The Los Angeles Rams cruised to victory this week. They traveled to Arizona to take on the Cardinals and handled them with ease, taking them down by a final score of 37-14. Matthew Stafford threw four touchdowns, with two of them going to Tyler Higbee and Kyren Williams apiece. Williams carried the Rams in his first game back from an IR stint. He ran for 143 yards on 16 carries and also added six receptions for 61 yards and two touchdowns. That performance echoed the 20 carries for 158 yards and a touchdown Williams set forth against the Cardinals back in Week 6.
The win over the Cardinals this week puts the Rams at 5-6 on the season. They are now only one game back of the Seattle Seahawks for the final wild card spot and in a tie with the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints. The Packers own the tiebreaker over those teams since they won against them earlier this season, but the Rams should not be overlooked. They are a young team, but still have some holdovers from their Super Bowl team that know how to win. They can still make a playoff run for a multitude of reasons.
Matthew Stafford is dealing
No one should want to see the Rams in the playoffs because of how well Matthew Stafford is playing. Stafford's counting stats are not exactly eye-popping; he's completing only 60.8% of his passes this season, down from 67.2% and 68% a year ago. He has only 13 touchdowns passes on the year to nine interceptions. However, Stafford is still playing exceptional ball.
this is insane quarterbacking by matthew stafford on fourth down pic.twitter.com/Vw90ZmEr6I
— Steven Ruiz (@theStevenRuiz) October 2, 2023
Stafford ranks 16th in the NFL among quarterbacks in adjusted EPA per play. Again, that might not seem gaudy, but he is 0.006 points behind Lamar Jackson, who is in the MVP conversation once again. Stafford is doing this despite an average offensive line (the Rams rank 23rd in ESPN's pass block win rate and 14th in run block win rate) and a completely overhauled group of skill position players that almost exclusively consists of recent day three draft picks.
Guys like Puka Nacua, Kyren Williams, and Tutu Atwell are playing the best ball of their career and Stafford has been a big reason as to why. That is not even mentioning Cooper Kupp either when he is healthy. When Stafford gets hot, he can go toe-to-toe with just about any quarterback in the NFL. That is not a fun proposition for any opponent.
Aaron Donald the game wrecker
On paper entering the season, the Rams' defense looked like it would not be very good. Nearly the entire secondary was comprised of young players that the NFL did not necessarily value highly when they were entering the league. But somehow, the Rams have found a way to rank 19th in the NFL in EPA per play allowed, EPA per dropback allowed, and EPA per rush allowed. That's about average across the board. That's also about all the Rams have to be on that end to allow Aaron Donald to wreak havoc.
Aaron Donald is still playing at the top of his game. When he is in that form, that typically means he is playing like one of, if not, the best defensive players in the NFL. Donald has 5.5 sacks in 11 games, which is on par with what he did last season and close to what he's done over the course of his career. Sacks doesn't do Donald's play justice, however. He ranks second in the NFL among interior pass rushers pass rush win rate. Only Jalen Carter, the rookie first-rounder for the Philadelphia Eagles, ranks ahead of Donald in that metric.
Aaron Donald is good enough to win a game by himself. Matthew Stafford is good enough to win a game by himself. Same with Cooper Kupp. That's all the reason every team in the NFL needs to be wary of the Los Angeles Rams and the possibility that they can make a run.