The Arizona Cardinals take on the Los Angeles Rams... The first place in the NFC West Los Angeles Rams.
They blew the Cardinals out last meeting in London, now the Cardinals are at home and looking for revenge.
I talked to Joe McAtee of Turf Show Times about the game and what is going on with the Rams to get you ready.
1. The last two weeks showed the low and the high of the Rams... Which game was the bigger statement in your mind?
Damn, that's a really, really good question. I thought we were supposed to start with softballs? Something about how Sean McVay is our savior or to rag on Jeff Fisher or to wonder if ketchup has any redeeming qualities whatsoever (it doesn't).
It's really hard to pick between the two. While the Rams lost a playoff-caliber game to the Minnesota Vikings, it was a close game that was tied after three quarters that they played on the road. The silver linings in that one were really, really lustrous. The win over the New Orleans Saints, though, cemented the reality of the Rams' 2017 turnaround.
I guess I'll take the Saints game since winning tends to be better than losing, but I really think it's just the nature of some really good teams matched up against one another.
2. Offensively the Rams seem to be finding a nice rhythm, but how much will not having Robert Woods hurt them this week?
I honestly don't think it will too much.
The Rams' offensive system is varied and malleable and has been since Week 1. As good as Woods has been statistically this year, there have been performances where the Rams didn't lean into him too much schematically like the Week 4 win over the Dallas Cowboys in which he had just two receptions for 17 yards in which the Rams had nine scoring drives. There's just too much diversity in the attack to worry about one player. WR Sammy Watkins remains the most important factor while RB Todd Gurley's impact on the passing attack can't be understated this year. And in Woods' absence last week, rookie WR Josh Reynolds got in the mix with four receptions including one for a touchdown.
The real strength of the Rams' passing attack this year has been its whack-a-mole variety. So losing one mole (and limiting it to just one) shouldn't be all that detrimental.
3. The Rams did a fantastic job on everyone not named Alvin Kamara last week, how much of what the defense has become is Wade?
The personnel are very good up front and in the secondary with concerns across the linebackers, but the defense was just never this good in the Jeff Fisher era. And the main reason is that they're isolating big plays.
Kamara had a spectacular 74-yard TD run that has much of the NFL taking note. His other four rushes went for 13 yards. RB Mark Ingram added just 31 yards on 11 rushes. With the Rams up 26-13 with less than 2:30 remaining, Saints QB Drew Brees was 16/25 for 161 yards without a score. Brees would carve up the Rams' prevent defense for a quick 6-play drive that ended in a touchdown, but the subsequent onsides kick fail ended things. Overall, the Rams faced one of the highest-scoring offenses and limited them to a single touchdown on one major play and a field goal through nearly 58 minutes of football.
As good and as shocking as the offensive turnaround has been, the defensive improvement has been just as important.
4. Is there a worry that the Rams may be looking to the Eagles instead of focusing on the Cardinals this week?
Yes, but that's always the test for teams in this kind of position. Back in 2015, you guys were 5-2 with just one game before the bye with a huge division game against the Seattle Seahawks looming. The trap game risk is always real. But you guys handled business against Cleveland. And against Seattle. And a lot more teams thereafter.
It's just the kind of test that good teams have to face. Coming out of the bye, the Rams dealt with the New York Giants and Deshaun Watson-less Houston Texans. You guys topped the Jaguars last week.
This is why they play the games.
5. Score and game prediction?
I honestly think the Rams are in a good place for this one. They haven't really succumbed to the trap game mentality (though Week 3 in San Fran sure was too damn close). And the way they talked about the loss in Minnesota, I really think they understand the situation they're in both procedurally and historically. So I'll go with another big win 30-10, but I think it hinges on the Rams' early offense. If we can get going, I could see 40+ coming.