What’s up with the Rams (to quote a stand-up line Jerry Seinfeld never said)?
Just when we Southern Californians thought they were going to be little more than a joke for years to come, the Los Angeles Rams are dominating the NFC West with a 7-2 record, they’re leading the league in scoring with 32.9 points per game, they’ve scored 30 points or more in six of their nine games and they’re No. 3 in the league in points allowed with 18.0 per game.
ESPN’s fivethirtyeight.com website had the Rams with only a 13% chance of getting into the NFL playoffs, but when they beat the Houston Texans 33-7 last Sunday, the Rams went past the preseason prediction it had of just six wins for the season. Now it has them predicted with a 71% chance of making the postseason.
It’s not surprising people would have started out thinking so lowly of the Rams. After all, they were an awful 4-12 last season with the NFL’s worst offense. Indeed, the only thing that made the Rams palatable in 2016 was that it was their first season back in Los Angeles. Of course, when they finished the season with a seven-game losing streak, a lot of the luster was lost.
What’s the difference in this year’s Rams? The biggest two reasons are Sean McVay, who at 30 was the league’s youngest-ever head coach when he was hired this season, and quarterback Jared Goff, who after struggling in his second season, has made the team his own and is an MVP candidate. The Rams are also on track to be the first team to have its offense go from worst in scoring one year to best the next since the 1965 San Francisco 49ers.
After a miserable season last year by running back Todd Gurley, he has rebounded in 2017 with help from receivers Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins, acquired from Buffalo.
Many are starting to scamper aboard the Rams bandwagon. This is coming as a surprise to team officials, who didn’t even know their band had a wagon.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated has even done the unthinkable in his MMQB site: Not only does he predict the Rams will make it to Super Bowl LII, he thinks they will beat the (gasp!) New England Patriots in that game:
“I am all-in on the Rams, which can be pretty dangerous. The franchise hasn’t finished over .500 since 2003. Their coach just began shaving in May. Also in May: Their quarterback looked like a bust. But I see what I see. I see a smart and high-powered offense that can protect the quarterback and is as scary on the ground as it is through the air. I see an imaginative coach with a good grip on his team. I see a voracious front seven with a big star (Aaron Donald) playing better than his rep. I see a team in the last three weeks that has won three, seven and three time zones away from home, respectively. (Did you know the Rams won their last three straight by double-digits at 1 p.m., 10 a.m. and 10 a.m. on their body clocks?) The road thing will come in handy during the playoffs, in my calculation, because the Rams could well have to win in a hostile environment against an excellent team like Philadelphia to win it all. But will that really matter? This team is 2-8 at the Coliseum since the return of the franchise to Los Angeles, and the Rams are 5-0 away from home this year. As for climbing Mount Belichick, I’m sure some wise guy out there will point out that, on the day that Bill Belichick coordinated the Giants’ defense that shut down John Elway in Super Bowl XXI, Sean McVay was 1 year and 1 day old, and how on earth could the great Belichick ever lose to a guy less than half his age? My counter: The coaches won’t be putting on pads that day. The Rams, except at quarterback, will be deeper and better on Super Sunday.”
It should be noted one other MMQB contributor picked the Rams to win (over Kansas City). It should also be noted that two of the 18 didn’t believe the Rams would even get into the playoffs.
Still plenty of room aboard that bandwagon, apparently.