5 Questions For Los Angeles Rams Heading Into Week 9 Against Carolina Panthers

Oct 23, 2016; London, ENG; quarterback Case Keenum (17) of the Los Angeles Rams sets to pass during the game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New York Giants at Twickenham Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s a look at five questions for the Los Angeles Rams heading into Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers.

After having a week off, the Los Angeles Rams look to get back on the winning track with a key matchup at home against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.

The Rams had plenty to think about during the bye week after losing another game they easily could have won against the New York Giants in London. Los Angeles jumped out to an early 10-0 lead against New York, but the offense quickly fell apart as they failed to score a single point for the remainder of the game.

If the offense displays another performance like that against the Panthers, the Rams won’t have a chance at putting an end to their frustrating three game losing streak.

Los Angeles may be one of the most disappointing teams from the first half of the season, but Carolina is right up there with them as the team is only 2-5 heading into Sunday’s game. However, the Panthers did look like a completely different team last weekend against the Arizona Cardinals, and if they continue to play at that high level, the Rams could be in trouble.

So what should Los Angeles fans expect from their beloved team in Week 9? Without wasting any more time, here’s a look at five questions surrounding the Rams for their upcoming game against the Panthers in Week 9.

Oct 30, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson (95) causes Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) to fumble the ball during the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Will the Panthers’ Defense Repeat Last Week’s Performance?

Whether they want to admit it or not, it’s easy to see how much the Panthers’ defense misses Josh Norman at cornerback as they turned out to be one of the biggest disappointments in the first half of the season. The fact that Carolina has already allowed two of their opponents to score 41 points or more shows this is clearly not the same defense from a year ago, but they did show signs of improvement during last weekend’s game against the Arizona Cardinals.

In that game, Carson Palmer was sacked eight times as the Panthers’ defense played a key factor in the team cruising to a 30-20 victory. When looking at the issues surrounding the offensive line this season, the Rams will need to do everything in their power to provide Case Keenum with the necessary protection while getting the football down the field.

Otherwise, Keenum may end up just like Palmer did in Week 8, which is the last thing Los Angeles wants to see happen. As bad as it sounds, if Carolina played this well on defense against a team like Arizona, just imagine the type of damage they could do against Los Angeles during Sunday’s game.

Oct 30, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) during the game between the Carolina Panthers and the Arizona Cardinals at Bank of America Stadium. Carolina wins 30-20 over Arizona. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Can the Rams’ Defense Keep Cam Newton Under Control?

Despite defeating the Cardinals in Week 8, Cam Newton made it clear how unhappy he’s been with officials this season as the quarterback believes he’s been the victim of numerous missed calls. Believe it or not, Newton may actually have a strong case when looking back at some of the calls officials missed in the first half of the season, and it will be interesting to see what type of adjustments Sunday’s crew makes against the Rams to make sure this doesn’t continue to happen.

Los Angeles realizes stopping Newton is going to be one of the most difficult tasks of the game when considering the quarterback has the size and strength of a tight end. From his ability to throw the football down the field to being able to take off and plow through defenders at any time, the Rams’ defense is going to have quite the work cut out for them if they’re going to have any chance at winning this game.

There’s a reason Newton took home MVP honors in 2015, and even though Carolina is only 2-5 heading into Sunday’s game, there’s still plenty of time for this team to turn things around. If anything, the Rams may find themselves at a disadvantage playing against a quarterback in Newton with an extra chip on his shoulder when it comes to getting the Panthers back on a winning streak.

Oct 23, 2016; London, United Kingdom; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Case Keenum (17) the fumbles the ball against the New York Giants during the second quarter at Twickenham Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

Which Case Keenum Will Show Up?

Isn’t it amazing how Case Keenum can go from being one of the highest scoring quarterbacks in fantasy football one week, only to come back the following game with one of the most disappointing performances of the season?

Keenum had a career day against the Detroit Lions in Week 6 after completing 27 of 32 passes for 321 yards while recording four total touchdowns (one on the ground), but unfortunately it wasn’t good enough as the Rams still lost 31-28. Still, a performance like this from Keenum was just what Jeff Fisher and company wanted to see when it comes to proving they made the right choice of having their veteran as the starter.

Now, Keenum needs to figure out a way to have more of these performances if he’s going to have any shot at keeping his job in the second half of the season.

How a quarterback can go from a performance like this against the Lions to throwing four interceptions against the New York Giants in London the following week is unexplainable, but Keenum did it. For a quarterback with only two career 300-yard games in the NFL, Keenum better find a way to shine against the Panthers, or fans are going to want to see Jared Goff take over the starting role even more.

Oct 9, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) breaks free from Buffalo Bills outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander (57) at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

When Will Todd Gurley Record 100 Rushing Yards?

Remember at the beginning of the season when Todd Gurley convinced fantasy football owners he was worthy of being the No. 1 pick in their leagues? Well, with the way the first half turned out, it’s safe to say every fantasy football owner that selected Gurley in the first round of their drafts regrets that decision as the running back continues to search for his first 100-yard game.

When looking at how the Rams have one of the weakest receiving corps in the league, Gurley has unfortunately had to deal with defenses stacking the box more often since opponents realize the running back is the most dangerous threat on offense. Even after taking home Rookie of the Year honors in 2015 after recording 1,106 rushing yards to go along with 10 touchdowns, everybody knew there would be a chance Gurley would struggle in his sophomore season.

However, nobody could have predicted the first half of his 2016 season to be this bad.

Carolina may be one of the best in the league when it comes to stopping the run, but the Rams will need a big game from Gurley on Sunday if they’re going to have any chance at pulling out the win in this one, especially if the struggles continue for Keenum at quarterback.

Oct 23, 2016; London, United Kingdom; Los Angeles Rams coach Jeff Fisher walks off the field after game 16 of the NFL International Series against the New York Giants at Twickenham Statdium. The Giants defeated the Rams 17-10. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Will the Three Game Losing Streak Finally Come to an End?

At the beginning of the season, there were talks about the possibility of giving UFisher an extension as the head coach was entering the final year of his contract. With that being said, Fisher’s fate with the team will apparently be determined over the next four games, which puts even more pressure on the head coach as the Rams look to put an end to their three game losing streak.

The most frustrating part about this recent streak is Los Angeles was considered one of the hottest teams in football over the first four games after jumping out to a 3-1 start, only to be looking to get back to .500 heading into Sunday’s game against Carolina. Even with all of the issues on offense, the Rams still found ways to come up big in victories over the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals thanks to strong performances by the defense.

While injuries can certainly be blamed for some of the team’s struggles over the last few games, there’s no denying some of the questionable calls by Fisher that arguably made impacts on the outcome of the games. From a terrible decision to go for a fake punt late in the fourth quarter against the Buffalo Bills to passing on a field goal before halftime against the Lions, Fisher knows he can’t afford to mess up any more decisions like this over the next couple of weeks.

Otherwise, the head coach could be out of a job.

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