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Game Preview: For the Rams, securing Win # 10 remains the only focus vs. Jets

There's a different kind of pressure associated with this matchup against the historically inept New York Jets.

It's a "can't lose" feeling rather than a "must win," and in a lot of ways, those expectations are not as motivating or productive.

The NFL is not a league where a team should show up on Sunday surrounded by "Tanking for Trevor" narratives or "You know, Seattle just beat this team 40-3" comparisons.

Coming off an emotional and impactful triumph over the Patriots, and the extra days of rest that followed, the challenge for the Rams is blocking out those thoughts and locking in on the task at hand. To play to the best version of themselves, rather than down to the level of an 0-13 opponent.

We all know a de facto NFC West championship game awaits in Seattle next week – but only if the Rams punch their playoff ticket and beat the Jets.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T the J-E-T-S

On Rams All-Access, both my radio broadcast partners were emphatic that this won't be a trap game.

"I have full confidence," Super Bowl champion D'Marco Farr said. "I think there's good leadership on this football team. I think the Rams will treat the Jets with the ultimate amount of respect and absolutely wipe the floor with them, like they should."

Maurice Jones-Drew played his high school ball during De La Salle's record-setting run of dominance and was introduced to a similar definition of respecting an inferior opponent during his undefeated prep days.

"I never understood that until I got to the NFL level," he confessed. "Respect is beating the brakes off your opponent. Because that means you prepared for them like it was the Super Bowl. You did all the things right. You went out and you executed your game plan with energy and effort as if it meant something to you."

Flexing in Prime Time

The most important takeaway from the Thursday Night Football win? An unmatched physicality that could unlock a deep postseason run.

That effort can prevail in the Superdome, if necessary. That approach will play on the Frozen Tundra if you have to go to Green Bay in late January.

In the wake of the 24-3 drubbing of New England, I asked Sean McVay if this was the most physically imposing of his four Rams teams.

"I think it's safe to say," he replied. "Through 13 games, that's exactly what you would say. But it's all about how you finish, and you want to see that continue on into our 14th game this week."

Better to Give Than to Receive

'Tis the season, right?

When you watch each and every handoff of Cam Akers' record-setting night at SoFi Stadium, the contributions of skill players paving the way – in conjunction with the offensive line, of course – is undeniable.

Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson, Josh Reynolds, Gerald Everett, Tyler Higbee. You name him, he showed up at the point of attack.

"You have to be a willing blocker," the rookie Jefferson told us on the most recent Rams Revealed podcast. "Coach (Eric) Yarber's always preaching to help your teammate out. (Akers) won NFC Offensive Player of the Week, and I couldn't be more proud of him because he deserves it."

Lots of other memorable moments with Jefferson, whose father will be across the field as a member of the New York coaching staff on Sunday. Check it out now, wherever you get your podcasts.

Super Bowl Short List

Just after the Rams game on Sunday, the College Football Playoff selection show will air, and the semifinalists will be announced.

Fortunately, the NFL requires no style points or subjectivity. But if you had to decide right now who the truly elite teams are, the Rams could not be excluded from that group.

In fact, there are only three franchises currently ranked Top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, as measured by DVOA:

New Orleans (8th, 2nd)

Tampa Bay (5th, 5th)

Los Angeles (6th, 3rd)

With special teams coming on, there isn't an opponent in the league the Rams can't beat if they're maximizing their potential.

No Longer Middling

We have to give some ink to assistant head coach Joe Barry and his linebacker group this week.

The Rams interior backers were one of the most disrespected units in the NFL this summer, and that was before they lost projected starter Travin Howard to an injury late in training camp.

Stepping in for Micah Kiser for a second stretch of time here in 2020, Troy Reeder has authored a "sack trick" in Washington and is now coming off a career-best performance, as graded by Pro Football Focus.

Fellow inside linebacker Kenny Young also put together his best game in Royal and Sol, including his first sack as a Ram and the longest pick-six in the NFL this season, a 79-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Dead Zone

As the season wears on, it's increasingly challenging to find fresh ways to illustrate how distinguished this defense has become.

I happened to stumble upon something the other day that I found intriguing, though: Did you know that the Rams have only given up two scores from outside the red zone (their own 20-yard line) in 2020?

The first came on a fourth down zero blitz at San Francisco. George Kittle made them pay for that one, scoring a 44-yard touchdown.

The second was a coverage bust on the opening Cardinals drive at Arizona, which became a 59-yard Dan Arnold score.

That's it through 13 games.

Framed another way, the Rams defense has scored more explosive touchdowns this month (three) than they've allowed all year (two).

May the Fourth Be With You

Regular readers know that few things get me as fired up as justifiable and aggressive fourth down decision making. And McVay has embraced that approach in recent weeks.

Backed by that dominant defense, let's look at what "going for it" has netted for the Rams in their last two wins.

Twice they failed on fourth down at Arizona. Each time the defense eliminated any consequence by pitching a three-and-out.

On three occasions against New England, the Rams kept the offense on the field for fourth down. Those decisions all paid off and led to two touchdowns.

"It's been huge," McVay said of fourth down this week. "I'm glad you mention that because when you've got a defense that you're as confident in – that's going to get sudden change stops… that's so big."

"It enables you to be a little bit more aggressive because of the confidence you have in that group."

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