In their second season under head coach Jeff Fisher the St. Louis Rams have again shown promise of breaking a sub .500 record for the second straight year. A lot can be said for the Rams’ efforts so far this season going 5-7 in what is arguably the most difficult division in the NFL. The NFC West is the only division that has three teams with winning records, and there really isn’t a pushover team for them to face within their own division. The bottom feeder in each division has a record of 2-10, 4-8, 3-9, and 3-8. St. Louis faces the biggest challenge of any team nearly each week they play.
St. Louis has a small chance to have a winning record if they can win out or at least go .500 by winning three of their last four games. That is going to be a tough challenge to step up at their next four games have them facing the (7-5) Arizona Cardinals, (9-3) New Orleans Saints, (3-9) Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the (11-1) Seattle Seahawks. With the way that St. Louis has played against the Cardinals and Seahawks this season they have a good chance of upsetting those ahead of them in the division. They have the chance to play spoiler against the Cardinals as a loss for Arizona could take them out of the wild card game for sure.
Seattle seems to be clicking on all cylinders after their destruction of the Saints on Monday night. However, over the last two seasons the Rams have proven to be a matchup problem against the Seahawks. The 14-9 loss against the Seahawks should fuel the fire for St. Louis knowing that they have a chance to upset the division leader. The game probably won’t impact the playoff standing for Seattle, but it could end their season on a negative note instead of riding a wave of momentum into the playoffs.
In order for St. Louis to overcome their inadequacies on offense and defense they will have to game plan much better against all four teams. Obviously, they need to lean on the run and keep the game close unlike their most recent matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. The holes in the secondary were crystal clear as the 49ers’ receivers had plenty of room to work with against the bend but don’t break soft zone defense the Rams throw up each week. Usually when a team has as dominant of a defensive line as the Rams do the secondary can stand out and make plays, but the soft zone allows for teams to get the ball to their playmakers quickly and effectively. The secondary is in dire need of fixing as they have let opposing QBs throw for ridiculous numbers all season.
The only thing that has put a limit on opposing QBs has been the defensive line racking up 37 sacks. Robert Quinn has posted a career-high 13 sacks to go with his career-high six forced fumbles. He has been a monster on the end of the line wreaking havoc, and even when he fails to record a sack he is relentless in his pursuit of the current team record of 17 sacks. Michael Brockers has posted a career-high at 5.5 sacks, but he is still searching for consistent results. Truamine Johnson and Janoris Jenkins have had moments of brilliance this season to go with a steady diet of mistakes leading to big receptions. In order for the pass defense to take a step up in production these two second-year players have to become reliable in challenging receivers on the outside.
The offensive scheme in St. Louis has opened up and improved over the course of the season thanks to Tavon Austin being used more often and in a variety of ways. Still, the surprisingly mobile Kellen Clemens keeps plays alive but struggles with his accuracy as evidenced by his 51 percent completion rating. Chris Givens has indeed taken a step back after last season’s late breakout dropping several passes on Sunday. St. Louis can only lean on Zac Stacy for so long before teams start to stack the box and limit his effectiveness. Unless Clemens and the receivers can connect deep the offense will be in shambles.
The QB play and pass defense has to figure it out quickly for St. Louis to claw their way to a winning record for the first time in over a decade. There will be a lot of decisions to be made when the offseason comes around because there are apparent needs for upgrades on offense and defense.