The Los Angeles Rams will be the road team in Sunday’s matchup with their neighbors, the Los Angeles Chargers, at SoFi Stadium. The Rams are looking to build off of their lopsided 51-14 win over the Denver Broncos in Week 16 with a strong finish to the season.
Entering Week 17, the Rams now boast a 5-10 record, good enough for third place in the NFC West. Meanwhile, the Chargers own a 9-6 record and have clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2018.
Ahead of the battle of Los Angeles, here are five players to watch from the Rams
Cam Akers is coming off the best performance of his career in Week 16 as he carried the ball 23 times for 118 yards and three touchdowns. The former second-round pick has combined for 285 yards and six touchdowns in his last four games, and the Rams will need him to be productive again on Sunday.
The Chargers allowed the second-most rushing yards per game (124) and the most yards per attempt (5.5) to running backs this season despite their defense looking much better in recent weeks. If the Rams want to have any chance of beating the Chargers, they’ll need to sustain drives and keep Justin Herbert on the sideline, and that starts with Akers having success on the ground.
Ty Nsekhe returned to practice on Thursday after missing Wednesday’s walk thru due to an illness. The veteran tackle has started in six straight games for the Rams and he’ll be tasked with trying to slow down Khalil Mack — and potentially Joey Bosa — on Sunday.
Even though Mack isn’t mentioned in the elite group of edge rushers anymore, he is having a solid season in 2022 with eight sacks, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. Nsekhe and the offensive line did a remarkable job protecting Baker Mayfield in Week 16 and they’ll have their work cut out for them versus the Chargers.
The Rams deployed a handful of defensive linemen in Week 16 against the Broncos and Larrell Murchison made his debut for the team. In his first action with the Rams, Murchison tallied four combined tackles, two sacks, and two tackles for loss despite playing on only 24% of the defensive snaps this past Sunday.
Greg Gaines was absent from practice on Thursday and the Rams are going to continue rotating defensive linemen down the stretch to keep everyone healthy, so Murchison should expect more snaps in Week 17. With the Rams needing to generate pressure on Herbert, Murchison will be someone to watch in the interior.
Austin Ekeler leads the Chargers with 99 receptions this season and he’s 18 receptions away from the single-season record set by Christian McCaffrey in 2019. Besides having Keenan Allen and Mike Williams out wide, Herbert trusts getting the ball to Ekeler out of the backfield, so the Rams will need to be disciplined in covering the dynamic back.
Bobby Wagner has been fantastic this season and he’ll be part of the solution in containing Ekeler on Sunday. The All-Pro inside linebacker leads the Rams with 126 tackles while also recording two interceptions and a career-best six sacks.
Cobie Durant was someone who made this article last week and he proceeded to notch two interceptions that resulted in 100 yards and a pick-six. The rookie cornerback saw a season-high 76% of the defensive snaps in Week 16 and he should expect to see more playing time in the final two weeks.
Everyone will be focused on Jalen Ramsey covering Williams while Durant could see plenty of Allen out of the slot on Sunday. Allen is Herbert’s security blanket out of the slot, so another productive game from Durant could result in another stellar outing from the defense.
Story originally appeared on Rams Wire