The LA Rams would love nothing better than to leave Indianapolis Indiana with a victory. With the 2021 NFL season beginning against three consecutive 2020 NFL playoff teams, victories are sweet and critical. After all, to earn a playoff berth this year, teams must expect to win no fewer than 11 games to even have a chance at a playoff spot. So that becomes the goal for the LA Rams, and they are only one of eleven games closer.
The Rams could be closer to that goal after today, but I fear that the overall effort from Week 1 will not be enough to ensure a win on the road. After all, the Rams allowed the Bears to drive right down the field and it was only the heroics of linebacker Kenny Young and the interception of David Long Jr. of an Andy Dalton pass that prevented the Bears from taking a seven-point lead out of the gates in that one.
Heroics are wonderful, but they cannot be counted on each week. So here are some challenges that the LA Rams may face and need to overcome today:
V. Rams must establish a running game early
The LA Rams did eventually start to run the ball effectively in the second half against the Chicago Bears. But the first half of seven carries netting just 12 rushing yards was abysmal. Nobody expects the Rams to rush for 200 yards in this one, but a healthy 10 carries for 50+ yards in the first half would be immensely helpful going forward. If defenses only need to focus on stopping Matthew Stafford and the passing game, eventually, they will figure out a way to do it. The offense must be multi-dimensional going forward. This would be an ideal game to do so.
IV. Can Rams sustain week 1 energy?
The LA Rams were rusty to open their Sunday Night Football contest against the Chicago Bears, but Sofi Stadium was electrified. That energy seemed to transfer to the Rams on the football field. Of course, that is all part of the NFL’s home-field advantage mystique. The question for this week becomes – can the Rams sustain a high-energy offense on the road?
The Rams created two crucial turnovers in Week 1, and that helped the defense and offense change the momentum of the game completely. Will the Rams be able to step up and create turnovers in this one? Will they be able to keep the football secure as well? Doing so is a huge plus to winning.
III. Colts will play tougher than their Week 1 footage
A common mistake by NFL fans is to believe that the results of Week 1 are the basis for the entire NFL season. They aren’t. The Green Bay Packers, the Baltimore Ravens, the Cleveland Browns, and the Tennessee Titans will all win games this year. You can toss the Indianapolis Colts into that list as well. The hope is that the Colts do not find a path to victory until Week 3.
Opening week is a mixed bag for NFL teams. Many teams do not play starters in preseason games. Many plays from the playbook do not see the football field until Week 1. Now that NFL can see what their team did in a game, and what opposing teams did in response, they have the opportunity to reset the dials, adjust their offense and defense accordingly, and go out and try again. Week 2 is a test of the coaching staff. The Indianapolis Colts have a very good coaching staff.
II. Can the Rams win a shootout on the road?
A shootout is a scenario that may very likely play out this week against the Indianapolis Colts. We know that the LA Rams can put points on the board. Now, it’s up to the Colts to attempt one of two different strategies to counter the Rams offense. The Colts can deploy a strategy that is similar to that used by the Bears. They can try to control the clock, keep the Rams offense on the bench, and author 10+ play drives that chew up a ton of time. That way, the Rams will have far fewer offensive plays to score, and the Colts could win.
Or the Colts could come out firing with both barrels, try to put up some quick points, and once they have the lead, switch to a ball-control offense to prevent the Rams from scoring. If the Rams face a very effective offense, can they win a shootout on the road?
I. Getting veteran additions involved in the offense
The LA Rams acquired veteran free agent wide receiver DeSean Jackson in the offseason and traded for veteran running back Sony Michel. While the offense seemed to be just fine with just two catches from Jackson, and one run from Michel, that needs to change in this one. Unlike rookies who will remain quiet on the bench hoping for a chance, seasoned veterans need to be engaged and used. The longer it takes for the Rams offense to mix in both DeSean Jackson and Sony Michel into productive roles, the tougher it will be down the road.
The Rams will need to involve both veterans in the offense this week. That is not to say that others must be benched. Rather throw the ball to DeSean Jackson five times, and try to connect on at least one deep route. Sony Michel needs to carry the ball 10 or so times.