LA Rams: Looking Ahead To The Playoffs… – Turf Show Times


If you’re like me – in any way? – you’re head is still trying to wrap your head around the miraculous season for the L.A. Rams. Admit it! That giddy smile is tinged with just a tad of: “Is this REALLY happening?…” Well it is, so let’s take a peek at what the first round of the NFC playoffs hold for the Los Angeles Rams by playing a little game I like to call: “Gulp! or, Bring it!”

The way we’ll play this game, is for you to use the comments section to rate the teams listed with a “Gulp!, if a team isn’t your ideal first round opponent for the Rams, or a “Bring It!”, if you feel a team looks like the better match up. Get it? OK, so lets begin…

The Los Angeles Rams are guaranteed a home playoff game, regardless of the outcome of Week 17 – so keep that in mind. The first team we’ll look at – as a possible opponent for the Rams – will be…

The Carolina Panthers Facing this team in the first round hinges on this Sunday, and their game against the Atlanta Falcons. Right now – assuming New Orleans gets by Tampa Bay – it looks like the loser of this game will possibly head to L.A. Yes, I know Seattle is in the mix, but more on that later…

Carolina has some pluses, and minuses, for the Rams. The Panthers’ offense – ranked #17 overall – offers a borderline ideal match up for the Rams defense. The formula: Box in Cam Newton, and make him throw against a surprisingly stingy Los Angeles pass defense. Ranked #6 overall, Wade Phillips has spun his defensive “Juju” once again; allowing an average of only 212.2 passing yards per game. The Rams currently rank #4 in quarterback sacks (48), and #8 in interceptions (16). The run defense is another matter…

The Los Angeles Rams have had a mixed season against the run. Currently ranked #26 overall, the Panthers’ player to watch isn’t rookie standout running back Christian McCaffrey, but veteran workhorse Jonathan Stewart. Tight end Greg Olsen will be the “X-Factor” for Carolina. If the Rams’ front 7 has an off day, – and allows time for Olsen to create a deep route mismatch – the talented tight end could have a 100+ receiving yards, let alone his being a tremendous “red zone” threat.

My choice here: “Gulp!” – Carolina is extremely tough against the run (#6), and I have to believe future Hall of Fame linebacker Luke Kueckly will be keying on Rams running back Todd Gurley. Kuechly is a wunderkind when it comes to stopping screen pass plays, which have been Gurley’s bread and butter of late…

The Atlanta Falcons… Yes, wide receiver Julio Jones is an amazing talent. Yet, this season he’s been hit or miss each week. I know, since I had him in Fantasy Football. OK, if he has a 250+ yard day – like he did not long ago against Tampa bay – it doesn’t look good for the Rams. In truth, Julio is only as good as Matt Ryan, and “Matty Ice” seems to have melted in 2017, especially when it comes to throwing down the field. A Top 10 quarterback in statistics, his numbers are a bit skewed by 40+% of his passing yards coming from running backs. For a bit of context, Rams quarterback Jared Goff logs in at around 20% of his passing yards coming from running backs.

The Atlanta defense isn’t bad, being Top 15 in most categories. Yet, they’ve been hampered by poor field position most of the season. Additionally, – and possibly the most amazing statistic so far – is Atlanta’s 209 points missing between 2016, and 2017. The Falcons had a league leading 540 points scored in 2016. Currently, they’ve score 331 points, with one game to go. No one can tell me the team’s change at offensive coordinator hasn’t made a difference…

My choice here: “Bring It!” The Rams offense matches up well against the Atlanta defense. While there’s a chance Jones, and running back Devonta Freeman, could light up the Rams, I’m bending toward Matt Ryan adding to his 12 interceptions thrown. Turnovers will be key, and I think this gives the Rams an edge. Plus, don’t discount Atlanta having to play outside, versus in a dome. It will be warm in L.A., but dome teams typically come in with a slight disadvantage when playing in the open air…

The New Orleans Saints With one of the strongest running back tandems in the NFL, the Saints may well possess one of the most balanced offenses in recent memory. Rookie Alvin Kamera and veteran Mark Ingram are flat out scary. In 2017, they’ve combined for 2,912 total scrimmage yards, and 19 touchdowns… That’s with one week to go in the regular season, and a few games missed for an injury or two.

On defense, New Orleans has surprised most NFL fans in 2017. A horrible unit in 2016 (#26), they’ve rebounded to respectability in most categories. While only ranked in the middle of the pack, they’ve found a way to create turnovers and sacks; far in excess of their 2016 numbers. If they have a weakness on defense, it would be their linebacker corp. If there’s a unit Rams head coach Sean McVey wants to face early in the playoffs, it would be New Orleans. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips won’t feel the same way, but you can’t have everything, right?

My choice here: “Gulp!” While I have little doubt this game would be one where a ka-jillion points would be scored by both teams, I have to bend away from the New Orleans “x-factor” in this one: Drew Brees… This first ballot Hall of Fame quarterback should never be taken lightly. The Rams won’t be able to relax, because Brees is the kind of player who could lead his team back from the edge of oblivion in the blink of an eye…

The Seattle Seahawks Forget about the last time the Rams played them. This is the playoffs; a season unto itself… If – by chance – the Seahawks squeeze their way into the post-season, there won’t be a single opposing team sleeping well at night…

Say what you want, about this team tuning up for some kind of re-building swan song. Whether true or not, the current team is still a potential nightmare opponent for anyone. Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas, Doug Baldwin, Bobby Wagner. Jimmy Graham, K.J Wright, Michael Bennett… If these guys end their 2017 with a whimper, I’d be flat out stunned. That being said, including the physical nature of any game against the Seahawks has its cost going forward for any team.

With all this being said, I think the Rams are the only team who knows Seattle well enough to have an edge. The chance they make it into the playoffs isn’t big, but it could happen.

My choice here: “Bring it!/Gulp!” I love when the Rams play the Seahawks. Tough, physical games have marked the contests between these two team for the last five years. Would the Rams beat them in the first round of the playoffs? I have little doubt. Yet, the physical toll of a Rams-Seahawks game can’t be understated here. The following week, the Rams will have to travel to face a strong opponent. Being banged up for that game, will be the linch-pin for the Los Angeles Rams 2017 season…

So… While I hate that the Rams aren’t going to take the 49ers game seriously – resting their starters – I understand the rational. For me, Rams-49ers game hold a special place in my NFL fan heart. Moving forward though, hit me up in the comments on your first round playoff observations…

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