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Week 15 Preview: Rams look to ground Jets en route to playoffs

Photo credit: Jae C. Hong/AP photographer.

The winless New York Jets (0-13) will fly to SoFi Stadium to meet the NFC West-leading Los Angeles Rams (9-4) in what is considered one of the most lopsided matchups of the season. The Rams come in as 17-point favorites, but as they discovered in previous matchups with the San Francisco 49ers, they want to avoid another trap game. If the Rams beat the Jets, they will solidify their playoff run.

The Rams are coming off a big 24-3 win over their Super Bowl nemesis New England Patriots. The Jets are coming off a 40-3 blowout loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

New York is ranked the lowest in several offensive categories including points, yards, first downs and red zone touchdown percentage. Adding veteran players to their ranks and a few hard-fought close games against the Patriots, Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders still did not help. They fell short by only three points in those three of those matchups.

Jets quarterback Sam Darnold threw 14 of 26 passes for 132 yards against the Seahawks, and was also sacked three times. Darnold has 156 completions on 267 attempts for 1,560 yards and five touchdowns for the season. It should also be noted that veteran backup quarterback Joe Flacco started against the Pats and the Chargers.

New York’s running game is a unique breed. Ageless veteran running back Frank Gore leads in rushing with 150 carries for 546 yards, and has just one touchdown for the season. He shares the backfield with fellow running backs Ty Johnson and Josh Adams. Adams led in rushing against Seattle with six carries for 27 yards. There is a chance La’Mical Perine will be off injured reserve in time to meet the Rams. In October, the Jets released Le’Veon Bell, he was then scooped up by the Kansas City Chiefs. The Jets have not been great on the ground and the Rams defensive front should hold fine. L.A. does not want to underestimate Gore and the Jets’ other running options. Darnold has run in two scores and ties Perine for most team rushing touchdowns.

Darnold has several decent targets in Jamison Crowder, Braxton Berrios, Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims. Berrios and Perriman led against the Seahawks with a total of six catches for 75 yards. Crowder leads all receivers for the season with 42 catches for 510 yards and five touchdowns. Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey may be assigned to Crowder or the speedy Mims. The Rams will most likely rotate their corners again and continue to rely on their safeties over the top. Safety John Johnson leads in team tackles with 88 (58 solo tackles).

The Rams offense features a re-invigorated ground game that has evolved nicely this season. They relied heavily on them to balance quarterback Jared Goff’s passing attack in recent weeks. Rookie running back Cam Akers earned NFC Offensive Player of the Week with his performance against New England, running for 171 yards on 29 carries. Darrell Henderson still leads the committee with 125 carries for 564 yards for the season. He also leads the backs with 154 receiving yards and one touchdown. Malcolm Brown has 90 carries for 368 yards. Both Henderson and Brown have five rushing touchdowns each for the year.

Goff threw 16 of 25 passes for 137 yards and one touchdown and had one interception and a sack against the Patriots defense. For the season, he has 324 completions on 475 attempts for 3,509 yards and 18 touchdowns. Goff ran in a 1-yard score against the Patriots and is third in rushing touchdowns with four.

Wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods are still his best targets. Kupp leads with 79 catches for 869 yards, while Woods has 76 catches for 796 yards and leads all receivers with five touchdowns. He also leads all receivers with 114 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Tyler Higbee led with 34 receiving yards against New England with a long of 25.

The Rams utilized a 12-personnel scheme for much of the game with two tight ends against the Pats. This helped greatly for a successful running attack. Gerald Everett blocked well for Akers and positioned himself at fullback in some plays.

The offensive line has been solid for Goff throughout the season. Starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth, the longest-tenured NFL veteran on the squad is still on injured reserve, but Joe Noteboom has replaced him nicely. Center Austin Blythe, guards David Edwards and Austin Corbett, and tackle Rob Havenstein played 100 percent of all offensive snaps against New England. They also had minimal penalties minus one false start by Noteboom.

The Jets defense is led by inside linebacker Neville Hewitt who has 112 tackles for the season. Nose tackle Quinnen Williams leads with six sacks and nine tackles for a loss. Against the Seahawks, Hewitt and linebacker Harvey Langi led the defense with nine and eight tackles, respectively.

Safety Marcus Maye leads the defense with two interceptions and ten passes defended. Ironically, safety Pierre Desir was the interception leader with three, but was traded to the Baltimore Ravens in November after poor performances. The Rams have an uncanny ability to spread the ball around to numerous weapons, so the offense is expected to dominate.

The Rams continue to be stout up front. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald leads the squad with 12.5 sacks. Defensive end Michael Brockers is third with five sacks and linebacker Leonard Floyd is second with 7.5 sacks. The run stuffing has been spectacular lately. The defense continues to be one of the best in the league, often motivating the Rams to do well on all phases. They have scored a touchdown in three consecutive games; two returns by corner Troy Hill and one interception return by linebacker Kenny Young.

In the special teams department, Rams kicker Matt Gay made his lone 35-yard field goal and all three of his extra points against the Patriots. Jets kicker Sergio Castillo made a 45-yard field goal, which was the only score of the game against Seattle. He missed three field goals in the first half and was released on Tuesday. Kicker Chase McLaughlin was picked up off waivers and will start against the Rams. He was formerly with the Jaguars and most recently on the Vikings practice squad.

The Rams have an opportunity to solidify a playoff run, but the Jets should not be overlooked. The Jets had several close games, although the record does not show it. Look for the Rams to continue their ground attack with Akers leading the way. They may continue with double-tight end sets, but will also deliver the ball to the usual targets.

Kickoff is at 1:05 p.m. PT on Fox.

Sources:  therams.coms.theramswire.usatoday.comespn.com, pro-football-reference.comnewyorkjets.comcbssports.com

You can follow Erik Ho on Twitter @EHoinSDLVLA. Be sure to follow Rams Talk on Twitter @TalkRams.

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