Los Angeles Rams vs. Houston Texans: Storylines, prediction as the Texans seek a huge upset

What are the key storylines for this Los Angeles Rams vs. Houston Texans matchup, and what is our prediction for how the game may turn out?

The Week 8 Los Angeles Rams vs. Houston Texans matchup appears to be a potentially one-sided encounter, at least according to the current NFL odds. However, the Rams were given a scare as heavy favorites last week. Let’s take a look at the main storylines for Rams vs. Texans and make a prediction for how this game could go.

Los Angeles Rams vs. Houston Texans storylines

On the surface, this looks like it should be a mismatch between the 1-6 Texans and the 6-1 Rams. Yet, in the NFL, rarely is it that simple. During the course of any game, different elements come into play that can affect the result. Let’s take a look at some of the key storylines to watch as the Rams head to Houston to take on the Texans.

Will the Texans catch the Rams flat-footed … again?

The Rams got caught flat-footed multiple times last week. The Lions pulled out fake punts and onside kicks to keep Los Angeles on the back foot. You have to think that the Rams have spent all week working on their special teams to ensure those “surprise” plays do not stupefy them again.

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The situation this week is also a little different for the opponent. Last week saw a winless Lions team face the team that their current QB used to play for and vice versa. The motivation for the Texans shouldn’t be less than the Lions last week. Nevertheless, it did feel like a kitchen sink game for Detroit in Week 7.

If the Texans are going to throw all of their “trick” plays at one game, doing it when you are a double-digit underdog is perhaps not the best time. Therefore, we likely see Houston play a bit more conventionally. Still, you have to think head coach David Culley and special teams coordinator Frank Ross might put some interesting looks in front of the Rams’ special teams and see if it throws them off their game.

Could we see Tutu Atwell play a role for the Rams?

So far in the 2021 season, Rams rookie receiver Tutu Atwell has played just 10 offensive snaps. However, with the news that DeSean Jackson could be traded, could Atwell be the prime candidate to fill Jackson’s deep threat role? The Rams may decide that this game vs. the Texans is a perfect opportunity to test him out with a few targets.

Jackson has only played 100 offensive snaps himself, but his role has been extremely defined. The Rams have targeted Jackson 15 times, resulting in 8 receptions for 221 yards and a touchdown. Jackson’s average depth of target is tied for the highest in the league at 23.1.

The Rams hope Atwell can replace Jackson’s dynamic ability with the ball in his hands. Not only is Jackson one of the best in the league in yards before the catch, but he’s fantastic after the catch. Atwell came into the NFL with a reputation as a dangerous receiver with the ball in his hands. He may now get a chance to demonstrate his speed and playmaking ability in this Rams offense.

Will the Texans put Brandin Cooks in the shop window?

With Brandin Cooks heavily linked to a trade in the lead up to the 2021 NFL trade deadline, the Texans have a tough choice to make in this game. If they feel there is already a market for Cooks that will play out early in Week 9, do they limit Cooks this week against the Rams?

Where things could be fun is if the Texans think they can increase the market for Cooks with a monster performance this week. With Jalen Ramsey questionable for Sunday, and expected to be somewhat limited if he does play, Cooks could be set for a big game at an opportune moment.

Already this season, Cooks has underlined his value. In seven games, he has been targeted 64 times, catching 70% of them for 502 yards and a touchdown. A big game against a potential Super Bowl contender in the Rams could drive up the Texans’ potential return in a trade.

Rams vs. Texans betting line and game prediction

A 16.5-point spread is an incredible number to see in the NFL. However, this season, with a big gulf between the top and bottom teams, it’s something we’re seeing more commonly. If you’ve watched the Rams and Texans this year, then a spread of more than 2 touchdowns certainly doesn’t seem out of place.

The problem with spreads this high is that there is no incentive for the Rams to pile on the pain for the Texans in the fourth quarter. If they are leading by 13 points late in the game, Los Angeles can just throttle back. In the NFL, there are no style points. Thus, there is no reason for the Rams to really try and win by 20 or more.

Los Angeles should come out comfortable winners. However, giving more than 2 touchdowns just feels like a bit too much.

Rams vs. Texans prediction: Rams 30, Texans 16

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