Weather Alert

This Week in Football – Rams falling apart, Chiefs looking for answers, Lamar being Lamar

OUR TOP STORY

The Los Angeles Rams are tied to paying Jared Goff at least $110 million thanks to a contract extension. They guaranteed running back Todd Gurley $45 million, the highest total in the league at the time of signing. They also dealt a fortune in draft picks to add Jalen Ramsey.

The Rams are also a bad football team right now.

It’s excessively reductive to just point to overspending on a few pieces and deeming those to be the reasons why the Rams are struggling. They’re part of a more long-term problem, but they aren’t the direct cause of Los Angeles’ currently dire situation.

It’s also not fair to only blame coaching, though Sean McVay certainly isn’t free of blame.

When the entire picture comes into focus, you notice that this is a multifaceted meltdown.

This is a team that played in the Super Bowl last year. It was the culmination of a boy genius coach and his masterful play calling, an ascending quarterback, plenty of offensive weapons, and a defense that was just good enough. That’s what this franchise consisted of until the tail end of last year.

Now, in 2019, the magic that made L.A. the darling of the NFL has vanished. The defense is still in the middle of the pack in terms of scoring, which hasn’t been enough to make up for a struggling offense. Gurley’s impact has been almost completely neutralized (he’s averaging just 57 total yards per game in the last three weeks). Goff has played his worst football since his disastrous rookie campaign under then-coach Jeff Fisher.

And, maybe most importantly, McVay hasn’t adjusted.

None of these regressions have happened in a vacuum. Everything is connected in one way or another.

You can start with the offensive line, a group that was among the best in the league last season. This year, though, the consistency and overall quality are both missing. Their play directly affects that of Goff and Gurley.

At this point, Goff is what he is. He’s clearly a better quarterback than when he was prematurely labeled a bust as a rookie, but he’s not close to the upper echelon of passers. He’s also proving to be a quarterback who falters when everything in front of him deviates from perfection. Goff is similar to Kirk Cousins in the sense that he’s a good quarterback, but not one who makes his teammates better.

Gurley is clearly hurt in some form. We already know he’s got arthritic knees, which is going to hamper his longevity, but if he can’t be trusted to carry the load now then the Rams’ offense isn’t going anywhere. McVay’s offense was built around Gurley’s ability to do numerous things on the field and play-action threats.

With a running back you can’t rely on and a bad offensive line, those options are gone.

McVay has to take some flak as well because he hasn’t been able to adjust. He’s dealing with adverse circumstances, but if he’s going to be treated like an elite coach then he needs to actually coach like one.

As Matt Verderame of Fansided.com pointed out on 580 Sports Talk this week, the Rams almost exclusively operate out of 11 personnel, and now defenses are aware that there won’t be any deviation from that. McVay has put together one of the most impressive offensive systems in the NFL, but refusing to change and adapt is going to hurt the team in the long run.

Scoring just 12 points and losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers, on the road or not, is another step back for a team that was supposed to contend for a Super Bowl again. Now, at 5-4 for the year, the Rams are on life support. They’re three games back in the NFC West and aren’t likely going to pass either the 49ers or the Seahawks.

The Wild Card race is an even tighter competition, because they’re a game and a half out with at least five other teams within striking distance for one of those spots.

One of the marquee games on the schedule entering this season was always going to be Los Angeles versus Chicago on Sunday Night Football, but the game this coming weekend may turn into a de facto elimination game. A Rams loss would put them at .500 with just six games to play, behind at least three other teams. It’s hard to believe that the offensive juggernaut we saw a year ago is now fighting for its playoff life.

It’s far too early in the grand scheme of things to call the 2018 Rams a one-hit wonder. Realistically you can’t say that at all since they played well throughout 2017, too. But when you consider all the glaring flaws, from the quarterback to the conservative approach with Gurley to a suddenly terrible offensive line (not to mention the fact the team moved off a ton of draft capital to add a player who hasn’t made a significant difference), there future isn’t as bright as it once was in southern California.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

*The Chiefs should be concerned. Patrick Mahomes is back and it didn’t take him long to look like an MVP again. However, while he was putting up absurd numbers despite a bad game from most of his receiving corps, the rest of the team let him down. Damien Williams fumbled in a key moment, the defense played softly when it mattered most and Andy Reid had another mental meltdown in the fourth quarter. It was one thing to lose a game when Mahomes was out injured, but three of Kansas City’s four losses have come with him in the lineup. It’s not his fault whatsoever, in fact he’s doing everything he can to drag everyone else to the finish line. A first-round bye in the playoffs will be an extreme challenge now, and even the AFC West crown is still in question. Mahomes doesn’t need the rest of the team to be perfect, but he does need at least some help.

*The Saints have three games with no touchdowns this season. One came when Drew Brees got hurt early in the year, another came in a road win over Dallas with Teddy Bridgewater starting, the last happened this Sunday against Atlanta. New Orleans is clearly one of the best teams in the NFC and every team is allowed a fluky bad game. However, not scoring a touchdown in a third of your games is concerning. What that specific concern should be is still up in the air. All the pieces are the for the Saints to be a Super Bowl contender, but scoring inconsistency is something to look out for in tough games coming up against the likes of the Panthers and 49ers. And it’s just a bad look to get pounded by the awful Falcons in general.

