Tuesday, October 4, 2016

It’s hard to take the Rams seriously when their offense stinks

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The NFC West is not supposed to be this way. Sure, it was expected that the Seattle Seahawks to be among the division leaders - perhaps even among the best in the NFL - but they were supposed to fight him with the Arizona Cardinals, not the Los Angeles Rams.

But the Rams are demanding to be taken seriously, as the Cardinals struggle to maintain relevance.

Sunday was only the latest surprise in a league known for its parity. The Rams were oppressed of 10 points against Arizona, and feed rate had ESPN football Cardinals as the most likely to win his duel week 4 (83 percent probability of winning). Instead, Los Angeles forced five turnovers and quarterback Carson Palmer Cardinals left the game with a head injury en route to a 17-13 victory Rams on the road. Los Angeles is now 3-1 for the first time since 2006 and is a part of the tip of the NFC West division.

"Once you're 3-1 people begin to see that as a real winning team," linebacker Mark Barron told reporters after the game. "I think we're starting to get in that light."

The defense is certainly doing its part. It allows 1.47 points per unit, and the Rams have the No. 2 defense behind Seattle for Pro Football Focus. Football Outsiders defense ranks 12th in DVOA Rams behind its ability to bind to a three and out 31.4 percent of opposing units, the fourth highest rate in the NFL.

And it all starts with defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

Donald was credited with 1 1/2 sacks and a forced fumble against Arizona on Sunday and is the best player in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus, thanks to its ability to stop the pass and the run.

The Rams offense is another story. His disorder is what is keeping the team from being considered a serious contender.

Goal for Los Angeles 1.19 points per unit (lowest in the NFL) and has managed only 57 first downs (also lowest in the NFL) because going three and out, almost twice the average by 40 percent the league units with league (21 percent).

Journeyman Keenum case has been a useful quarterback, at best. He completed 55.4 percent of his passes with a touchdown relation to the interception of 4 to 3. According to the playing cards in Pro Football Focus, which is the fourth worst passer in the league, while ESPN QBR score (37.1) has it in last place behind Marcus Mariota.

Todd Gurley, who was bound to be one of prospectors first level of the NFL after winning the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2015, has been a no-show. He is averaging a meager 2.6 yards per carry with just one run over 15 yards.

You could blame a lot of that in the Rams offensive line. But, according to Football Outsiders, which allows your broker unit stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage 19 percent of the time (18 in the NFL). That same unit sees 71 percent of the races in third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, achieve a first contact down or (No. 13 in the NFL).

Value Football Outsiders also has Gurley near the bottom of its rankings for both yards Adjusted-Defense above replacement (a measure of the total value) and Defence adjusted or above average (a measure of value per game), with score of 34 and 32 of 36 runners with at least 24 leads to the week 3.

As bad as the crime is, the Rams are still 3-1 and that puts them in the conversation to the final stage, a position that has eluded them since the season of 2004. According to forecasts NFL FiveThirtyEight, Rams must finish with a 9-7 record, giving them a chance of 49 percent to a postseason berth.

"We always said we wanted to be a competitor," General Manager of Los Angeles Les Snead told reporters after the victory. "So we're in the fight now."

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