The LA Rams have quite a dilemma facing them in Week 17. How will the Rams offense use running back Sony Michel? The team must travel across the country to take on the Baltimore Ravens. And the wonderful NFL schedulers (who are on the leash of heartless NFL TV producers) have moved up the game from a late start to an early start on January 2nd.
That means that the Rams will play, once more, at the 10:00 am PT/1:00 pm ET time slot. That’s another tough challenge for the organization that seems to have found a specialty niche in overcoming adversity.
Now, back to that dilemma, we were mentioning earlier. The LA Rams will face the most unusual of circumstances when the offense takes the football against the Ravens defense. You see, the Baltimore Ravens boast the top-ranked rushing defense in the NFL. The same Ravens boast the worst-ranked passing defense in the NFL. How bad is that pass defense?
While riddled with players stuck on COVID-19 protocol, the Ravens pass defense was shredded by Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow for 565 yards and four touchdowns. Of course, in an AFC North Division rivalry, there is no such thing as easing off the gas. The Bengals continued to call deep balls even after the game was well in hand.
Nobody runs on the Ravens
The primary reason that the Ravens have such a stout defense may simply be the fact that they’ve struggled to stop the pass. Not only have the Ravens allowed a league-worst 280.5 yards per game, but 28 passing touchdowns is nearly two touchdowns per game, again a league-worst. Even allowing 8.2 yards per pass is a league-worst.
The Ravens’ stellar rush defense is so good because opponents simply do not run the ball against them. At 328 rushes in 15 games, the Ravens face just 21 runs per contest. Compare that to the New York Jets, whose defense has faced 471 rushes in 15 games, or 31 runs per game.
Only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with 314 rushes in 14 games, have had to defend fewer rushes. That’s notable because it is clear that the Ravens defense will prioritize stopping the LA Rams passing attack. And that could give the Rams offense an unexpected element of surprise.
Rams ran effectively in December
The LA Rams may not have seemed like a solid running attack all season, but the team seemed to abandon the run in games when they fell behind, despite how well they moved the ball on the ground. When a team rushes more often when the ground game is less effective, that tends to skew the statistics towards the poor performance end of the spectrum.
It looks like the Rams offensive line will need to rally around OC Coleman Shelton, who has proven to be solid in run blocking. Also, the team is hopeful to welcome back both Andrew Whitworth and Joseph Noteboom this week. So what should FF owners expect from Michel in Week 17?
Michel is going to get the lion’s share of the running in this one. In mid-season, that may have been simply 10-12 rushes for 40 yards. But in recent weeks, the LA Rams have shown renewed respect for the ground game. I like Michel to do better than the Ravens average. Look for Sony Michel to rush 25 times for 116 yards and one touchdown. He will also be a weapon in the passing game, hauling in four passes for another 35 yards.
Even if the Rams get a good report from RB Darrell Henderson, look for Michel to handle plenty of carries in Week 17.