Los Angeles is trying to avoid the vaunted Super Bowl hangover after last year’s crushing loss to the New England Patriots. While they’ve opted to rest most of their starters for the second straight preseason, there are growing concerns that the Rams might not be ready for a return trip to the postseason. Meanwhile, the Broncos had an extra preseason game added to their schedule, so this will actually be their fourth preseason game despite having another coming up next week. Can the Rams overcome a depleted roster and come out on top at home versus the Broncos on Saturday night?
Romo pegs Broncos as a sleeper team in 2019
If you pay any attention to preseason predictions, the national media has not been giving the Broncos much of a chance this season under new head coach Vic Fangio. Fangio, a noted defensive genius, was brought in to bolster the Broncos’ defense after a down season, but that didn’t stop NFL.com analyst Adam Rank to predict a 2-14 season in Denver. Several other media outlets unleashed similar predictions for the Broncos season, but at least one high-profile media member believes that Denver will have a successful year. CBS commentator and former NFL quarterback Tony Romo indicated on a radio appearance last week that the Broncos could be a sleeper team in 2019. “The team that sticks out to me, in the AFC, I think the Denver Broncos have a chance to really shock some people,” Romo said on “Mad Dog Sports Radio”.
— Troy Renck (@TroyRenck) August 20, 2019
Meanwhile, the folks in Denver are preaching patience when it comes to the quarterback of the future Drew Lock. Lock, a second-round pick, completed 7 of 11 passes for 34 yards in the team’s preseason opener, but he’s still learning how to be an NFL quarterback after running a college-style offense at Missouri. He’s currently being groomed as the team’s second-string quarterback ahead of longtime backup Kevin Hogan, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Lock earn more snaps over the next two weeks.
Meanwhile, the Broncos welcomed back veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders last week versus the San Francisco 49ers. Sanders took the field despite tearing his Achilles in Week 13 last season with the hope that he will be back without a limited snap count in Week 1.
Rams lose Kiser for the season
Rams coach Sean McVay has stuck with his unconventional strategy during the preseason, opting to limit the snaps of several of his starters while the games do not count. Most of the Rams’ starters did not travel to Honolulu for the team’s second preseason affair versus the Dallas Cowboys, but that didn’t stop the team from being bitten by the injury bug. The Rams were defeated by the Cowboys 14-10, but they also lost starting linebacker Micah Kiser for the season after he suffered a pectoral injury in the game. McVay even went as far as to leave 20 starters in Los Angeles last week in order to lessen the travel burden on his first-teamers. However, Kiser, a projected first-year starter, and defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day, another first-year starter, has participated in preseason games to gain experience and solidify their starting roles. Special teamer and fifth-year pro Bryce Hager is expected to fill in at inside linebacker for the foreseeable future unless the team opts to add a player on the free-agent market.
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) August 22, 2019
With most of their starters at home or on the sidelines, the Rams have been able to get an early look at some of their younger and more inexperienced players. Some of those first-year players are already starting to make a name for themselves, including second-round safety Taylor Rapp, who has made an immediate impact on the defensive side of the ball. However, other unheralded rookies have also played well for Los Angeles over the last two games. Undrafted rookie linebacker Natrez Patrick was a standout in last week’s contest versus the Cowboys, drawing praise from McVay as he continues to transition to outside linebacker. Meanwhile, fellow linebacker Dakota Allen finished with a team-high eight tackles and could see an increased role after Kiser’s injury.
In the world according to McKvay, wins and losses only matter when it counts in the standings. Now if his team had very little experience, he might be taking a different approach.
“Not to say there’s not an appreciation for what the preseason entails and playing real football,” McVay said. “I think there is a lot of merit to that. But when you look at some of the continuity now that we have on both sides of the ball coming back, and you say, If something were to happen, is it really worth that risk in our mind? We just felt like that answer is no. That’s the approach that we’re taking, I totally understand if people don’t agree with that, but we always make decisions that are in the best interests of our team. That’s just really for this unit. Does that mean we’ll always have that luxury? I think if you have a different number of returning players, then the narrative on that is a little different.”
- Rams are 2-5-1 ATS in their last 8 home games.
- Rams are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 Saturday games.