lawler
Though the Rams had 11 draft picks, they spent their most valuable draft resources trading for some high-profile players. Nobody had a more aggressive offseason than the Rams, picking up key defensive players in Ndamukong Suh, Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, but also making sure their weaponry on offense was still top-notch. After losing Sammy Watkins and Tavon Austin, the Rams upgraded with speedster Brandin Cooks to go with last year’s additions of Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods.
But here’s the scary thing: the Rams didn’t waste those mid-to-late round picks. Their 53-man roster is currently comprised of 10 rookies. Though most of these players haven’t played beyond some special teams snaps, it’s still impressive to think McVay trusts these players enough to play in an injury pinch.
2018 season thus far (10-1)
Week 1: Win over Raiders, 33-13
Week 2: Win over Cardinals, 34-0
Week 3: Win over Chargers, 35-23
Week 4: Win over Vikings, 38-31
Week 5: Win over Seahawks, 33-31
Week 6: Win over Broncos, 23-20
Week 7: Win over 49ers, 39-10
Week 8: Win over Packers, 29-27
Week 9: Loss to Saints, 35-45
Week 10: Win over Seahawks, 36-31
Week 11: Win over Chiefs, 54-51
- 3rd in points scored, 20th in points allowed
- 2nd in DVOA (2nd on offense, 17th on defense, 17th on special teams)
The process is very clearly working. The Rams are leading the way in an offensive revolution, and the dangerous part is they can beat you in so many ways. Their pass offense ranks fourth in DVOA and their run offense is first. They’re averaging an incredible 9.3 yards per passing attempt (t-first) and a more-than-respectable 4.8 yards per carry (t-sixth). They’ve only been held under 30 points twice this year, and both times they won anyways. Only the Saints have figured out how to beat this Rams team, and the formula appears to be just outshoot them.
And there’s an opportunity for opposing teams to do that. Despite all of the defensive additions, the Rams defense has underwhelmed this year. They’re allowing an average passer rating of 101.6 (27th) and 8.1 yards per attempt (27th). Even their terrifying defensive front doesn’t seem to be living up to their billing. Through 11 games they have just 29 sacks (t-14th). For reference, the Lions have 32.
That isn’t to say their defensive front isn’t playing that well. Aaron Donald is still PFF’s highest graded interior defender and the man has 10.5 sacks in his past five games—and at least one sack in seven of his last eight games. However, their secondary has really struggled. Marcus Peters is having a down year, and Aqib Talib has spent most of the season on IR. However, Talib is practicing now and many expect him to return this week against Detroit.
But the Rams are just as vulnerable on the ground. Opposing teams are averaging 5.2 yards per carry (5.2) against the Rams. The problem seems to lie with Los Angeles’ poor linebacker play. If you can somehow get by the Rams’ impressive defensive front, there is plenty of room at the second level.
The Rams team is basically built to endure a shootout every single week. Unfortunately for Detroit, they’ve averaged just 16.2 points per game in the last five weeks.
Vegas line for Sunday: Rams by 10