Beating Miami Is Uphill Battle For Rams, Goff
It's difficult to look at Sunday's game with a sense of optimism or fairness when the Miami Dolphins are riding a four-game winning streak, have a team rushing average of 121 yards a-game, and a running back who is averaging about 30 yards more than the team average.
The Los Angeles Rams are starting their rookie quarterback, who the team gave up the farm to move up in the draft to get and has yet to see a snap of regular season play; leading many to question the validity of his playing ability since he could not seem to beat out Case Keenum (QBR rating below 50) for the starting job.
The Rams have also scored a total of two touchdowns in three games. Things are looking pretty dim from this point. But crazier things have happened with the Rams.
Jared Goff is starting
One thing the team has made sure you won't see is a watered-down version of their playbook. Offensive coordinator Rob Boras and head coach Jeff Fisher both attested to Goff's study sessions and practice reps throughout the ten weeks of the season. If anything, the playbook will expand for Goff.
But what will Goff do with that playbook, and the supporting cast around him?
Boras said due to Goff's height (6'4"), the rookie quarterback will see the field better and could have a better view of where the passing lanes will open up. This could be monumental for an offense that lacks a running game and a consistent passing game. Kenny Britt, who is in the middle of a Pro Bowl campaign, is routinely getting open and can really open up the field. Goff has the arm strong enough to heave the ball downfield and put it just within reach of Britt's hands.
But that's in a perfect world in which Goff has the proper pass-protection, which at this point in the season, he does not. A more down-to-earth projection sees Goff throwing a lot of passes within the 15-yard window to Tavon Austin, Brian Quick, Lance Kendricks, and the occasional pass to Britt.
Little changes about the LA offense
It's tempting to jump on the Goff bandwagon and think this week will be different because the Rams have a guy who broke records as a quarterback in the Pac-12. But this is a team sport, and the team is only as strong as it's weakest link, and the Rams have difficulty getting anything going on offense with two weak links in their offensive line and running game.
In fairness, a large part in the running game's ineffectiveness falls on the offensive line, because everything goes through them. Todd Gurley has looked like a shell of himself, and everyone is in disbelief as they see the Offensive Rookie of the Year, the guy who reached 1,000-yards well before the end of the 2015 season, and someone who rushed for 120+ yards in three consecutive weeks, is averaging the worst yards-before-contact average.
The quarterback might play better than in recent weeks, but the offense will continue to sputter and be practically obsolete in the red-zone unless the offensive line comes to play this week. That's a tall order, however, because the Miami Dolphins defense is filled with playmakers, like Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake.
The Dolphins have a Top Ten run-defense and have handled running backs with better luck than Gurley. Miami shut down Le'Veon Bell, and kept Melvin Gordon to under 80 yards last week in their road win in San Diego.
Road game be damned, Miami is coming in hot
The Dolphins are riding a four-game winning streak, and in the last month, their offense is almost averaging 30 points-per-game and have turned the ball over just once in that time.
While the Los Angeles defense has regained their footing, and have become the sole reason the Rams remain in the games, they will be overwhelmed with the Dolphins surging running game and the under-the-radar passing game, spearheaded by Matt Tannehill.
Tannehill hasn't thrown an interception since Oct. 9 and has a completion percentage of 66. Trumaine Johnson will likely be lined up over Jarvis Landry, who is Tannehill favorite target. Landry has been looked at more than 30 times more than the next receiver. But Tannehill has shown that he can spread the ball around to others, including underrated receiver Kenny Stills.
The Dolphins be able to keep the Rams guessing throughout Sunday's game, as they can transition between running and passing as often as they would like. The Rams strength is pass-defense, which bends but doesn't break (too often). However, should the Dolphins reach the red-zone, there's a good chance they will score a touchdown. This team is far-and-away better than the Jets team that was stonewalled by the Rams last week.
Prediction: Dolphins 21 Rams: 13
For whatever reason, the Rams seem to bring offenses down to their level of low-scoring, and low-output. However, other offenses manage to get the first downs and points required to come out the victor. Originally, Pro Football Spot predicted the Dolphins to score 38 points, given their recent scoring hot-streak and LA's inability to stop the run. But taking into account how the Rams defense works, the Dolphins might see a drop this week.
Goff is talented and will become a great quarterback should he receive the coaching required to get him there. But unfortunately for him, that kind of coaching is not what he has received this season. Boras is a former tight ends coach who is holding his first offensive coordinating job in his professional career, and Fisher's teams have never had a history of producing good quarterbacks. Goff will do the best he can, but will be swallowed up by the Dolphins defense.
Unless Boras has opened up the playbook to be more aggressive in the passing game and call for plays that stretch the field, the Rams might be in for another game where they do not score an offensive touchdown. Tannehill is doing great this last month, but Trumaine Johnson and LaMarcus Joyner are playing well enough to cause Tannehill his first turnover in four weeks, and might run it back for a touchdown. Or perhaps Tavon Austin runs back a special teams touchdown.
It's difficult to be optimistic about Los Angeles' offensive scoring capability when their head coach doesn't seem to mind the lack of touchdowns.
"We’re 2-1 when we haven’t scored a touchdown," Fisher said during Monday's press conference after their win against New York. "So I don’t know why you guys are making such a big deal over not scoring touchdowns."
Tim Godfrey is a Featured Analyst who covers the Los Angeles Rams for Pro Football Spot. Follow him on Twitter @MrTimGodfrey!