Coming off a perfect December where they went 4-0, the Los Angeles Rams can start 2022 off on the right foot with a victory against the decimated Baltimore Ravens on the road.
Playoff positioning in the AFC will come down to the final week with so many teams –including the Ravens– still in the mix for a Wild Card spot, which means they will surely come out with a purpose in Week 17. However, the Rams look like a team peaking at the right time and should be able to have their way if they are able to execute on both sides of the football field.
Currently a game ahead of the Arizona Cardinals, the Rams have an opportunity to clinch the NFC West title if they take care of their own business and then the Dallas Cowboys beat the Cardinals.
Rams Offense vs. Ravens Defense
Baltimore has been ravaged by injuries, particularly in their secondary and they are coming off an abysmal Week 16 showing where they allowed Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals to throw for 525 yards and four touchdowns. With that being said, Matthew Stafford finds himself in about as perfect of a bounce-back spot as possible given his own woes last week where he threw three interceptions and just one touchdown.
Aside from Stafford, Cooper Kupp has a chance to get even closer to breaking a couple of NFL records as he is within striking distance of the most receptions and receiving yard thresholds. No team has been able to figure out how to stop Kupp, and with the receiver on the verge of etching his name in the history books, it would not be surprising to see Stafford and head coach Sean McVay get him involved early and often.
Odell Beckham Jr. and Van Jefferson should also have better showings after relatively quiet games in Week 16, while Sony Michel will again reprise his role as the lead back for the offense. With Darrell Henderson placed on injured reserve and Cam Akers not yet ready to return, Michel should have another solid day on the ground.
Rams Defense vs. Ravens Offense
Aside from their woes in the secondary, the Ravens will most likely be without Lamar Jackson, who is still dealing with a sprained ankle. Backup Tyler Huntley would get the start if Jackson is unable to go and the Rams will need to be careful as he brings the same dual-threat ability as Jackson.
Mark Andrews has been on a tear despite Baltimore’s struggles, which means Jalen Ramsey could spend time on him in coverage. Aside from Andrews, the Ravens offense will be centered on their run game, though Aaron Donald and the rest of the defensive line should be up to the challenge.
Whether if it’s Jackson or Huntley starting, Los Angeles will need to make sure to contain the Baltimore quarterback in the pocket and make them beat them through the air. The defense has been playing at an elite level, so any time they can force the Ravens into passing situations bodes well for them.
Keys To Victory
1. Exploit the Raven secondary
As mentioned earlier, Baltimore has serious issues trying to defend quarterbacks and Stafford and McVay should be happy to air it out as much as possible. Kupp is a matchup nightmare for any defensive back, and it would be in the team’s best interest to try and get him the football as much as possible. Beckham and Jefferson are always threats to come away with a long touchdown, and Stafford should also try and give them opportunities down the field.
2. Overplay the Ravens run game
For the Ravens, everything starts and ends with their run game, and the Rams defense will need to be prepared because Baltimore will try to control the time of possession and keep Stafford and the L.A. offense off the field. However, if the Rams can bottle up their backfield they should be in a good position the rest of the game.