*Apparently, we have to talk about bad calls again. In Sunday’s Packers-Panthers tilt Carolina had Green Bay pinned deep and forced an incomplete pass to force a fourth down late in the second quarter. Then this happened:

This is absolutely ludicrous. How does this keep happening? There is nothing to flag here at all. Gerald McCoy didn’t lead with his head, didn’t hit Aaron Rodgers in the head, didn’t hit him late and he landed without putting most of his body weight on top of Rodgers. What is he supposed to do? On one hand, we just have to accept this to a degree because it’s become so commonplace in the NFL, but on the other hand it’s bad for the sport to penalize players for making good football plays. That’s especially true when the play itself is safe and smart. McCoy did everything you could ever ask of a defensive tackle here and still drew a flag. Protecting superstars is one thing, but actively discouraging good football is as asinine as it gets. Thankfully, for McCoy’s sake, he got a little cosmic justice at the end of that drive.

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1193664227937931264

*The Cleveland Browns won a game despite doing their best not to. This Week in Football is a column for people who hate bad coaching, and that means it’s the perfect place for men like Freddie Kitchens to be a focal point. Baker Mayfield pieced together a strong fourth quarter to lead the Browns to their first victory since Sept. 29 this weekend, but not before Cleveland put together the most pathetic red zone series of the season.

This is comically awful. Not scoring from the one is bad enough, but to call so many useless plays in a row and fail to execute as well is remarkable even for the Factory of Sadness. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, so looking back and saying that Kitchens couldn’t call good enough plays at the time is the peak of armchair quarterbacking. At the same time, it doesn’t matter which team you are and who your personnel are, if you don’t have a play in the playbook that can get you 1-3 yards in eight tries then it’s time to toss the playbook in the trash and start over.

LAMAR JACKSON DID WHAT THIS WEEK?

Not only did Lamar Jackson get to headline this section two weeks in a row, but he blew our minds again this week.

https://twitter.com/NFLFilms/status/1193981940635975681?s=20

On one hand, yeah, it was the Bengals. Then again, Jackson has been all kinds of electric against all comers this year. It was just last week when he torched the Patriots’ defense, which looked like one of the NFL’s best until the matchup. It’s with the arm, it’s with the legs, it’s every which way that he’s carving teams up right now. There isn’t a more fun quarterback, maybe player, to watch in the NFL right now.

STAT OF THE WEEK

Andrew Siciliano of NFL Network and NFL RedZone has this beauty for us.

In a way, this is both comedy and tragedy. The Lions epitomize futility in the NFL (yes, even more so than the Browns), so it’s not surprising that an impressively depressing stat like this belongs to them. They’ve been a whipping boy for the NFC North for forever, so it’s hysterical if you’re a fan of one of those are franchises. However, it’s stunning to consider what Detroit has squandered over the years. Just in (semi-) recent memory, the careers of Barry Sanders, Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford have completely gone by the boards for nothing. Stafford is still playing, but in his 11th season he’s played in three playoff games. That’s all. This is a sad team that has been sad since winning the NFL Championship in 1957 (its most recent title). At least the Lions are being included with good teams for once.

FOOTBALL FOLLIES

Even though he was playing a great game, Dak Prescott didn’t get a great chance to put the Cowboys on his back this Sunday night because his coaching staff is incompetence. However, he did get to become the social media star of the weekend thanks to his unique pregame warmup.

This isn’t something you see from every quarterback. Naturally, the internet had fun with this one.

https://twitter.com/HeavensFX/status/1193721722844983296?s=20

https://twitter.com/ChadBlue_/status/1193743469174501376?s=20

https://twitter.com/Morganvans336/status/1193748737736269825?s=20

WEEKLY TOP 5: DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR CANDIDATES

In recent weeks we’ve gone through the top candidates for NFL MVP, which in all reality is reserved for offensive players, mostly quarterbacks. It’s time to give some respect to the best defensive players in the league this season. Here are five top candidates vying for defensive player of the year honors.

  1. Joey Bosa – His younger has made plenty of headlines too, but the Chargers’ edge rusher has been a nightmare for opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks all year. He’s racked up 8.5 sacks this season and has created constant pressure beyond the sack totals. Not only that, but he leads all edge rushers in tackles this season and his 89.5 PFF grade is among the NFL’s best.
  2. Shaquil Barrett – If anyone can challenge Bosa for the best edge player in the league this year, it’s Barrett. The sixth-year pro is also the top candidate for the NFL’s top breakout player thanks to his league-best 11.5 sacks so far. He’s been arguably the biggest bright spot for the Buccaneers.
  3. Aaron Donald – you can’t have this list without having maybe the best overall player in the sport. Donald’s numbers aren’t as otherworldly as they have been in past years (he has 5.5 sacks on the season, which is still impressive from the interior given the double teams he faces) but he still finds ways to wreck opponents weekly.
  4. Minkah Fitzpatrick – After being traded from Miami to Pittsburgh Fitzpatrick has been an unstoppable force for the Steelers defense. He’s tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with five, he’s forced a pair of fumbles and he leads this five-man group in tackles. He’s a late riser here but is doing so rapidly.
  5. Devin McCourty – The player Fitzpatrick is tied with for the league lead in interceptions is McCoutry, who is having the finest year of his career. He gets help on the Patriots’ defense from the best cornerback in the league, Stephon Gilmore, but he’s taken advantage of the opportunities he’s gotten this year.

For more editions of This Week in Football, click here.

Connect With Us Listen To Us On