January 23, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Rams will clinch playoff spot with victory over winless Jets

After making the playoffs in coach Sean McVay’s first two seasons, the Rams fell short in 2019.

An organization that experienced the achievement of playing in a Super Bowl the year before spent the last postseason evaluating its roster while McVay overhauled his coaching staff.

On Sunday, the Rams (9-4) can clinch a playoff spot if they defeat the winless New York Jets (0-13) at SoFi Stadium.

“That’s one step closer to what we were trying to accomplish,” star defensive lineman Aaron Donald said. “We know what’s riding on that.”

The Rams are in first place in the NFC West and hold the projected No. 3 seed for the NFC playoffs. They play the Jets, and then finish the season with division games against the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals, teams also in the playoff hunt.

For the Rams, playing a winless opponent that is coming off a 40-3 defeat to the Seahawks appears an easy task. The Rams are 17-point favorites.

McVay has said that he trusted “the maturity” of his players to not overlook the Jets, a team that ranks at or near the bottom of the league in offense and defense.

First-year defensive coordinator Brandon Staley said preparing players to play a winless opponent did not differ from readying them for the best team in the league.

“You have to be honest with the players,” said Staley, the architect of a unit that ranks first in the NFL in fewest yards allowed. “I think that you really have to show them the truth of the team that you’re playing, both the positives and negatives, and you just have to frame it in a way that, ‘Hey, if this team does this, then you can lose.’”

The Jets, under embattled coach Adam Gase, have been shut out once and have lost by an average of 16 points a game.

On Nov. 9, they lost to the New England Patriots 30-27 on a 51-yard field goal as time expired.

But the defining moment in their season came in a Dec. 6 game against the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Jets led 28-24, and the Raiders had the ball at the Jets’ 46-yard line with only a few seconds left. On third down, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams called for an all-out blitz. With no safety in coverage, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr threw a touchdown pass to receiver Henry Ruggs, sending the Jets to their 12th defeat.

Williams was fired the next day.

Last Sunday’s rout by the Seahawks dropped the Jets to 0-13. But Donald said a winless team can still be dangerous.

“I’ve been on the opposite side of having the talent, but not putting it all together when we were in St. Louis, so I understand what it’s like,” he said. “I still believe they have a good team.”

Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, the former USC star, will be playing in Los Angeles for the first time since he led the Trojans to a victory against UCLA on Nov. 18, 2017.

Gase said his players remain motivated.

“It hasn’t been easy, not a lot of things have really gone our way, obviously,” he said. “But these guys keep coming to work, they keep battling and they keep playing hard.”

The Rams are playing for the first time since a Dec. 10 victory over the Patriots. It was their second win within a five-day span after defeating the Cardinals 38-28.

A victory over the Jets would give the Rams a three-game winning streak for the first time this season.

Against the Patriots, rookie running back Cam Akers rushed for 171 yards in 29 carries. In the Jets, the Rams face a defense that is giving up 30 points a game.

Quarterback Jared Goff indicated that the Rams will look inward.

“When we’re focused on ourselves and we are executing how we want to execute,” he said, “it usually falls into place.”