The Patriots will have their hands full with the Rams defense on Thursday night.
Sean McVay's team is loaded with talent on that side of the ball. By now everyone understands that defensive tackle Aaron Donald and corner Jalen Ramsey are not only among the best players at their respective positions, they are two of the best defenders in the league.
But the Rams have received plenty of contributions elsewhere this season. Darious Williams, Los Angeles' No. 2 behind Ramsey, is the fourth-highest graded corner in football, per Pro Football Focus. Edge-defender Leonard Floyd has recorded seven sacks and 15 quarterback hits. Safety John Johnson has 60 tackles on the season as he patrols the back end as one of the NFL's most reliable strong safeties.
As a result, some of the defensive numbers for L.A. are eye-popping. The Rams own the fifth-best defense in the league when it comes to points allowed (20.3 per game). They are second in yards allowed per game, first in pass yards allowed per attempt (6.0) and second in quarterback rating allowed (73.8). They're the second-best defense on third down this season, allowing just 35.3 percent of third downs to be converted. They allow just 3.9 yards per carry, which is fifth in the NFL.
Daunting task for Cam Newton and the Patriots.
Here's one statistic that might be viewed as boding relatively well for the Patriots offense, though. The Rams have really only played in two games when 21 personnel -- two backs, one tight end -- has been a factor per Sharp Football Analysis. In those two games, both against the Niners, the Rams have allowed eight of nine passes to be completed when facing 21 personnel for a yards-per-attempt figure of 7.1 and a quarterback rating of 96.3. The Patriots would take that.
But this offense, we know, is not at this point much of a passing team.
Still, by turning to their well-liked 21 personnel groupings -- 38 percent of their plays this season, and 49 percent of their plays over the last four weeks -- perhaps they can find some success through the air. Unfortunately for the Patriots, Newton has just a 60.8 rating when throwing out of 21 personnel over the last month.
If the Patriots want to try to run from 21 personnel, that doesn't appear to be a great option against the Rams. They allowed only 3.3 yards per carry against that grouping in their two games with the Niners.
The Patriots are a do-what-we-do offense at the moment. They need to run the football and run it efficiently to make significant gains offensively. How they go about doing that will be fascinating -- because on paper, it looks like it'll be tough sledding this week.