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Rams mailbag: Receivers, McVay, defense and holiday binge-watching suggestions

Rams mailbag: Receivers, McVay, defense and holiday binge-watching suggestions
Rams quarterback Jared Goff looks to pass during a game against the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. (Bruce Kluckhohn / Associated Press)

The Rams play the New Orleans Saints, winners of eight consecutive games, as they try to bounce back from last week's defeat at Minnesota.

The Rams are 7-3, so a playoff spot is still within reach.

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Now, on to your questions.

With Robert Woods sidelined because of a shoulder injury, the Rams will fill the void with a group of receivers.

Sammy Watkins and Cooper Kupp will be joined in the starting lineup by …?

It depends on what coach Sean McVay has scripted for the Rams' first play. It could be Pharoh Cooper, Tavon Austin, Josh Reynolds or Mike Thomas.

That doesn't necessarily mean that receiver will play the majority of the snaps.

McVay has deployed Austin as back-up to running back Todd Gurley and mainly as a decoy as a receiver.

My sense, given Austin's struggles catching punts early in the season, is that his surgically repaired wrist might still be an issue.

But Woods' injury could open the door for Austin to get more chances catching passes.

Austin will earn about $15 million this season. Next season, that salary-cap hit drops to about $8 million.

McVay and the Rams will determine after the season if he is worth that price.

As noted above, I think we'll see a rotation of receivers.

Cooper has performed well as a kick returner and appears ready to step into a larger role on offense. Reynolds showed some of what he could do during the preseason, and he would give the Rams a taller, long-striding threat.

Thomas had perhaps the best offseason of any Rams receiver but lost momentum because of the four-game suspension for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing substance policy.

Rookie Cooper Kupp has performed well overall, catching 38 passes for 481 yards and three touchdowns.

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His fumble at the one-yard line against the Vikings was extremely ill-timed and costly. He also failed to haul in a catchable ball in the second half.

Earlier in the season, he could not come up with a catch in the end zone against the Seattle Seahawks.

But that doesn't mean Kupp cannot make a play the next time he's called upon. So I would expect McVay — and quarterback Jared Goff — to continue looking to Kupp.

You make a good point about Everett. He is a playmaker, especially after the catch.

It seems like the tight ends have faded to the background a bit in the last few games. Woods' injury should inspire McVay to get Everett more involved.

This question came early in the week, when Kayvon Webster was in concussion protocol and Nickell Robey-Coleman was doubtful because of a thigh injury.

McVay said Friday that he expected Webster to be available, so he will probably start opposite Trumaine Johnson.

If Robey-Coleman is sidelined, as expected, safety Lamarcus Joyner could play cornerback in nickel situations. Blake Countess also is available.

Troy Hill is back this week from a hamstring injury, and the Rams promoted Kevin Peterson from the practice squad.

The Rams' offense stalled against the Vikings, but I don't think that's a sign that McVay is overthinking.

Before that game, the Rams' offense was doing pretty well.

The opponent's defense no doubt factors into what McVay wants to do. But he is going to play to the strengths of his players, especially Goff.

A victory over the Saints will not ensure a playoff berth. A loss won't end those hopes.

So I would not term this a must-win game.

But ending the Saints' winning streak would help the Rams regain momentum, and restart the buzz nationally.

They can, though I'm not certain they will.

I picked them to beat the Saints.

They should win at Arizona. Beating the Eagles at the Coliseum will be tough.

Winning at Seattle is always difficult, but the Seahawks continue to lose players because of injuries.

The Rams play at Tennessee on Christmas Eve, and finish at home against the 49ers.

The Rams have been dominating at times but they have not performed consistently enough to be a top five defense.

The transition to the 3-4 is not the issue. The players know what they are supposed to do and Wade Phillips certainly knows what he's doing.

Sounds simple, but they just have to play better.

The Rams rank 28th in the league against the run, so they definitely need work there. They are 10th against the pass.

Those stats are valid, but they don't tell the whole story about a defense or a team's success.

Consider: The New England Patriots rank last in pass defense and they are 8-2. The Cleveland Browns are sixth in rushing defense and they are 0-10.

As Phillips notes, the main number for a defense is points allowed.

The Rams are seventh in scoring defense, giving up 18.6 points a game.

That's not top five, but close.

My binge-watching plans took a hit this weekend when the remote mysteriously disappeared.

We looked everywhere and could not find it. At this point, I can only surmise that Toni, our dog, must have eaten it.

So we watched "Stranger Things 2" on Netflix on the computer.

I'm usually not a great fan of horror, but the first and second seasons of "Stranger Things" was terrific. It had all the elements of films such as "Stand By Me" and TV shows such as "Freaks and Geeks."

I would also highly recommend "Fauda," "Chef's Table," and, my favorite, Seasons 1-3 of "The Great British Baking Show."

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