New England Patriots at Los Angeles Rams preview: predictions, points gap, game plans, matchups and more

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The Patriots certainly got off to a good start in California, clubbing the Chargers 45-0 in Game 1 of their doubles program in Los Angeles.

But the real challenge looms on Thursday Night Football.

To keep their slim playoff hopes up, the Patriots need to take out the Sean McVay Rams. Do they have what it takes to successfully sweep SoFi Stadium?

Let’s go to the overview and find out:

BIGGEST STORY: Can the Patriots keep this playoff push alive?

New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) celebrates after scoring in the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, December 6, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo / Ashley Landis)PA

The Patriots are playing their best football of the year, but at 6-6 their margin for error is all but gone.

New England currently has a 13% chance of qualifying for the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight.com. A victory over the Rams amplifies it by up to 28%, but a loss torpedoes them to 5%; it’s another game to be won.

Yet Bill Belichick’s team has been on the road for over a month now. They have won four of their last five games and have started to carve out an identity late in the season.

“I think we’ve just figured out how we’re going to win, how we’re going to play,” center David Andrews said. “A lot of young guys were really coming for us, playing a really good ball and sort of learning what to do and how to play. It was obviously a different team and a different style this year and it took us a little longer than it should at times, but we are here now. We cannot change that. What we can do is keep improving and moving forward.

While they’re a long way off at the moment, if the Patriots win they have a 91% chance of making the playoffs. Defensive tackle Lawrence Guy thinks they are peaking at the right time.

“Golden rule: football doesn’t start until after Thanksgiving. And we got past that, ”Guy said. So real football is starting to play right now. And we have to go out there and keep playing the football that we have been playing for the past two weeks. “

BREACH OF RAMS VS. DEFENSE OF THE PATRIOTS

Jared goff

Coach Sean McVay, right, chats with quarterback Jared Goff (16) during the second half of an NFL football game on Sunday, October 4, 2020 (AP Photo / Jae C. Hong )PA

– Can Bill Belichick cast a spell on Jared Goff again?

The last time these two teams met in 2018, the Rams had the best offense in the NFC, averaging 32.9 points per game.

Bill Belichick’s defense limited them to three.

Of course, it was New England’s victory in Super Bowl LIII. Despite prolific production in the regular season, Goff completed just 50% of his passes, threw a pick and was sacked four times.

This season? Goff was uneven.

McVay seemed to put him on the right track in last week’s win over the Cardinals, but Belichick’s defense is in the middle of a run where they made the right quarterbacks look terrible. Justin Herbert has just suffered the worst game of his professional career, while Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray were both held to 17 points last month. Is Goff next on the list?

– Depth versus depth

The Rams’ passing game isn’t one-dimensional, and the Patriots have one of the NFL’s deepest side players; it is a confrontation of force against force.

Five Rams have caught at least 30 assists this season – Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp both have more than 70 receptions – including two of their tight ends. The Patriots will need contributions in their high school to control Los Angeles wide receivers.

“What really stands out is the number of downstream routes, the different combinations of routes they give you,” said security Kyle Dugger. “The difference in the way they manage them. It could be the same combination of routes, but the level may change and the position may be leaner on a game. The way they travel different routes and things is going to be key for us just to really be patient and have a good eye on the cover when we go out and really match those downstream routes.

– Can McVay cheat them with a ploy?

McVay did not receive the label of “genius” for being bland.

The promising coach worked a bit of deception in Los Angeles’ offensive attack. They are particularly adept at playing in the passing game, and Lawrence Guy said it would be important for Patriots defensemen to trust their instincts.

“They have a good run-fake,” Guy said. “The best thing we can do about that aspect is play what we see. If you’re too worried about the passing, too worried about the run, you don’t play what you see, and they’re always going to get you. It’s another DIY game, but what do they say, “If you’ve seen too much you’ve seen too little, and if you’ve seen a little you’ve seen a lot.” So in this aspect you are playing what you see. If you feel the gaming action, you convert to it. If you show the race, you continue to play the race. You cannot surpass yourself.

OFFENSE OF THE PATRIOTS VS. DEFENSE OF RAMS

Las Vegas Raiders vs. New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 27: Cam Newton # 1 of the New England Patriots reacts with N’Keal Harry # 15 before the game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Gillette Stadium on September 27, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)Getty Images

– Can the Patriots control Aaron Donald?

