For the second time this season the Denver Broncos have a chance to knock off an undefeated team at home as they host the Los Angeles Rams. L.A. is 5–0 on the season and has not scored fewer than 30 points all year. Denver is 2–3 and is currently on a three game losing streak after a rough loss at the Jets this past Sunday. The last time these two played was 2014 when the then-St. Louis Rams won 22–7 at home.
The Rams are an interesting team to dissect a bit. While they are undefeated, the team is not without its warts. They have allowed 31 points to each of their last two opponents and have had their problems stopping the run and the pass in different contests. Seattle was able to rack up 190 rushing yards last week, while the Vikings threw for 392 in their loss two weeks ago. Aqib Talib is on injured reserve, while Marcus Peters is one of the worst cornerbacks in football according to Pro Football Focus. Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald are doing their jobs up front accounting for six total sacks, but the linebacking group needs some work. The offense is cruising right now and has been able to overcome their leaky counterparts.
Denver's defense had an uncharacteristically bad effort against the Jets in New York. It allowed a mediocre offense led by a rookie quarterback to run for 323 total yards. They've also allowed three teams to put up more than 260 yards through the air. A common thread it seems in the team's losses are uneven performances from Case Keenum. Royce Freeman and Philip Lindsay have been far better than the team even expected, but Keenum has just five touchdowns to seven interceptions. The offensive line isn't really helping considering the signal caller has been sacked 13 times. Maybe they should consider going to Chad Kelly, but how much help could he be behind that line?
Los Angeles at Denver
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 14 at 4:05 p.m. ET
Spread: Rams -7
Three Things to Watch
If you've read my previews before, I like to look at other factors besides what's going to take place on the field. The Rams are playing their second straight road game and will actually be looking at a third one in a row the week after when they travel to San Francisco. I don't necessarily think road weariness will come into play here for this one as the travel won't be so bad. The Broncos are coming off a loss on the East Coast and are staring at a quick turnaround as they travel to Arizona for the Thursday night game next week. I don't know if that will come into play on Sunday though. The biggest mismatch in this game could be the battle of the coaches. Vance Joseph is nothing special and his staff is nothing great either, while Sean McVay is doing amazing things with his team. Joseph's seat could get a lot warmer if he loses this one.
2. No Fly Zone
The Rams passing attack has been slowed down by virtually no one so far on their schedule. Jared Goff has thrown for more than 300 yards in four straight games. The only reason he didn't do so in week one against the Raiders was because L.A. didn't need him to. The big question is which of his weapons will be healthy enough to help out. Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp left last game with concussions, while tight end Tyler Higbee is dealing with a knee ailment. Four different targets have caught at least 10 passes for Goff and that makes this unit so dangerous. Robert Woods is healthy and he's got 29 catches for 415 yards. Cooks represents the team's deep threat while Kupp moves the chains out of the slot. The signal-caller doesn't make a ton of mistakes with just four interceptions. Talib is on the other sideline, but that doesn't mean Denver's secondary is going to struggle. Bradley Roby and Chris Harris are two very good corners although Roby was repeatedly torched by Robby Anderson this past Sunday. The team has only forced five turnovers all year and those came in just two games.
On the other side you have a vulnerable secondary against a passing game that is dying to get on track. We documented Keenum's stats earlier in the article, but he's got to get some time in the pocket. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders have accounted for 58 of 122 receptions for the team. They probably need to get Courtland Sutton more involved as he has only 26 targets and 10 catches. Peters has had a rough season so far and the team's safeties are beatable.
3. Blip on the radar?
It was quite the headscratcher to see Isaiah Crowell run up and down the field on Denver last week. The Broncos run defense had been pretty solid before that holding the Seahawks, Raiders and Ravens to less than 100 yards on the ground. Kansas City was able to put up 142 rushing yards, but very few teams are slowing them down this season. Todd Gurley has been very effective but is averaging only 83 yards per contest on the ground. Gurley has seven rushing touchdowns and has picked up 26 first downs. He's had only two games with more than 100 rushing yards so the fact that L.A. is putting up the offensive numbers that they have is even more impressive. Denver cannot let him get going because then the play-action passes open up even more.
Lindsay and Freeman have combined to put up more than five yards per carry and will be important for time of possession and keeping the Rams offense off the field. I'd almost like to see them use Freeman more, but he has only eight fewer carries than the undrafted rookie. The Rams run defense has had its issues but also hasn't faced the best teams in terms of being committed to the run.
I wrote the preview for the "Monday Night Football" game between the Chiefs and Broncos in Week 4 and called for a Denver victory, which did not come. The Broncos were a completed pass to Demaryius Thomas late in fourth quarter away from potentially making that prediction come true. The Rams are one of the best teams in football, but their leaky defense concerns me. I'll call for the upset once again this one as I think Denver's defense could present some problems for Los Angeles. The elevation could always be a factor as well. I think we get Case Keenum's best effort and Jared Goff gets harassed into a couple of turnovers as the road team loses their first game of the year.
Prediction: Broncos 27, Rams 17
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.