It has reached the point in the season where every win matters for each powerhouse team in the NFC, which is why the Los Angeles Rams face a must-win game in Week 8 against the Houston Texans.
As it stands, there are five teams in the NFC with a win percentage of .800 or better, including the 6-1 Rams (.857). Los Angeles has reeled off several notable wins in the season so far, which include the statement Week 3 home victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
To raise the stakes even higher for the Rams in their upcoming matchup with the Texans, the Arizona Cardinals are just coming off of a loss on Thursday Night Football against the Green Bay Packers. While a win for the Rams in Week 8 would not give them sole possession of first place in the NFC West standings, they surely can not let such a golden opportunity slip by to cover ground in this tight divisional race.
Overall, the Rams must hit on each of these four feats if they aspire to come away from Week 8 with their fourth road win of the campaign.
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4. Van Jefferson shines in the open field
Coming into the season, there was much expectation for DeSean Jackson to tag along with wideouts Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods in the Rams' 11 personnel grouping. Instead, it has been second-year wide receiver Van Jefferson who continues to earn pivotal snaps in this formation.
Overall, Jefferson has featured in 328 offensive snaps over the campaign, which is already more than he had all throughout his rookie year (256) in 16 games played.
Jefferson is proving to be a reliable wideout for quarterback Matthew Stafford, especially as 76 percent of his receptions on the year have been for first downs.
The former Florida Gators star is yet to have a standout game this season, and this could change against the Texans. With much attention expected to be centered on Kupp and Woods, Jefferson surely must take full advantage of any downfield opportunities to open up the offense for Stafford.
Jefferson well can use his speed to evade opposing defenders, which could then help to clinch big-yard plays against Houston.
3. Ernest Jones makes the most out of his golden opportunity
The Rams' call to trade linebacker and soon-to-be free agent Kenny Young to the Denver Broncos was a head-scratcher to many. During his run with the team, Young ranked second among Rams linebackers in defensive snaps played (397) to go along with his team-high six tackles for a loss.
With Young's departure from the Rams, it now opens the door for rookie linebacker Ernest Jones to possibly become a perennial starter on the team. He has only featured in a mere 9 percent of the team's snaps on defense this season.
As any Rams coach or defensive player would say so, there are now high expectations for Jones to make the most out of his upcoming opportunities with the team over the remainder of the year. Rams star defensive tackle Aaron Donald recently lauded Jones as being “athletic,” while Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris touched on being “impressed” with his development over his rookie campaign so far.
Whether it will be in pass coverage or tagging along with the Rams front seven to contain the Texans' rush offense system, Jones will have much on his plate in Week 8.
2. Rams offensive line keeps Stafford's jersey spotless
One of the more notable criticisms of the Detroit Lions during Stafford's run with the team was their inability to build a formidable offensive line in front of him. Stafford was sacked at least 30 times over seven different seasons during his 12-year run in Detroit.
This season surely has been a new experience for the veteran quarterback, especially as he has only been sacked a mere seven times through seven games played. Much of this can be credited to the sheer reliability of the Rams' offensive line unit. Brian Allen (center), David Edwards (guard), Rob Havenstein (tackle) and Austin Corbett (guard) have each featured in all 442 of the Rams' snaps on offense in the campaign. Offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth has been the team's lone injury concern as of late; he is dealing with a minor ankle injury.
The Rams offensive line surely can pitch a shutout and prevent Stafford from being sacked by any Texans defensive player in Week 8.
1. Rams score 40+ points for the first time since 2019
Although the Rams currently rank fifth in the NFL in points per game with a 29.6 average, it has not been smooth sailing for them on offense.
The Rams have had one minor concern with their inability to put teams away during the late stages of games. Their roller-coaster efficiency in the red zone surely is playing a factor in this. They have come away with touchdowns on 64.5 percent of their red zone drives, which ranks 10th this year.
Look for the Rams to make the most out of each of their trips to the red zone against the Texans. The Texans have allowed 16 red zone touchdown drives through seven games this year.
The Rams should have one standout outing on offense if they are able to shine in the red zone against Houston. And more so, they should post for their first game with at least 40 points scored since the 2019 season.
As mentioned, the Rams need a win in this game to keep pace with the rest of the powerhouse teams in the NFC.