The eternal All-Pro is having another monster season. In defensive tackle, he has already registered 11 sacks – this is his fourth consecutive double-digit season – and Donald remains the biggest challenge for opposing offensives.

“He’s going to ruin a game and there’s no game he’s not a factor on,” Belichick said. “He’s right in the middle of the defense. You can’t really walk away from him on any running or passing game. “

Much of this responsibility will fall to David Andrews.

“He’s a damn good football player,” the center said. “He does everything well too. It’s not just that he’s not just out there in third to rush the quarterback. He is making big bets in the racing game. I mean, he does it all. He’s a great player. He’s at the top of his game and could arguably be in the Defensive Player of the Year category every year. So he’s a great player and it’s always a big challenge to face a guy like that.

– Can the Patriots play bully ball?

The Rams have the best passing defense in the NFL, and to put it mildly, the Patriots have been anemic in the air lately.

They have won football matches on the pitch, and they will have to start over on Thursday. The New England offensive line goes unnoticed, but it is one of the best in the league and it has built a reputation for physique.

“I think that’s something we’re comfortable with as the O-line,” Andrews said. “We think we can win games by doing this. And that’s something we want to do because it really puts the blame on you.

– Will N’Keal Harry have an impact?

For too much of the season, the Patriots have had two legitimate threats in the passing game: Jakobi Meyers and Damiere Byrd.

With All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey likely removing one of them, getting a contribution from Harry is more important than ever. The 6-foot-4 wide receiver hit a nice touchdown last week, where he simply passed a smaller cornerback for the ball, and says playing physically is a big deal in December.

“It’s my biggest advantage,” Harry said. “So that has to be the # 1 mentality and # 1 priority when I go there. That’s what I tried to do in the last game, and that’s what I’m going to do at the future.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Arizona Cardinals vs. New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – NOVEMBER 29: Nick Folk # 6 of the New England Patriots celebrates after scoring a 50-yard goal against the Arizona Cardinals during the fourth quarter of the game at Gillette Stadium on November 29, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)Getty Images

BORN : Nick folk

FG: 20-22, PAT: 26-28.

LAR: Matt Gay.

FG: 5-7, PAT: 10-10.

Normally we don’t mention the punters here, but we would be remiss not to mention Johnny Hekker, a Bill Belichick favorite whom the coach called a “weapon.” With Jake Bailey on the New England sideline, it’s a battle of elite punters.

DISTRIBUTE

Money

A stack of money including ten and one dollar bills sits near a window sill. (Staten Island Advance / Shira Stoll)

Line: Rams -5.

Above / Below: 44.5.

WEATHER SITUATION

It’ll probably be good because it’s Southern California, but that doesn’t really matter because the Rams are now playing in a dome.

INJURY REPORT

JC Jackson

New England Patriots defensive back JC Jackson warms up before an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers on Monday, October 26, 2020, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo / Charles Krupa)PA

PATRIOTS – DOUBT

LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (groin)

DL Adam Butler (shoulder)

DL Byron Cowart (rear)

DB Kyle Dugger (toe)

K Nick Folk (back)

DL Lawrence Guy (shoulder)

TE Ryan Izzo (hamstrings, hand, neck)

CB JC Jackson (hip, knee)

FB Jakob Johnson (knee)

CB Jonathan Jones (neck)

G Shaq Mason (calf)

QB Cam Newton (abdomen)

WR Matthew Slater (knee)

RB JJ Taylor (quadriceps)

RAMS – DOUBT

K Matt Gay (shoulder)

JC Jackson

New England Patriots cornerback JC Jackson, left, returns with an intercepted pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, December 6, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. ( AP Photo / Kelvin Kuo)PA

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

The Patriots center David Andrews on whether he likes playing pro Bowlers like Aaron Donald:

“I think you enjoy it every week, man. You have the chance to play in the NFL against the best of the best every week. And there are a lot of people who wish they could be there. It’s a bit like a bullfighter, isn’t it? You get your dance card and you have to get out and go.

PREDICTION

Patriots 20, Aries 16

This one’s a rock fight.

In a short week, the two offenses are sloppy, but Belichick still takes over Goff. The two bettors steal the show for a while in a battle of field position – well, as much as any bettor can steal the show – and eventually Newton does just enough and the Patriots escape with a win. .

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