The St. Louis Rams (2-4) will visit Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday to take on the Kansas City Chiefs (3-3) in a battle for the Governor's Cup, as the two teams that call Missouri home will fight for bragging rights.
Last Sunday, the Rams defeated the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks by a score of 28-26.
In Week 2, which was the Rams' only other win of the season; they beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by a score of 19-17. Two wins by a combined four points is where the Rams sit headed into their Week 8 matchup against the Chiefs.
The Rams play in the ultra-tough NFC West division, where the other three teams have a combined 12-7 record so far this season. The Rams have already dropped games to the Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers this season.
Also, the next five games for the Rams are Sunday at Kansas City, then at San Francisco and Arizona, home against Denver and then on the road at San Diego.
It's a treacherous stretch of games for the Rams and the Chiefs are hoping to get over the .500 mark for the first time this season with a win on Sunday.
"We look forward to the challenge of playing the Rams," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said this week. "The Rams are a good football team. They're well coached and they've got good football players so we have to make sure that we prepare ourselves right, study them as the opponent and then get ourselves ready against a good football team."
On the offensive side of the ball, the storyline has to be second-year quarterback Austin Davis. The former Southern Miss Golden Eagle has completed 66 percent of his passes so far this season with nine touchdowns and just four interceptions.
After injuries to Sam Bradford and then Shaun Hill, Davis was thrown into the starting role and has played well for the Rams.
"He's a good football player," Reid said. "He has a feel for the game. He's not making a lot of mistakes, and he's given the players around him an opportunity to make plays."
On his weekly conference call with the opposing team's media, Rams coach Jeff Fisher took time to praise his young signal caller.
"[Davis] is one of those guys that you could look and watch around the league and you know which guys are here at Friday night at 8 o' clock on his own studying tape," Fisher explained of his young quarterback. "He's one of those guys. It's important to him and he's taking advantage of the opportunity."
Besides the intangibles he's shown, Davis has demonstrated the ability to make plays when he steps out onto the field.
In just 206 pass attempts so far this season, Davis has already attempted 29 passes of 20 yards or more. Therefore, even as a young player in a role much bigger than expected out of him this season, he's not afraid to take his shots.
"He's got some special leadership skills in the huddle and he's very calm," Fisher explained. "One big test for him was the Monday night game, and it wasn't too big for him and I've been proud of the way he's playing and we just have to play better around him."
One area that's commonly a struggle for young quarterbacks is how they handle the blitz coming at them, and it's an area the Rams offense hasn't been great at this season.
Through six games, the Rams have a 67.5 quarterback passer rating when facing a blitz, which ranks 26th in the NFL. For comparison, the Chiefs and quarterback Alex Smith have a rating of 118.5 against the blitz, which ranks fifth in the NFL.
The Rams like to use tight ends Lance Kendricks and Jared Cook frequently, along with fullback Corey Harkey, who has the fourth-most snaps of any fullback in the NFL.
They like to bring a physical style of football on both sides of the ball with these heavier personnel groups, and these big-bodied tight ends are very good in the passing game as well, presenting even more of a challenge to the Chiefs defense.
Kendricks is tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns with three, while Cook is leading the team in receptions (26) and has 320 receiving yards.
On the outside, the Rams biggest playmaker at receiver this season has been Brian Quick, who leads the team with 365 yards receiving and also has three receiving touchdowns.
But the Rams are built on the strength of their defense, particularly their front four.
Last season, the Rams finished third in the NFL with 53 sacks in the regular season. But this year has been much different through six games.
After defensive end Chris Long went down with an injury in the first game of the season, all eyes shifted to Pro Bowler Robert Quinn, whose 19 sacks a year ago put a spotlight on him as one of the top pass-rushing defensive ends in the NFL right now.
Despite sitting last in the NFL right now with just four sacks as a team, Andy Reid and Alex Smith understand this Rams defense is still causing a lot of problems for offenses and opposing quarterbacks.
"The hits on the quarterback have been there and then their interceptions are up a little bit," Reid explained on what the lack of sacks might mean. "They've scored a few touchdowns off of it so they're still very efficient. This is a good defense and we look forward to that challenge. It normally brings out the best in you."
Despite just the four sacks, this defense ranks No. 1 in the NFL in number of rushes against them that result in negative yards with 26.
So while the tackles behind the line of scrimmage may not be of a quarterback, these defensive players are still causing negative plays, which is all you're really doing with a sack.
"You watch film and certainly they are very disruptive," Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said of the Rams defense. "The talent is there. Those guys can get after it."
When asked about the lack of sacks from this group, Smith said it might be due to several factors, including the score.
"They haven't been in those predictable passing downs very much," Smith explained. "A lot goes into it but certainly a very talented front. You can see it on film, that's for sure."
Reid shared his thoughts on the key pass rusher for the Rams defense.
"One of the best in the league," Reid said of Robert Quinn. "He's fast, quick, relentless, all the things, elusive. He can get big and he can get small."
Another player who has really stepped up after the season-ending injury to defensive end Chris Long has been rookie first-round pick, Aaron Donald.
According to Pro Football Focus, Donald has seven quarterback hurries and three quarterback hits this season. That puts him third on the team behind Quinn and William Hayes, who has 11 quarterback hurries over his last two games combined.
View photos of the St. Louis Rams starting roster.
In the secondary, the Rams boast the NFL's second-best defense in terms of fewest yards after catch allowed with just 535 through six games. That means safeties Rodney McLeod and T.J. McDonald have to be doing something right on the back end of that defense.
Reid and Smith know they have their hands full with Fisher and this Rams defense, and that feeling is reciprocated.
"It's very impressive to watch the variety of things that they do—the diversified run game and then [Smith's] decision-making process," Fisher said of the Chiefs offense. "[Smith] is very decisive. He knows where to go with the football. He's not going to take chances and does a good job of making plays with his legs."
In the Rams win over the Seahawks, special teams played a large role in their victory, and it's an area of the game Reid is familiar with how much success Fisher has had in his coaching career.
"They've made big plays and did a real nice job," Reid said. "When you play against a Jeff Fisher team, you know that you've always got to be ready on special teams. He's done that over his history as a head coach so we'll make sure that we do as much as we possibly can to work on those things. "The main thing is you stay as disciplined as you can."