The results from Week 1 were not kind to the New Orleans Saints and anyone who selected them in their eliminator pool. I should know; I advocated using them in the opening game. In fairness, the pick was based on sound strategy — using an aggressive but logical play in an effort to win the pool, not merely survive week to week — yet the Saints failed to do their part.
Hopefully you are in a pool that provides a second chance or simply missed last week’s column and are still alive. If so, we’re going to earn back uoir trust this week with the Los Angeles Rams.
Los Angeles Rams, 93 percent win probability
The Rams have one of the tougher schedules this year but have two of their best chances to win against this week’s opponent, the Arizona Cardinals, a team coming off a 24-6 drubbing at the hands of the Washington Redskins.
The Rams’ offense should be even more difficult for the Cardinals’ defense to contain. Los Angeles scored 2.6 points per drive in Week 1, the seventh-highest rate in the NFL, and was forced to go three and out just twice on 10 drives. Quarterback Jared Goff didn’t have his best game — 18 of 33 for 233 yards with two touchdowns — but it was good enough to earn the ninth-highest Total Quarterback Rating from ESPN (74.3). Running back Todd Gurley, on the other hand, did what he did much of last season: 147 yards from scrimmage with a touchdown on a 19-yard shovel pass.
The game charters at Pro Football Focus rated Arizona’s pass rush as the 20th best entering the season, with just one player, edge rusher Chandler Jones, considered a standout. Jones was limited to three hurries against the Redskins in Week 1, with fellow starters Corey Peters, Rodney Gunter and Robert Nkemdiche adding a sack, three hits and a hurry — not enough to faze the 10th-best offensive line in the NFL this year.
The Rams’ defense features Aaron Donald, last year’s Defensive Player of the Year. The 27-year-old one-man wrecking crew was credited with 91 total sacks, hits and hurries last year and suits up next to five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who terrorized opposing quarterbacks with 43 total pressures in 2017.
Going back to 2015, Arizona quarterback Sam Bradford has seen his completion rate drop from 72 to 58 percent under pressure, with a corresponding rise in his interception rate, leading to an overall passer rating decline from 97.7 to 81.5, roughly the difference in performance between Russell Wilson, a Pro Bowl quarterback, and backup Jacoby Brissett in 2017.
|Sam Bradford (2015 to 2018)||Atts||Comp||Comp%||Yds||TD||INT||TD%||INT%||Rating|
I’d understand if you were skeptical of my avocation of the Rams because last week’s pick did not fare as well as it could have, but this does seem to be the play in Week 2. If I can’t convince you, here are win probabilities for the rest of the slate.
Note: The Carolina Panthers appear to have a big edge against the Atlanta Falcons, but injuries to right tackle Daryl Williams and tight end Greg Olsen on Carolina’s side and a season-ending injury to starting safety Keanu Neal for Atlanta make this game a pass.
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