By Sam McPherson

It’s rare for an NFL team in Week 12 of the 17-week regular season to list just three players on the injury report, but that’s the case right now for the Los Angeles Rams. With a 4-6 record, it’s too bad the team has lost four games already this year by a touchdown or less, for this great health right now could fuel a strong playoff charge for a franchise that hasn’t seen the postseason since 2004. Alas, the Rams will have to settle now for a push to finish at .500 for the first time since that same 2004 campaign.

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Two players for the Rams are out this weekend after not being able to participate in workouts at all: Center Tim Barnes (foot) and defensive tackle Ethan Westbrooks (thigh). A third player, defensive end William Hayes, was unable to practice on Wednesday due to non-injury reasons, but he returned to workouts on Thursday in a limited capacity. Hayes is expected on the field Sunday in New Orleans.

Barnes Has Started 26 Straight Games

He has started all 10 games this year, and after starting all 16 games in 2015, Barnes’ presence in the middle of the Los Angeles offensive line will be missed against the Saints if he is unable to go. However, since the Rams offense ranks dead last in points scored and second-to-last in yards gained this year among all 32 NFL teams, perhaps putting backup center Demetrius Rhaney could be an improvement for Los Angeles. Again, since Barnes didn’t practice on Wednesday or Thursday, he is doubtful to see the field on Sunday.

Westbrooks Also Doubtful For Sunday

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Back in Week 3, Westbrooks experienced every lineman’s dream: He picked up a fumble and ran 77 yards with the ball for a touchdown. Through 29 games in a three-year NFL career now, Westbrooks has 37 total tackles, including three sacks. He may never have another moment like that TD return again in his life. What’s most probable is that Westbrooks won’t have a moment like that in Week 12, because he was unable to practice this week. He’s played in all 10 games for Los Angeles this season, but Westbrooks has started just twice. The Rams should be okay without him on Sunday.

Hayes Is A Go Against The Saints

Non-football issues often keep players from practicing during the week, and that’s the situation with Hayes right now. He missed two games earlier in the season, but Hayes has started all eight games he’s played in this year. In fact, he’s started 28 games combined for the Rams since the start of the 2014 season. Hayes has 23.5 sacks in 70 career games with the organization, and he has two sacks this year. Hayes will play on Sunday against the Saints and do everything he can to upset the rhythm of the high-powered New Orleans offense.

New Orleans Beat Up, But Ingram And Vaccaro Will Play

Nine different players on the Saints’ depth chart are listed as questionable for the game Sunday against the Rams, but the better news for New Orleans is that running back Mark Ingram (concussion) and safety Kenny Vaccaro (suspension) are expected to play. Ingram leads the Saints with 575 rushing yards this season, and he’s added 29 receptions and three TD catches as well. New Orleans relies on his backfield versatility to make its offense run smoothly. Vaccaro is second on the team with 57 tackles, and he is appealing a performance-enhancing drug suspension with the league. Until that case is heard, he is eligible to continue playing for the Saints.

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Tim Barnes, center (foot)
Ethan Westbrooks, defensive tackle (thigh)