The LA Rams (6-6) must face the AFC's top team, the Baltimore Ravens (9-3) in some of the worst conditions possible at this point in the NFL season. This is the time when all good teams want to play their best football. The LA Rams must face the Ravens after the Ravens BYE week. The Rams must travel to play on a hostile field, M&T Bank Stadium. The Rams must face the Ravens amidst horrific weather conditions. But perhaps worst of all, the Rams must find a way to defeat one of the most complete NFL teams this season.
And yet, the New England Patriots (3-10), in a Thursday Night Football upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6), may have given the LA Rams long odds of winning in Week 14 a bit of a boost.
At this point in the season, practically all NFL players are suiting up and playing through the pain of some manageable injury incurred this season. We know that first hand as LA Rams fans, as the Rams roster has a pretty long list of players who will likely seek medical intervention after the 2023 season concludes. Players like QB Matthew Stafford (thumb), WR Puka Nacua (shoulder/ribs), WR Cooper Kupp (hamstring, knee), ILB Ernest Jones (knee), OLB Michael Hoecht (knee), OLB Byron Young (knee), and a host of other players are all playing through the pain right now.
And there it is. In the NFL, the question is never "How do you feel?" Rather, the question is "Can you play?"
For the LA Rams, and every NFL player, the answer to the first question is usually negative, while the answer to the second question is a resounding Yes. But how much effort can a player exert amidst in a game with less meaning? Can a player on an NFL team that has a comfortable lead in the NFL standings block out the pain as effectively as a team whose players know that every game and every play could be the difference between postseason competition or going home.
I think we are about to find out.
Can desire determine the outcome of Week 14?
The Baltimore Ravens (9-3) just added another 0.5 game lead over their AFC North Division rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6), thanks to the New England Patriots. The Cleveland Browns (7-5) are underdogs at home this week versus the Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4). Finally, the Cincinnati Bengals (6-6) host the Indianapolis Colts (7-5) this week. The AFC North Division team that was almost certain to win in Week 14, the Pittsburgh Steelers, just lost.
If there was ever a week in the 2023 NFL season for the Baltimore Ravens to ease off the acceleratot and conserve starters, this is the week. And the Rams schedule just happened to pit the Rams against the Ravens under the worst conditions, but the optimal time, for an upset victory.
A loss to the Rams would have almost no impact on the Ravens playoff chances, as the Rams are an NFC team. The Steelers have already lost. If the Browns and Bengals lose this week, a Ravens loss would still leave them two games ahead of their rivals.
It will be very wet. It will be very windy. And rain+wind at this time of year will mean cold and miserable conditions for playing football. Yes, the Ravens are a playoff team. But the LA Rams truly need a Week 14 win more.
Thanks to the Patriots win on TNF, the Ravens need a win this week with even less urgency.