Week 2 is here, and I’m sure we’re all eager to move on from another embarrassing blown lead by the Atlanta Falcons to open the season. Things certainly don’t get any easier this week, as Atlanta must travel to face the defending Super Bowl-champion Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. It’s also worth noting that the Falcons are currently 10.5-point underdogs against the Rams according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
Here at The Falcoholic, we like to think we keep you all incredibly well-informed on all things Falcons. We’re not nearly as diligent in covering the Rams, so I’ve enlisted the help of a Los Angeles expert: Evan Craig. Craig is a writer covering the Rams over at SB Nation’s Turf Show Times.
I brought five questions to Evan mainly concerning the Rams’ alarmingly poor performance in Week 1, and whether that’s a sign of potential issues in 2022 or merely a tough opening game. Read on for his answers.
Q1. Obviously, the Rams didn’t get the result they wanted in Week 1, with a 31-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills. Are there any long-term concerns from that performance, or was it simply a case of an off game against a very capable opponent?
Evan Craig: The Bills were a challenging opponent and were deserving of being favored going in. LA showed absolutely zero fight at all but I can’t imagine that will be an issue the rest of the year. I’m concerned about a few different things which include the O-line which I’ll touch upon later and Jalen Ramsey possibly losing a step (also more on Mr. Ramsey later). I was most concerned about the lack of receivers who stepped up alongside Cooper Kupp. Allen Robinson wasn’t involved at all. He was only targeted twice, catching one for 12 yards. Ben Skowronek was the only other wide receiver that caught more than two passes. I was also concerned about Cam Akers’ usage as he played only 12 snaps with just three carries for no yards. I’m very skeptical on Akers developing into a major offensive weapon but it’s of course difficult to get a measure of his potential when he’s not on the field.
Q2. The Rams allowed 7 sacks against the Bills, which I believe is the most in a single game during Sean McVay’s tenure in Los Angeles. How big of an issue is the pass protection and overall offensive line play for the Rams?
EC: At the moment, it’s a huge issue. Yes, the Bills do have a great defensive line but most of Buffalo’s seven sacks came when they weren’t blitzing. I’d hate to see what will happen when opposing defenses do start blitzing. The problem is that the Rams tinkered too much with the O-line in the offseason without any real solutions, especially in regards to replacing the retired Andrew Whitworth. Their depth was a problem going in and it’s already being tested early in the year. Center Brian Allen is out 2-4 weeks and now LT Joe Notebloom strained his MCL so he might be questionable for Sunday. All these changes and players forced to step in at unfamiliar positions like Coleman Shelton filling in at center this week (although he started at center weeks 13 and 14 in ‘21) should have Stafford shaking in his boots.
Q3. Quarterback Matthew Stafford had an off day by his standards with three INTs and just 240 yards passing. Is there any concern with the offseason elbow injury, or did this performance have more to do with facing a stout Bills defense?
EC: Stafford hasn’t explicitly come out and said his elbow has been bothering him so I’m curious to know whether that was a factor myself. More likely his performance is due to rust as his offseason workload was limited due to his injury. McVay had to limit his quarterback’s throws in practice to prevent the injury from worsening. I expect he’ll get his act together sooner rather than later. Also let’s face it: Stafford can have some real clunkers. He tied for the league-lead in interceptions for a reason last season. Sometimes the guy makes some truly head-scratching and mind-numbing decisions. It’s one of those things the Rams have to live with. I love Matt don’t get me wrong but you can take the player out of Detroit but not the Detroit out of the player.
Q4. The Rams defense allowed over 400 yards and a 90% third down conversion rate against the Bills in Week 1. Do you think this was an aberration, or a sign of a potential downturn for LA’s defense this season?
EC: For all the defensive talent the Rams have, they were only 22nd in passing defense during their championship year and it’s not looking like they’ll be much better this season. I know it’s early but Josh Allen had his way with the defense all game long, especially when targeting Jalen Ramsey. Allen targeted Ramsey eight times, completing seven for 108 yards, a touchdown to Stefon Diggs and finished with a perfect passer rating of 158.3 when throwing in his direction. Perhaps that was karma for calling the man trash, who knows? They don’t have much experience at corner outside of him and Troy Hill and that is their biggest issue there, besides having safeties who are unreliable/can’t stay healthy. Still, this was a brutal matchup for LA to have right off the bat. Their efforts would hopefully be better if they played later in the season. I don’t think the result would change in the win column since Buffalo appears to be on a mission.
Q5. The Rams are over 10-point favorites at home against Atlanta in Week 2. Do you expect a big rebound win, or is there some level of concern against the Falcons?
EC: I do expect a big rebound win for the Rams but I don’t expect the Falcons to just roll over and die. Atlanta, much like every other team on LA’s schedule will give the Rams their best shot. I’ll admit I was wrong about the Falcons after week one. While they did lose, they did show me that they might not be as bad as most have expected. However, I believe LA will be feisty and angry enough to prove to the rest of the league that last week’s blowout was an aberration. I felt last week the defending champs needed to be humbled and that’s exactly what happened. They won’t be able to win on just star power alone this season, not with such a massive target on their backs. I gave them a slight pass last week due to the dreaded Super Bowl hangover. Should they lose this week, then I’ll start feeling concerned but until then I’m not going to overreact no matter how bad their efforts in week one were.
Many thanks to Evan Craig for taking the time to answer my questions. If you’re in the mood for a Rams perspective on things, follow Turf Show Times at @TurfShowTimes.
If you’d like to see my answers to Evan’s questions, you can find that story right here.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.