The Los Angeles Rams are looking to extend their winning streak when they hit the road to take on the Houston Texans in Week 8.
The Rams have taken full advantage of a favorable part of their schedule heading into the halfway point of the 2021 NFL season. Meanwhile, the Texans are desperate to get back into the win column following a six-game losing streak that was magnified by multiple blowout defeats.
Rams Offense vs. Texans Defense
Head coach Sean McVay’s attempts to get off to a hot start on offense were quelled by some special teams trickery from the Detroit Lions early on in Week 7. Regardless, this did not prevent wide receiver Cooper Kupp from maintaining his historic start to the year with a league-leading 56 receptions for 856 yards and nine touchdowns through seven games.
The passing game continues to click on all cylinders for quarterback Matthew Stafford with the help of wide receivers Robert Woods and Van Jefferson. However, a large part of the credit should go to the offensive line since they are tied for first in the league with a mere seven sacks allowed so far this season.
L.A. will need the o-line to keep it going against a Houston front that has generated plenty of pressure with 14 sacks heading into Week 8. They even registered four sacks and four QB hits on Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray in Week 7.
Defensive end Jonathan Greenard has done most of the heavy lifting with six sacks of his own this season. Of course, there are still plenty holes in this Texans defense that is giving up the seventh-most total yards per game (392.0).
Unfortunately though, the Rams are without left tackle Andrew Whitworth in this one due to a knee injury, so backup tackle Joe Noteboom gets the start in his place.
Rams Defense vs. Texans Offense
The Rams defense has served as the catalyst to the team’s success this year with their penchant for making key plays at the most opportune moments. This group is tied for third in the league in sacks (20.0) and tied for second in interceptions (10) thanks to the efforts of their superstar duo in defensive lineman Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
L.A. made a surprising move by trading away linebacker Kenny Young in exchange for a future sixth-round pick this week. They will now be relying on the trio of Troy Reeder, Travin Howard and rookie Ernest Jones on the inside to improve a run game that is currently allowing 111.9 rushing yards per game.
There was some talk about Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor returning for this game, although that will not be the case. Davis Mills get the start at quarterback once again and Houston has only mustered 46 points ever since he took over under center.
Despite L.A.’s vulnerabilities in the run game, Houston is scraping the bottom of the barrel in rushing with 3.3 yards per carry (32nd) and 80.7 yards per game (30th). Regardless, having Taylor back in the mix should provide a much-needed spark for the offense.
L.A. is without starting nose tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day though as he nurses a chest injury.
Keys To Victory
1. Start Game Swinging
The Rams had every intention of getting off to a hot start on offense last week, however, the Lions had other plans as they kept Stafford and Co. off the field for most of the first quarter with one trick play after another. If the experience taught them anything, it is not to take any team that is desperate for a victory too lightly.
This is another must-win game for L.A., especially now that the Arizona Cardinals have suffered their first loss of the season. Playing down to the level of lesser teams may not come back to haunt them now, but it certainly could down the road when it matters most.
2. Get Back To Balanced Approach On Offense
The Rams have no issue relying on Stafford’s arm to put points on the board and for good reason given the weapons at his disposal. While it has helped him get in the MVP conversation and Kupp reach a new level of stardom, the approach has also taken away from the ground game in recent weeks.
L.A. rushed for just 47 yards in Week 7 and are averaging just 95.4 yards per game on the season. With Houston giving up the second-most yards per game on the ground (145.7), this is the perfect week to get running backs Darrell Henderson and Sony Michel back on track.