Before the season, you could have guessed that this “Monday Night Football” game between the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Rams would be one between a Super Bowl favorite and a team fighting for its playoff life.
It just turned out a little different than anyone thought.
The Ravens have been one of the NFL’s surprises and are perhaps the league’s hottest team. They’re 8-2, with an MVP candidate in quarterback Lamar Jackson and a defense that’s peaking. Meanwhile, the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams haven’t been able to replicate what they did last season. They’re 6-4, mostly out of the NFC West race and on the outside looking in for a wild card. They need a win over the Ravens on Monday night, a game that can be live-streamed on the Yahoo Sports app.
The Rams aren’t a bad team, but nobody has mistaken them for a Super Bowl contender this season.
What has gone wrong for the Rams?
The Rams looked fine at the beginning of the year. They were 3-0 with a couple of road wins.
Then Tampa Bay exposed some things. The Buccaneers went to Los Angeles and won 55-40 on Sept. 29. That started a three-game losing streak for the Rams, who barely lost at the Seattle Seahawks on a last-second missed field goal, and then were demolished by the 49ers at the Los Angeles Coliseum. That 49ers loss was an indication something wasn’t right with the Rams.
Perhaps if Greg Zuerlein made that last-second field goal in Seattle, the team’s outlook would be better. But that’s life in the NFL.
The biggest problem is a significant drop by the offense. The Rams’ defense has actually been much better statistically this season, and that’s counting the debacle against the Buccaneers. But the offense is nowhere near what it was last season. The Rams are 11th in the NFL in points scored and 13th in yards gained, which isn’t bad. It’s just not what we expect from the Rams.
There are multiple reasons for the Rams’ offensive dip and they’re probably all related. Jared Goff is struggling. He’s not the same quarterback he was for most of last season. This season has been a continuation of his bad Super Bowl against the Patriots, with 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Todd Gurley is not the same back, likely due to his knee issues. He’s on pace for fewer than 1,000 yards rushing, while the offensive line has turned from a strength to a weakness.
Whatever the main culprit, the Rams are just an average offense for the first time under head coach Sean McVay.
Rams’ playoff chances don’t look good
The Rams face a tough challenge against the Ravens, and it’s not like they can afford to lose any more ground.
Los Angeles is three games behind the 49ers in the NFC West, still has to play a road game in San Francisco, and has already lost to its division rival once. If the 49ers slip up, the Rams are still two games behind the Seahawks in the division. The 8-2 Seahawks and 7-3 Vikings currently have the NFC wild-card spots, and the loser of the Cowboys/Eagles NFC East battle will factor into that race too.
The Rams also face four winning teams in their final six games: vs. Ravens, at Cardinals, vs. Seahawks, at Cowboys, at 49ers, vs. Cardinals. That’s a brutal schedule for a 6-4 team, especially considering 10-6 might not even get a wild-card spot.
If this Rams team was as good as last season, maybe a hot streak to end the season would seem realistic. But a lot of things look different, and it seems like the Rams need a semi-miracle to make the playoffs. That probably would require a win over the Ravens on Monday night.
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