The LA Rams have a chance to surprise the San Francisco 49ers in Week 18. Do you think it will happen? I do. Here's why:
Sometimes, the best you can hope for in life is an opportunity. Chances are not as common as you may wish to believe, especially in the NFL. But the LA Rams have done more in 2023 with their opportunities than anyone expected them to. This is a team that seems to revel in the underdog role and delights in the simple fact of competing in a professional football game.
A team that ignored a sluggish 3-6 start to the 2023 NFL season, and improved to 9-7 with one game remaining on the Rams schedule for the 2023 NFL season. One game against their NFC West Division rival, the San Francisco 49ers.
Unlike past years with the Rams coasting into the post-season and the 49ers trying to play spoiler to get in, this year the roles are reversed. The 49ers have nothing to play for in terms of improving their postseason chances. But the LA Rams, all but written off this season, has a chance to finish this season stronger than any other NFL team.
And heading into the NFL Playoffs, momentum is everything. So how do the LA Rams line up in Week 18? I think that the Rams have a good chance at pulling off an upset. How? Here are three reasons why and how the Rams can emerge with a road win in Week 18.
Rams need to be competitive in Week 18
The Rams have played very competitively in the second half of the 2023 NFL season. But like a baloon that inflates, it can all burst in Week 18 if the Rams come out hapless and lethargic. Whether starters or backups, the Rams need to be competitive in Week 18, Slipping late in the season, even if it's due to backups, introduces doubt that this young Rams roster can certainly do without. The Rams need to play well, and I believe that they will.
Rams need to be physical
In the regular season, the San Francisco 49ers have come into games against the LA Rams and been the more physical of the two teams. I don't think that the Rams can allow that to happen in Week 18, nor do I think that they will. We all know that 49ers Dre Greenlaw pushes the envelope in terms of what is illegal in terms of hits and tackles, and he has been fined by the NFL as a result. You can bet that the 49ers will have Greenlaw off his leash in Week 18.
The LA Rams cannot allow cheap-shot artists to influence the outcome of this game. Whether that translates into ensuring that he is blocked on every play, or simply pancaked frequently, the Rams cannot allow the 49ers to get in the after-the-whistle or cheap shot hits that have been the trademark of recent games. While I would love to see the Rams go with a 12-personnel package in this one, I have surrendered that hope. Still, I would love to see this Rams offensive line smash the 49ers defenders this week.
Rams need to create turnovers and pressure the quarterback
Week 18 is the final regular season game for the LA Rams to work through and solve their bugs. In all honesty, the Rams need to generate a pass rush, and need to create turnovers, in Week 18. The Rams have played well enough to win games this season. But the defense has been less headlining than you may have expected with so many brilliant rookies on the defensive side of the football. If they manage to show up in a big way against the 49ers, that would send shockwaves across the NFC.
I'm not anticipating the Rams to get after the quarterback at any record-setting rate. But four or more quarterback sacks and two or more turnovers are enough to set the stage for a young Rams roster on defense to enter the postseason with the right amount of confidence to sneak a win or two.
The LA Rams may be an underdog in Week 18 per the NFL oddsmakers. But I believe that the Rams have just as much of a chance to win on the road this week as the 49ers have of winning at home. The 49ers will likely be looking ahead to the NFL Playoffs. The LA Rams, a team that has had to scrape and claw for every win this season, simply cannot afford that luxury.