It’s two former division rivals, and two teams looking for their first win Sunday at SoFi Stadium when the Atlanta Falcons visit the Los Angeles Rams.
Kickoff is on FOX, and the FOX Sports app, at 1:05 p.m. local time. If you’re out of market, you can watch the game if you have NFL Sunday Ticket.
Not all 0-1s are the same. The Rams were whipped soundly by the Buffalo Bills in the NFL Kickoff game last Thursday night, as quarterback Josh Allen rained all over the celebration for the defending Super Bowl LVI champs, 31-10.
Atlanta coughed up a 26-10 lead in the fourth quarter, losing to the New Orleans Saints 27-26. The Falcons outgained the Saints 416-385 and had more first downs, 26-18, but its defense collapsed down the stretch and a potential game-winning 63-yard field goal try was blocked. (The Falcons have one of the NFL’s best young kickers in Younghoe Koo).
Atlanta isn’t thought to be contenders this year – the Rams are 10.5-point favorites at Caesars – but they have a few players that can scare you.
Here are the players the Rams need to step up on Sunday to get the W.
Tremayne Anchrum Jr.
The Rams’ offensive line depth was already hurting when third-round pick Logan Bruss got hurt in the pre-season. Now starting center Brian Allen is out after getting hurt against the Bills. So the Rams will reshuffle the offensive line with Cameron Shelton getting the start at center and Anchrum Jr. playing right guard.
This is the match-up of the game because the Falcons have an outstanding interior defensive line led by Grady Jarrett. Jarrett had 1.5 sacks against the Saints. If the Rams can’t block him, their offense isn’t going anywhere. We just saw that against the Bills, who had seven sacks.
Leonard Floyd/Earnest Jones
Ok, I tag both inside linebackers here, because the Falcons’ offensive game plan is based on the zone read with quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back Cordarrelle Patterson, yes running back, even though he wears No. 84.
They combined for 172 yards on the ground against the Saints.
What’s the zone read? It’s a zone blocking scheme for the offensive linemen (they block whoever is near them), the quarterback, in this case Mariota, runs parallel to the line of scrimmage, waiting for the unblocked linebacker or defensive end to come towards him. If the defender commits to the quarterback, Mariota slips the ball to Patterson, if the defender commits to the running back, Mariota keeps the ball.
The best way to defend it is – as silly as it sounds – wait. Don’t commit either way and force Mariota to make a move. Then hope help arrives.
The Falcons’ passing attack isn’t anything special, but they do have one of the best young tight ends in football in Kyle Pitts. The Rams have a lot of options for covering him, maybe it will be Jordan Fuller, or maybe it will be Rapp, hey, maybe it’s Jalen Ramsey, although I would think he will match up against Falcons rookie wide receiver Drake London.
The Rams don’t want Pitts to have a big day either way.
Allen Robinson Jr.
Pick your disappointing Ram offensive weapon, either Robinson Jr. or Cam Akers.
I think the Akers chatter is overblown fantasy owners. He’s the No. 2 running back right now and I think Darrell Henderson Jr. is good enough to get the job done.
But in today’s NFL, you need more than one credible wide receiver threat. Hey, the Falcons would sign up right now if I told them Cooper Kupp would have 10 catches for 125 yards Sunday if that meant no other Ram wide receiver made any big plays.
The Rams have tight end Tyler Higbee, and he’s solid. Robinson Jr. needs to show that he’s a viable threat in this offense for it to move the ball consistently.
Maybe it’s still getting compatible with Matthew Stafford, maybe he’s still getting in the flow of the offense and suffering because he didn’t play in pre-season at all, but if he only gets one catch Sunday like he did against the Bills, the Rams are in trouble.
You make the big money and you get the big expectations. You never want to say Donald was a non-factor, but the superstar defensive lineman was pretty quiet against the Bills, just two tackles and a sack. Marcus Mariota is no Josh Allen, and the Falcons’ offensive line is not as good as the Bills.
This has a big game for Donald written all over it. As the team leader, the Rams feed off of his performances. The whole franchise will feel better if Donald makes a play or two early.