Before the season, you might have guessed that this “Monday Night Football” game between the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Rams would be the one between a Super Bowl favorite and a team fighting for its life in the playoffs.
It turned out a little different than everyone thought.
The Ravens have been one of the NFL’s surprises and are perhaps the hottest team in the league. They’re 8-2, with an MVP candidate in quarterback Lamar Jackson and a defense that’s peaking. Meanwhile, defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams haven’t been able to replicate what they did last season. They are 6-4, mostly out of the NFC West race and out looking for a wild card. They need a win over the Ravens on Monday night, a game that can be streamed live on the Yahoo Sports app.
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The Rams aren’t a bad team, but no one has mistaken them for a Super Bowl contender this season.
What went wrong for the Rams?
The Rams looked good at the start of the year. They were 3-0 with a few wins on the road.
Then Tampa Bay revealed some things. The Buccaneers went to Los Angeles and won 55-40 on September 29. It started a three-game losing streak for the Rams, who barely lost to the Seattle Seahawks on a last-second missed field goal and then were demolished by the 49ers at the Los Angeles Coliseum. That 49ers loss was an indication that something was wrong with the Rams.
Maybe if Greg Zuerlein got that last-second basket in Seattle, the team’s prospects would be better. But that’s life in the NFL.
The biggest problem is a significant drop in offense. The Rams defense has actually been much better statistically this season, and that counts the debacle against the Buccaneers. But the attack is far from what it was last season. The Rams are 11th in the NFL in points scored and 13th in yards gained, which isn’t bad. It’s just not what we expect from the Rams.
There are several reasons for the Rams’ offensive decline and they’re likely all related. Jared Goff is in trouble. He’s not the same quarterback he was for most of last season. This season was a follow-up to his poor Super Bowl against the Patriots, with 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Todd Gurley doesn’t have the same back, likely due to his knee issues. He’s been on pace for less than 1,000 rushing yards, while the offensive line has gone from strength to weakness.
Regardless of the primary culprit, the Rams are just an average first-time offense under head coach Sean McVay.
Rams’ playoff chances don’t look good
The Rams face a tough challenge against the Ravens, and it’s not like they can afford to lose any more ground.
Los Angeles is three games behind the NFC West 49ers, has yet to play a road game in San Francisco and has already lost to its division rival once. If the 49ers slip, the Rams are still two games behind the Seahawks in the division. The 8-2 Seahawks and 7-3 Vikings currently have the NFC wildcard spots, and the loser of the Cowboys/Eagles NFC East battle will also factor into that run.
The Rams also face four winning teams in their last six games: vs. Ravens, Cardinals, vs. Seahawks, Cowboys, 49ers, vs. Cardinals. It’s a brutal schedule for a 6-4 side, especially since 10-6 might not even get a wildcard spot.
If this Rams team was as good as it was last season, maybe a hot streak to end the season would seem realistic. But a lot of things look different, and it looks like the Rams need a semi-miracle to qualify for the playoffs. That would likely require a win over the Ravens on Monday night.
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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Do you have any advice? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab