The Los Angeles Rams (4-10) will play host to the division rival San Francisco 49ers (1-13) this week on Christmas Eve. This is the second and last game of the season between the arch rivals, and the first in Los Angeles since September 18th, 1994. The Rams opened up the 2016 campaign at Levi’s Stadium against a seemingly-different 49er team that hasn’t been able to generate a single win since their 28-0 victory in Week 1. 15 weeks later, with both teams officially eliminated from playoff contention, they’ll be fighting for bragging rights instead. Here is how Los Angeles can pull out a victory Saturday afternoon:
Los Angeles Rams Week 16 Keys to Victory
Ignore The Stats. Just Play The Game.
There comes a point in regular season play when stats become insignificant, especially when two divisional rivals collide. That time has finally come for the Rams, who carried boatload amounts of expectations coming off the biggest move in franchise history. From the numerous moves throughout the offseason to the filming of Hard Knocks, the spotlight has finally vanished from the team due to its disappointing play.
With the playoffs already out of the picture, Los Angeles has the freedom to experiment for the future. The pressure simply seemed too much for the Rams to handle this year.
The Rams have nothing to lose at this point, but to avenge the shutout they were handed on the first week of the regular season.
Home Field Advantage Is Key
The return of the Rams to Los Angeles for the first time in over 22 years has truly been a rollercoaster ride. From the outstanding support from big-name celebrities to the thousands of lifelong and new fans, the reception has been unlike any other.
However, it’s also important to point out that the San Francisco 49ers have been and continue to be one of the most popular teams in the Los Angeles area. With the 49ers visiting Southern California once a year, expect an outpouring number of San Francisco fans filling up the Coliseum on Saturday afternoon.
As much as Rams fans anticipate a true “home-field” advantage this week, it’s difficult to know how much support Los Angeles will be receiving. Given the team’s breakdown throughout the season, fan support has been noticeably declining week by week as well.
Who knows. The firing of Jeff Fisher might bring back a couple more fans this week. Or the Rams continuous underwhelming play might keep most at home. Regardless of the outcome, expect fans to be as fierce as the competition down on the football field.
Jobs Are On The Line
Los Angeles enters its final two games of the regular season as uncertain and unpredictable as they’ve been all year long. From boasting an early 3-1 record to losing nine of their last ten games, the early honeymoon, now an epic nightmare, is finally looming to a close.
With the end of the season nearing, so is the opportunity for many players as well. With a new coaching staff expected to take over early in the offseason, many players are arguably playing for their jobs, several more for their careers.
This is a young Rams team that displays tremendous amounts of potential. It did so during the final few years in St. Louis. But this is Los Angeles, the second biggest market in the United States. This is a tough city to play in, and the front office had to learn the hard way. Just like fans called and forced the benching of Case Keenum and firing of Jeff Fisher, Angelinos will not tolerate any more “process” or “losing” seasons in the coming years.
There’s a lot at stake for team officials and players in these upcoming weeks. In a “what have you done for me lately” league, no player is guaranteed another week in the NFL, regardless of stature or position.
This is especially true for the Rams, who have struggled mightily during the second portion of the season. Owner Stan Kroenke is aware of the market he’s established his team in, and the pressure that’s been added to it. As difficult as it probably was for him, firing Jeff Fisher was the first step in solidifying a foreseeable future for this team.
The message came across to the players. Now it’s their time to perform.