The Los Angeles Rams torrid start has the NFL world paying close attention and wondering aloud if the league’s most surprising team through Week 9 has the staying power to push for a postseason spot through November and December. This question will begin to be answered on Sunday when the Rams take the field at Met Life Stadium to battle the NFC East’s struggling New York Giants (1-6).
And while a midseason matchup for a 5-2 team can never be considered a must-win affair, the look of the schedule suggests that Los Angeles needs to defeat New York or risk the second half of their season ending less successfully than their attention-grabbing first half did.
Beyond the battle with the Giants and the slate’s finale at home against the San Francisco 49ers (0-8), Weeks 10 through 16 look pretty darn tough.
In Week 10, the Rams host the NFL’s highest scoring team (30.7 points per game) in the Houston Texans (3-4). Houston has averaged 39 points in their last five contests and has had razor-close losses to three likely playoff teams: the New England Patriots (46-33), the Kansas City Chiefs (42-34) and the Seattle Seahawks (41-38).
Next up is Week 11, as L.A. travels to Minneapolis to take on the front-runners of the NFC North, the Minnesota Vikings (6-2). The Vikings rank fourth in points allowed per game and have won four consecutive contests.
The red-hot New Orleans Saints (5-2) will travel to the City of Angels in Week 12 to face the Rams. New Orleans has reeled off five straight victories on the strength of the always-steady production of quarterback Drew Brees’ offense and a much-improved defense.
Los Angeles gets back into divisional play come Week 13 with a road game in the desert against the Arizona Cardinals (3-4). The Rams spanked Arizona at London in Week 7, but one can bet that Bruce Arians’ aging but proud squad will find a way to make this one competitive.
In Week 14, the Rams welcome the Philadelphia Eagles (7-1) to the Coliseum. The Eagles have won six straight, but lost nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters to a season-ending knee injury last week. With Peters out, the Philly run and pass game may be a bit less potent.
L.A. then treks north in Week 15 to square off with the Seattle Seahawks (5-2) in a game that may weigh heavily in deciding the NFC West. Seattle is always tough at home, especially in December, when the weather can be wicked and the 12th Man will be especially wound up.
Finally comes Week 16, and the Rams head to Nashville for an intriguing duel with the AFC South leading Tennessee Titans (4-3). Tennessee has won two straight, but needs to get quarterback Marcus Mariota back to full strength if they are to make a strong push towards the playoffs.
In these seven aforementioned games, the Rams will likely be tested often. None of these games figure to be easy and L.A. could easily find itself in the midst of its first losing streak of the season at some point during the stretch.
And after yesterday’s trade sending quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco, Week 17 at home against the Niners could be a tougher game than many expected just a couple of days ago, assuming the talented quarterback can get acclimated and comfortable in the team’s system over the next few weeks.
In short, the Rams need to handle their business this week against the Giants and move to 6-2, because wins may be a little harder to come by after the bye week than they were through Week 7.