FALCONS (0-1) AT RAMS (0-1)
When: 1:05 p.m. Sunday
Where: SoFi Stadium
TV/Radio: Fox (Ch. 11); 710 AM; 93.1 FM; 1330 AM (Spanish); Sirius 85, 225
Line: Rams by 10
Notable injury designations: Rams: WR Van Jefferson (out; knee), OLB Leonard Floyd (questionable; knee), LT Joe Noteboom (questionable; knee), C Brian Allen (out; knee), LS Matt Orzech (calf; questionable)
Falcons: RB Damien Williams (out; ribs)
What’s at stake? The first win of the season. The Rams were embarrassed by the Bills and the Falcons blew a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter before losing to the Saints last week. The Falcons have a reputation for losing double-digit leads, but not many expected them to be competitive against a talented Saints squad. The way the Rams lost to the Bills was a surprising start to the season and they might be feeling the pressure as reigning champions to avoid an 0-2 start for the first time since 2011.
Who’s better? The Rams are clearly the better team and the 10-point betting line supports that, but they’re hurting on the offensive line after their starting unit allowed seven sacks versus the Bills. Center Brian Allen was ruled out with a knee injury, forcing right guard Coleman Shelton to fill Allen’s void. Tremayne Anchrum will make his first career start at Shelton’s guard position. To make matters worse, left tackle Joe Noteboom is questionable to play because of a knee injury. Falcons edge rusher Grady Jarrett could make life difficult for Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford with a short-handed offensive line. The Falcons are underdogs, but they have plenty of talent on offense with a mobile quarterback in Marcus Mariota and big-body weapons in tight end Kyle Pitts and rookie receiver Drake London, the USC product from Moorpark.
Matchup to watch: Rams’ interior defensive line versus Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson, the do-it-all playmaker with experience at wide receiver and kick returner. Rams star defensive lineman Aaron Donald noticed a more comfortable Patterson in the backfield last week. Patterson, who made the full-time position transition last season, had 22 carries for 120 yards versus the Saints. The Rams allowed 121 rushing yards to the Bills in Week 1. “From a guy that was a return guy, to wide receiver, to now, (he) looks more like a running back,” Donald said. “He’s running hard, downhill, making guys miss, so we have to try and find ways to slow him down and not let him get himself going.”
Rams win if: … They get a second wide receiver involved after Cooper Kupp, who will have his hands full against Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell. The Rams are considering moving wide receiver Allen Robinson to different spots on the field with hopes of helping him find a rhythm early against the Falcons. Robinson had a subpar debut with the Rams after recording only one reception for 12 yards against the Bills. The Rams also have plans to give second-year wide receiver Tutu Atwell a variety of intermediate routes to not have him solely be a downfield option.
Fantasy sleeper: If you’re hurting at running back, consider Darrell Henderson as an option. The Rams will look to establish the run after last week’s poor rushing attack and they probably can’t afford to have Stafford attempt 40 dropbacks with the injury-depleted offensive line. Don’t expect “wow” numbers from Henderson, but he might be good enough for a goal-line touchdown and about 80 rushing yards. The team will also look to get Cam Akers involved, but he’s a risky play after the drama that unfolded in the past week.
Prediction: There’s plenty to like about the pesky Falcons with an abundance of young playmakers with London and Pitts, and Mariota’s mobility might give the Rams’ defense fits. But the upset won’t come to fruition versus a motivated Rams squad itching to get back on the field after a season-opening letdown versus the Bills. The Rams will prevail 24-20 over the Falcons to capture their first win of the season.