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Todd Gurley Injury and Playoff Implications

Gurley’s Injury

The Los Angeles Rams will be without the services of the NFL’s second-leading rusher again for the season finale against the 49ers. Todd Gurley has been struggling with a knee injury for a few weeks, finally missing a game last week against Arizona. Los Angeles expected him to be able to go in that game, but caution prevailed, which allowed C.J. Anderson an opportunity to revive his career. Anderson ran for 167 yards and a touchdown in that 31-9 victory, averaging 8.4 yards per carry.

While it’s encouraging to see the newly-acquired castoff get an opportunity after a season of uncertainty about his future, there isn’t a replacement that can match what Todd Gurley gives this offense on a week to week basis. Despite missing last week, he still ranks second in rushing yards with 1251, and first in rushing touchdowns with 17. The Rams have been hit with the injury bug late this season, and one would be forgiven for worrying about what this could mean for the playoffs.

Offensive Expectations Without Gurley

Despite last week’s victory over the struggling Cardinals, and C.J. Anderson’s huge game, if this offense goes without TGIII for their playoff run, they could be in trouble. Gurley adds an element to the short passing game for the Rams that is necessary for Jared Goff to stretch the entire field. Since receiver Cooper Kupp went down with an injury a month ago, the offense has tried to utilize multiple players for their underneath routes, but none has been as effective as Gurley in keeping defenses honest.

The 49ers (4-11) have had a difficult season with injuries of their own, but have competed against playoff teams, and even beat the Seahawks in week 15. If the Rams drop this game, they need Chicago to lose to or tie with Minnesota in order to retain the 2 seed. Not having Gurley this week will be tough but it’s not an impossible task. Not having him going forward however will be damn near insurmountable.

Playoff Implications

As stated above, the 2 seed is by no means guaranteed for Los Angeles right now. They must take care of business on Sunday, or else hope for another team to lose or tie. If they lose the 2 seed to Chicago, it becomes very possible that they’ll have to travel to Soldier Field again if they reach the Divisional Round… and we all remember how that went for the Rams a few weeks ago.

Gurley should be back for the playoffs barring something unforeseen, but any lingering issue should always be taken seriously. If this somehow stretches into an extended period, the Rams may be one and done again this postseason. Defenses have slowed their offense as the season has gone on, and without Gurley in the backfield, there aren’t a lot of threats outside of Brandin Cooks that can stretch the field. Robert Woods is a great receiver, but doesn’t demand double teams, and doesn’t get defensive backs on their heels.

But do not fret! Gurley was held out last week as a precaution, and this week seems to be the same. The Todd Gurley injury isn’t a death knell because they can still win the 2 seed and he’ll have had about a month of rest between games. A rested and hungry TGIII isn’t a sight any opponent wants to see when the season is on the line, and that’s what they’re going to get.

Sports Al Dente 2019

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