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Rams-Cardinals Game Preview: It all comes down to Week 17

In this week’s Game Preview presented by SoFi, JB Long examines the Rams’ Next Man Up mentality, shares his Rams’ Resolutions, and breaks down all that is on the line as the Rams look to clinch their third playoff appearance in four seasons.  

Just a few hours into the New Year. How are we doing on those resolutions?

Anyone else broken a few, already?

I'll offer a few suggestions for the Los Angeles Rams in 2021 in a bit. But first, I want to acknowledge what a tough year it's been. Can only hope that football has provided an outlet for you – to celebrate, to vent frustration, to distract – in whatever manner that's been needed.

In the less serious context of football, it's been much the same for the Rams, as we know. Tumultuous.

And here they are in Week 17 – a game that was in no way guaranteed back when this season kicked off – with a chance to extend their journey.

Adversity has struck on multiple fronts. I'm sure there's physical, mental, and emotional weariness that all teams experience this late in a campaign – all the more so following five months of daily nasal swabs.

But there's too much upside in this group for it to end here.

The prime years of Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey's careers deserve the playoffs. Andrew Whitworth's been rehabilitating for the chance to suit up again. Career seasons from so many – including John Johnson, Darious Williams, Sebastian Joseph-Day, and Leonard Floyd – have to be rewarded with a berth.

Can't wait to see if the Rams can play their way in against the Cardinals.

Wishing you all health and happiness in the New Year. On to the Rams Resolutions.

No Scoreboard Watching

In Week 17, you have to handle your own business. Don't worry about the Packers and Bears game that kicks off at the same time.

Always Put 30 On Arizona

The Cardinals have yet to hold McVay's Rams under 31 points in seven meetings. No reason to stop now.

Embrace Next Man Up Mentality

The Rams play this weekend without their leading passer, receiver, and potentially their top two rushers. Plus a defensive captain.

Not ideal.

But perhaps players like John Wolford, Van Jefferson, Malcolm Brown, Xavier Jones, and even A'Shawn Robinson can seize the moment.

Don't Turn it Over

15 games into this season, and the Rams have at least one giveaway in each of them, a demerit they share with only the Denver Broncos. No time like the finale to secure "The Duke," and finally put together a clean performance.

Finish Drives

If any one of five consecutive plays from inside the Seattle 10-yard line scores last week, we might be having a much different discussion. Perhaps Wolford's mobility gives them a red zone wrinkle that can produce touchdowns when the field gets condensed.

Go Deep

In their past six contests, the Rams went 1-of-12 with a couple giveaways on throws beyond 20 yards, according to NextGen Stats. That's a very difficult way to score points and win games.

And it's not just a Jared Goff stat. Getting vertical – like most things in football – takes all 11. From the play call to the protection, no matter who's throwing or targeted, it's time to connect on a few.

The Los Angeles Rams were out on the practice field on Thursday for the final regular season practice of 2020. Check out some top shots from Thursday's prep for the Cardinals!

Win on Special Teams

While Matt Gay has settled the kicking game, the third phase has been an anchor on this team throughout 2020. You don't need me to detail the miscues. For this weekend, and hopefully several beyond, the Rams must find a way to outperform on special teams.

Don't Allow More Than 50 Points To Arizona

Okay, this doesn't seem like the most ambitious resolution. The season-high is 35 by Buffalo, and the Bills were the only opponent to break 30.

What's the deal?

Unless the Rams allow 50-plus to the Cardinals, and unless a pile of other teams completely stifle their opponents (the Giants would have to shut out Dallas, for instance), the Rams are going to cement their best defensive season in almost two decades.

Per NFL Research, they've spent 18 straight seasons ranked outside the top 10 in scoring defense – tied for second all-time behind 19 for the Bengals. They've also got a great look at winning the scoring (or scoring prevention) title for the first time since 1975.

Aside from fans of the Rams, no one wants to see this defense in the playoffs.

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