With sports finally starting to be reintroduced into society, Last Word on Pro Football is breaking down the schedules of all 32 NFL teams. This series will consist of the most difficult (1-8) and easiest (9-16) games among each team’s 16-game slate. The focus for this article is the toughest games on the 2020 Los Angeles Rams schedule.
Los Angeles Rams Most Difficult Games in 2020
1. Week 6: at San Francisco 49ers
Whether or not there are fans in the stands, playing away at San Francisco will not be an easy task. It is possible that the Super Bowl runners up could suffer from the infamous “Super Bowl hangover” but it doesn’t look likely. Minus trading away DeForest Buckner, they bring back most of an elite defense that was the best against the pass in 2019. With the loss of Emmanuel Sanders, San Francisco will be forced to seek more production out of Deebo Samuel and rookie first-rounder Brandon Aiyuk. But the true offensive danger comes from the Niners rushing attack. Regardless of who the running back is, Shanahan’s offense schemes the run game better than almost any other.
2. Week 16: at Seattle Seahawks
It hasn’t been nicknamed the “NFC Best” for no reason. As long as Russell Wilson is in Seattle the Seahawks will have to be taken seriously. The Seattle running back situation is still unclear but the Russell Wilson–Tyler Lockett connection can be dangerous. Oddly, Seattle was better on the road in 2019 winning seven out of eight games. At home, they dropped four games including a late-season loss to the four-win Arizona Cardinals and the Rams only lost in Seattle by a single point. At this point in the season, Seattle might be fighting for playoffs home-field advantage giving them a tangible reason not to let their guard down. There is potential for upset here but with what will probably be another top-ten offense and the magic of Russell Wilson on their side, Seattle will be tough to beat.
3. Week 12: vs San Francisco 49ers
There is little left to say about this matchup. The San Francisco 49ers will still be hard to beat even if this game is at home. At least the Rams have six weeks to prepare for round two. Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley will have his work cut out trying to stop Shanahan’s unrelenting ground game. If Jalen Ramsey and the Los Angeles secondary can do their job, expect a grind-out that San Francisco will finally win.
4. Week 1: vs Dallas Cowboys
On paper, the Dallas Cowboys look as good as any team in the NFL. With a new coach and some exciting additions such as rookie wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, this Cowboys team is energized. This is a squad that no one should want to play Week 1 of the 2020 season. Dak Prescott threw for almost 5,000 yards last year. Ezekiel Elliott proved he is still an elite running back. The three-headed receiving corps of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Lamb could be amongst the best in the league. Dallas struck a major blow to the Rams’ playoff chances last year after pounding them 44-21 in Week 15. The Cowboys will be looking to make a major statement in Week 1 which will more than likely come at the Rams’ expense.
5. Week 3: at Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills are coming off of their best season since 1999 finishing second in the AFC East behind the last Tom Brady-led Patriots team. The Bills had a great year on defense only allowing 16.2 points per game from opponents. Josh Allen seemed to come into his own in his second NFL season and showed off some mobility. His 510 rushing yards mean Los Angeles will have to keep an eye on the third-year quarterback. While the Bills’ offense was solidly average last season, the addition of Stefon Diggs will undoubtedly open up some plays for Sean McDermott and Josh Allen. Buffalo’s upward trajectory will be something to watch this season as they challenge for the AFC East title. At least this is not a winter game.
6. Week 11: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Yes, yes, the refurbished Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven’t played a snap yet. So why are they the Rams’ sixth hardest game of 2020? The answer might be as simple as Tom Brady. Sure it’s reductive, but for a Buccaneers team that has underachieved despite a talented roster the addition of a future Hall of Fame quarterback might just do the trick. Two-time Coach of the Year Bruce Arians is no slouch either. The Bucs also boast three of the best pass-catchers in the league with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski (even past his prime). It is hard to imagine the third-highest scoring offense getting worse with Tom Brady behind center. He may not be in his prime, and 2019 showed a slight decline, but Brady is still one of the best to ever play the game. The entirety of the Los Angeles Rams defense will be tested: first, against Arians’ vertical offense, but also in the middle of the field against a talented tight end group.
7. Week 10: vs Seattle Seahawks
The Rams’ best hope for splitting the series with what is almost always a well-coached Pete Carroll squad comes when the Seahawks visit SoFi Stadium in Week 10. Unfortunately, this is their first meeting and the pressure will be on rookie defensive coordinator Brandon Staley to contain Russell Wilson. LA was able to do that last season at home and came out with a 28-12 victory. Seattle’s defense allowed over 263 passing yards a game last season and did shockingly little to fix the secondary in the draft or free agency. Jared Goff put up big numbers in the air in 2019 and if he is able to replicate that against a struggling Seattle secondary the Rams just might come away with the win.
8. Week 13: at Arizona Cardinals
The Rams’ have had Arizona’s number the last few years winning eight out of the last ten matchups. In 2019, the Cardinals were embarrassed at home after being handed a 34-7 loss at the hand of Jared Goff’s 424 passing yards. However, the off-season addition of DeAndre Hopkins and a defense-heavy free agency and draft has revitalized Arizona’s roster. Reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Kyler Murray showed his potential last year. If the Cardinals’ secondary has improved and prevents the long bombs that Goff rained down on them last season at State Farm Stadium this could be a hard-fought battle.