The Rams are 7-2 and in first place in the NFC West heading into Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
The game against the 7-2 Vikings is the first of a stretch that includes matchups against winning teams such as the New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks.
The Rams are seeking their first playoff berth since 2004.
Now, on to your questions:
Many Rams defensive players are well acquainted with Vikings quarterback Case Keenum, having worked against him almost daily when he was running the scout team offense last season.
They know his strengths, his weaknesses and his tendencies. Of course, Keenum knows their tendencies as well.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips also knows Keenum, who began his career with the Houston Texans when Phillips coached on that team’s staff.
But Keenum is now operating in a different system and he is surrounded by talented receivers and running backs.
The challenge for the Rams will be to pressure Keenum and force him to make bad decisions
First some background.
Under former Rams coach Jeff Fisher, regular-season practices were open to the media. Say what you will about Fisher as a strategist or motivator. As a reporter, that practice policy was valuable.
First-year coach Sean McVay instituted the more common NFL policy. Reporters are allowed to watch the first part of practice and then must leave when the offense and defense go into team drills. (Note: Most coaches only give reporters access for stretching and warmups. McVay allows reporters to be on site during individual drills).
Goff, like most quarterbacks, performs well in drills when there are no defenders.
But I cannot give you an account of how he performs in team drills.
As a rule, quarterbacks who are unable to execute plays in practice are not going to be successful in NFL games. Based on Goff’s recent game performances, he is almost certainly performing well in practice.
The Rams’ offensive line has mostly done a good job protecting Jared Goff, which has enabled Goff to play turnover-free the last few games. The line must continue to do so against an aggressive Vikings front seven that features edge rusher Everson Griffen.
Coach Sean McVay has an increasing number of weapons at his disposal, but he must continue to fully incorporate running back Todd Gurley. Long touchdown passes to Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods are made possible by the threat Gurley poses.
The Rams’ defense must stop the run and force Case Keenum to try and beat them with passes. We all saw what happened when opponents employed that strategy against the Rams and Keenum last season.
The Rams lead the NFL with 19 takeaways, including 12 interceptions.
That is a result of a pass rush led by Aaron Donald and good coverage most of the time by the secondary.
Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph and receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are talented and productive.
Linebacker Mark Barron has a team-best three interceptions, and fellow linebacker Alec Ogletree is capable of a pick six, as we saw last week against the Houston Texans on a play that was ultimately nullified.
The secondary will give up some yardage, but Trumaine Johnson and safety Lamarcus Joyner know Keenum’s tendencies and seem poised to capitalize.
I would not put anything past colleague Lindsey Thiry – reporter, video whiz, Periscope maven and podcast host/producer among other responsibilities. (Check out her new weekly digital feature The Huddle).
Lindsey and I often record The Fearsome Twosome podcast in the media office at the Rams’ facility in Thousand Oaks. That location is a thoroughfare for coaches and staff members on their way to or from a late workout in the weight room.
General manager Les Snead, linebackers coach Joe Barry and cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant all have graciously stopped in to join us, literally, on a moment’s notice.
We have not seen Stan Kroenke, but you can be sure we will attempt to wrangle him if he comes through.
I have never tried Tofu turkey, and I cannot see that happening anytime soon.
Believe me, just because I don’t eat turkey doesn’t mean I go hungry on Thanksgiving.
It’s really all about the sides, right?
My wife and mother-in-law make ridiculously addictive stuffing with gravy. My mom checks in with the green-bean casserole with baked onions on top. My sister-in-law always has a tasty gourmet twist on mashed potatoes or something else. And of course there’s the cranberry dressing. I’m also probably eating a few milk chocolate pecan buds candies throughout the day.
For dessert, it’s pumpkin pie, apple pie and/or spider pie (My mother-in-law’s chocolate cream pie in an Oreo crust topped with whipped cream and a spider-web design on top made with Hershey’s chocolate syrup.)
I’m stuffed just thinking about it.
Happy early Thanksgiving!
Thanks for all the great questions.
Let’s do it again next week.