The Rams Defensive Illusion

Sep 13, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey (20) is congratulated by Los Angeles Rams outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (54) after breaking up a pass intended for Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper (19) in the second half of the game at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
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The Los Angeles Rams entered the playoffs as the NFC’s sixth seed. They demolished the Seattle Seahawks on Wildcard Weekend and are set to take on the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Round. The matchup pits the NFL’s number one scoring offense (Packers) against the NFL’s number one defense (Rams).

The Rams’ defense has been dominant all season long. Aaron Donald is set to win Defensive Player of the Year (again) and Jalen Ramsey is an All-Pro cornerback. Both honors are well deserved. However, the Rams’ regular-season schedule may show that their defensive stats as a team may have been the result of a very easy schedule.

The Schedule Breakdown

The NFL has 32 teams. This year, the Rams played eight games against offenses that ranked 16th or worse in the entire league. This included three games against the absolute worst three offensive teams in the league and all four NFC East teams (the Cowboys ranked 13th). It also included games against the Jets, Patriots, Bears, and two against the Seahawks.

In addition, they played two games against the 49ers who ranked 14th. In total, the Rams played 10 out of 16 games against teams whose offenses ranked 14th or worse.

The Rams’ Scoring Defense

The Rams’ number one defense allowed just 18.5 points per game throughout the regular season. That is nearly two points more per game than the second-best scoring defense. On the surface, this looks like a defense that is head and shoulders above everyone else. Indeed, with Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, they have the star power to make that claim, too.

However, their final stats should not be glanced at without delving further into them. In their eight games against teams in the bottom half of the league, the Rams allowed 19, 9, 10, 10, 16, 3, 23, and 9 points. Their scoring defense average in these games: 11.25 points per game. Against all other teams, their points per game average is 21.9.

The Rams Defense Against Top Three Offenses

As mentioned previously, the Rams will play the Packers in the Divisional Round. The Packers ended the regular season as the NFL’s top offense, averaging 31.8 points per game. The Rams played against the other top three offenses this season, going 1-1 in those games and allowing 29.5 points per game. They lost to the Buffalo Bills 35-32 and defeated the Bucs 27-24.

Conclusion

It is very hard to win games in the NFL and very hard to be an elite defense. The Rams allowed just 18.5 points per game in 2020 and were better than everyone else. However, in games against non-bottom half offenses, they were not as dominant. They were still very good, and if they had averaged 21.9 points against everyone they would still be a top ten defense.

The Rams’ defense certainly showed what it was capable of in their 30-20 victory over Seattle over the weekend. However, Green Bay is a much better offense and plays on a level that the Rams have shown they struggle to match defensively.

One thing is for sure: Saturday will be an excellent game.

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