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Five things to watch after the Rams bye week

The Rams have seven games left following a Week 11 bye that came just past the midway point of the 18-week season.

As they begin preparation for Week 12 against the Packers and the remainder of the regular season, identifies five storylines for fans to watch.

1. When will key defensive starters return?

Defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day (pec) and outside linebacker Justin Hollins (pec) are both on Injured Reserve. Having them both back would be a big boost for Los Angeles' defensive front, given Joseph-Day's ability to stop the run and the way Hollins had been rushing the passer prior to their respective setbacks.

Hollins' return will also be intriguing because of the way the outside linebacker group has changed and Hollins' versatility. Prior to joining the Rams, Hollins was training at both inside linebacker and outside linebacker in a similar defensive system with the Broncos. Rams head coach Sean McVay on Nov. 1 said Hollins has established himself "as a legitimate outside linebacker," but whenever he returns this season, "we'll definitely be able to find some creative ways to utilize his skillset in addition to those other guys that'll be out there with him."

Week 11 moves the Rams one week closer to the eight weeks of the 8-10 week timetable for return head coach Sean McVay brought up on the Sept. 27 edition of The Coach McVay Show.

However, Joseph-Day's status isn't as clear yet. When McVay announced that Joseph-Day had re-aggravated the pec injury that forced him to miss Week 8 and subsequently landed him on IR, he said he would know whether or not it was season-ending after Joseph-Day's surgery. On Nov. 10, McVay said Joseph-Day's surgery was successful but that he still didn't have a timetable for his return yet.

2. How will the Rams offense get back on track?

McVay said during the bye week that "we've got to be better offensively (than) these last couple weeks" in order for the Rams to be the team he knows they're capable of being.

Moving past uncharacteristic drops by their receivers in Week 10 will be crucial, as well as avoiding early turnovers that have contributed to opponents building early leads and winning the time of possession.

3. How does the Rams offense adjust to wide receiver Robert Woods' absence?

Woods' absence will never be used an excuse for that unit. That said, there's no denying his abilities as a blocker, runner and receiver make him an integral part of this offense, and can't be replaced by one player alone.

It will take a group effort of Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham Jr., Van Jefferson and Ben Skowronek to adjust and avoid drop-off – but especially Kupp, Jefferson and Skowronek (given their familiarity with the system) while Beckham gets up to speed with the concepts.

4. What impact will Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller have?

It's mentioned because, so far, they've only played one game with their new team, and there's seven regular season games left.

Wide receiver Robert Woods' season-ending knee injury only heightens the urgency to get Beckham acclimated, and McVay on Nov. 16 said the next 12 days would be important for doing so, as well as "figuring out a plan of attack to maximize all of our offensive players" and play better than they did in Weeks 9 and 10.

Miller likely doesn't have as big of a learning curve, given he has had the benefit of being with the team nine days longer than Beckham and also came over from a similar defensive system. However, he also said he still has some things to learn even with that carryover.

With Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, Kyler Murray and the Cardinals, and Russell Wilson and the Seahawks on the horizon, it will be critical to have both Beckham and Miller as comfortable as possible, not only to affect those quarterbacks and offenses (Miller) but also match them if they turn into high-scoring affairs (Beckham).

5. How does the race for the NFC West shake out?

At the moment, it's a two-team race between the Rams and the Cardinals for the division title, with the Cardinals currently in first place. Can the Rams overtake the Cardinals over the final seven weeks?

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