Is it fair to say that the Los Angeles Rams were a year ahead of schedule? Did that timeline change after winning the NFC West in Sean McVay’s first year at the helm? Whatever that timeline looks like, the Rams certainly surpassed expectations for the second year in a row by appearing in Super Bowl LIII.
They only scored three points against the Patriots and many felt that the New Orleans Saints were robbed in the NFC Championship Game (they were) after pass interference was not called to set up a goal-to-go scenario for the home team.
Is it fair to call the Rams a team potentially in line for regression? They were +11 in turnover margin, which could simply be the new normal. On the other hand, they allowed six yards per play and just happened to outscore teams most of the season with 527 points and over 6,700 yards. The Rams scored on 48.6% of their possessions. Only Kansas City and, ironically, New Orleans scored on a higher rate of possessions.
A parade out of town has the Rams with some holes to fill and the ongoing questions about player health on the offensive side could turn a promising season into a dud. On the other hand, a trip to Miami Gardens could also be on the horizon.
Super Bowl Odds: +1000
Odds to Win the NFC: +450
Odds to Win the NFC West: -175
Season Win Total: 10.5
(lines Weeks 2-16 from CG Technology as of May 16, 2019)
|5||@ Seattle (TNF)||-1||.51|
|16||@ San Francisco||-2||.54|
Total Expected Wins: 10.88
It was a tough offseason for the Rams. They lost Rodger Saffold, LaMarcus Joyner, Mark Barron, Ndumakong Suh, and CJ Anderson to free agency. Those are a lot of veteran players that held down starting spots during the key games late last season. The only notable signings for the Rams were 34-year-old Eric Weddle and 33-year-old Clay Matthews. We’ll see if those two guys catch a career second wind.
I guess the Rams do have Blake Bortles now to back up Jared Goff, so there’s that. Cooper Kupp will be like a free agent signing in his return from a torn ACL. A healthier Todd Gurley for the second half of the season would be a big boost as well.
Let’s be honest. The offseason was underwhelming, but the Rams didn’t need much.
The Rams didn’t have a first-round pick and didn’t pick until late in the second round. They got their LaMarcus Joyner replacement in Washington safety Taylor Rapp. Darrell Henderson was a great grab in the third round as some depth behind Gurley. David Long could play right away. The Rams took players from Washington, Memphis, Michigan, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Penn State, and Texas Tech.
With the exception of Last Chance U star turned D-I tackle machine Dakota Allen from Texas Tech, the Rams prioritized guys that come from great coaching. That should make for a smooth transition to the NFL. Allen didn’t come from the same type of system, but he really made something of himself after getting booted from Texas Tech on the first go-round.
The scary thing about this Rams offense is that it could have been even better. Los Angeles was second in points and second in yards, but 18th in red zone efficiency at 57.5%. The 80 trips into the red zone were the most in the NFL by a large margin. The Chiefs were second with 71, but cashed in 71.8% of the time.
Todd Gurley eventually wound up with some nice numbers, but his weekly performances ranged from elite to pedestrian as he battled that never-ending knee injury. He ran for 208 against Denver in Week 6 and had five additional 100-yard games, but he also had some real lackluster efforts. He was very limited in the last two playoff games. Hopefully Darrell Henderson can lighten the load.
At least Jared Goff made a big leap in Year 2 under McVay. He does lose his QB coach Zac Taylor to the head job in Cincinnati, but he had a 32/12 TD/INT ratio and was just shy of 65% on completions. Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks each caught 80 balls and Cooper Kupp could very well have gotten there had he not gotten hurt halfway through the season. Josh Reynolds had 18 playoff targets after getting only 53 looks in 16 games during the season, so maybe those two have developed some new chemistry.
Something that merits watching this season is that John Sullivan and Rodger Saffold were free agents and Andrew Whitworth is now 38 years old. The Rams did address the tackle position in the Draft, but not until late in the third round and late in the fifth round.
Will the Rams be able to outscore everybody again next season? Conventional wisdom says yes, but it’s kind of crazy to think that a team with this kind of talent allowed over five yards per carry. It wasn’t just the run defense that struggled. The pass defense allowed 31 receiving touchdowns. Aaron Donald accounted for 20.5 of the team’s 41 sacks. Cory Littleton and John Johnson accounted for over 240 tackles and 24 pass break-ups.
This is a defense dependent on a few guys to stay healthy and produce. The Rams’ 30 takeaways were the third-most in the NFL, but this was a team that struggled to stop leaks when the other team wasn’t throwing the ball away. Wade Phillips should be better than that. The Rams were 21st in points per drive against, even with those 30 takeaways.
Notes & Nuggets
Technically, the Rams are not an underdog at any point next season based on the look-ahead lines, but there are a couple of coin flip spots and lines that could go either way late in the season.
Zac Taylor was instrumental in Jared Goff’s development. Now he’s in Cincinnati. Goff is established, so it shouldn’t hurt that much, but this is a team with thinner margins than you would expect from a Super Bowl participant.
The balance on offense made up for a lack of balance on defense. The Rams have a ton of weapons with the football and that was a recipe for success last season. The caveat here is that the defense probably can’t play much worse, although any long-term injury to Littleton, Johnson, or Donald would leave this team in a pickle.
The NFC West should be better this year. The Cardinals have a win total line of 5 and a lot more offensive weapons. The Seahawks are always a threat with Russell Wilson. The 49ers will have Jimmy G back behind center. The Rams draw the AFC North and NFC South, including a trip to London, and the first-place schedule features the Bears and Cowboys.
The Rams were 7-1 in games decided by seven or fewer points, including a 5-0 record in games decided by three or fewer points. There’s some regression here. I’m going under the season win total.