By, Faux John Madden (Special to OddsUSA.com)
If you’ve ever needed a case study for how quickly life can change year over year in the NFL, look no further than the Los Angeles Rams.
being gifted a spot in the Super Bowl thanks to one of the worst blown calls in the history of the sport going 13-3 in 2018 and defeating the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship, the Rams officially returned to the top of the NFL mountaintop for the first time since Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk were providing the ‘Greatest Show on Turf’.
But that 13-3 record and Super Bowl trip would be soon forgotten and replaced with another “13-3” — the final score of Super Bowl LIII.
While it wasn’t on the same level of how Seattle and Atlanta lost to the Patriots, the Super Bowl was especially brutal for the Rams, as Bill Belichick and eventual Miami Dolphins’ head coach Brian Flores completely outclassed McVay in every form and fashion, and made Jared Goff look nothing like the Pro Bowl quarterback he was that season.
To compound that, McVay is blessed with a photographic memory, meaning that Sean McVay couldn’t forget every three and out that night even if he wanted to. It will be stuck inside his beautiful mind forever!
The vaunted “Super Bowl hangover” that had plagued so many other previous Super Bowl runner-ups was not far behind, and the Rams would struggle to find their 2018 footing the entire season en route to finishing the year at 9-7 and missing the playoffs.
The Rams’ strategy to go all-in on huge contracts to star players had come up a game short, and the Rams championship window may have been slammed shut as quickly as it was cracked open.
As the team enters a state-of-the-art $5 billion stadium with new uniforms and a roster overhaul, the Rams hope the tandem of Sean McVay and Jared Goff will be able to usher the Rams into a new era of winning football.
Rams 2019 Season Review
As is usually the case with teams that finish the season hovering around .500, the Rams were a very streaky group in 2019.
Fresh off their loss in Super Bowl LIII, the Rams responded by opening the season with a 3-0 record that included a dominant performance in an NFC Championship rematch against the Saints in Week 2, that saw the Rams win 27-9 and left New Orleans without Drew Brees for the next month and a half (that would turn out not being a big deal at all because of Teddy Bridgewater).
Then following their road win over the Browns, the Rams would proceed to give up 55 points to Tampa Bay, lose on the road in Seattle thanks to a late field goal miss from Greg Zuerlein, and then would proceed to get completely smothered the following week against San Francisco in a game they couldn’t muster 160 yards of offense.
The Rams went from whispers of being the NFC’s best team yet again, to an average-looking 3-3 team in the span of three weeks.
This would continue to be their form throughout the season, as the Rams would not be able to piece together a winning streak longer than two games following the hot 3-0 start, and after keeping their playoff hopes alive in Week 14 with a rare blowout victory over the Seahawks, the Rams would drop back-to-back road games against the Cowboys and Niners and officially be out of the playoffs heading into Week 17.
It was a fitting conclusion to how their season went, and thanks to an expensive trade to bring Jalen Ramsey over to Los Angeles, the Rams were left with a bare cupboard to patch up a lot of holes that suddenly appeared from aging vets and expensive contracts the team could no longer keep into the future.
The Only Two Players the Rams Could Afford After Paying Jared Goff
LB Leonard Floyd (Bears)
DT A’Shawn Robinson (Lions)
All Heading to Teams That Scored Three Points Less Than the Rams Did in Super Bowl 53
RB Todd Gurley (Falcons)
LB/DE Dante Fowler Jr. (Falcons)
LB Cory Littleton (Raiders)
WR Brandin Cooks (Texans / Trade)
S Eric Weddle (Retired)
CB Nickell Robey-Coleman (Eagles)
Rams 2020 Offensive Preview
Sean McVay enters the 2020 season in Los Angeles looking to get the Rams’ offense back to the top of the NFL, but the Rams’ offense will look much different this season in comparison to the recent Rams teams we have come to expect.
For the first time since 2017, McVay hired an offensive coordinator to help him with the offense, and while McVay will still call the plays, new Rams offensive coordinator and former Washington OC Kevin O’Connell will be tasked with being an extra pair of eyes for their young quarterback Jared Goff.
Goff took a big step back in 2019, and while he was certainly not the worst quarterback in football, he certainly was not among the best either. In 2018, Jared Goff was spectacular for the Rams as he threw for nearly 4700 yards with 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, but in 2019 Goff threw the ball 65 more times, but threw for less yards and touchdowns and turned it over 26 times.
And while Goff wasn’t entirely to blame for LA’s struggles in 2019, the fact he had just signed a four-year contract extension worth $134 million made him a lightning rod for all the criticism as to why the Rams suddenly were not the same team they were the previous two seasons.
The biggest reasons for Goff’s struggles in 2019 fell on a shoddy offensive line that went through nine starters in all last season, and the fact Todd Gurley has the knees of an 80-year old man. This coupled with the fact that every team used the 2019 offseason to catch up with the Sean McVay offense, and Goff was seemingly set up to fail a year ago.
Fortunately for Goff, that’s probably not changing much in 2020 either. The Rams simply do not have the cap room or the draft compensation to really reload the roster with talent.
The team hopes that players who were already on the Rams’ roster will be able to rise to the challenge and fill the holes left behind by Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks. At running back, Los Angeles will likely turn to Malcolm Brown to be the team’s starter, but 2019 3rd round pick Darrell Henderson and 2020 2nd round pick Cam Akers will both be in the mix in McVay’s offense.
To replace Brandin Cooks, McVay is moving Cooper Kupp to the outside to play opposite of Robert Woods and will depend on 2017 4th round pick Josh Reynolds to round out McVay’s 3WR attack.
Once again though, the Rams offensive line looks like it will be a chore to deal with throughout the season, as there is not much behind 38-year old left tackle Andrew Whitworth. Naturally, the Rams recognized they have one capable offensive lineman on their roster as they gave the 38-year old a three-year contract extension worth $30 million!
Good to see the Rams have learned not to dole out heavy contract extensions to guys on their roster that are nearing the end of their careers though.
Rams 2020 Defensive Preview
Thanks to Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke lighting his money on fire like the Joker in “The Dark Knight,” the Rams entered 2020 with the inability to retain the likes of Dante Fowler, Cory Littleton or Clay Matthews Jr.
Fortunately for Los Angeles, the team still has Aaron Donald, who is like a one-man army on his own. Donald is arguably the best player in all of football and has tormented opposing teams’ offenses ever since he entered the league.
Los Angeles will once again run a 3-4 defense in 2020, but will no longer have longtime defensive coordinator Wade Phillips calling the shots, as McVay elected to move past the 73-year old coordinator and hired former Vic Fangio assistant Brandon Staley for his first-ever coordinator job.
The Rams were able to scrape together enough change under Kroenke’s couch cushions to make two free-agent signings in 2020, that of former Bears’ 1st round pick Leonard Floyd and former Lions defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson.
Without question, the Rams defensive line will be the highlight of this Rams defense, as the team will also have Michael Brockers back in addition to depth pieces Sebastian Joseph-Day and Greg Gaines.
The biggest questions on the Rams defensive unit will come from the team’s linebacking corps, as the team will look to replace the losses of both Dante Fowler and Clay Matthews in 2020. The aforementioned Leonard Floyd will replace Fowler at one of the edge-rushing positions, with Samson Ebukam likely to start at the other edge rusher spot. The other linebackers of Micah Kiser and Justin Lawler will be tasked to man the other linebacking positions, but each is still very inexperienced so it’s anyone’s guess what to expect from them in 2020.
The Rams secondary will also look different than it has in recent seasons, as the team will be without outstanding nickel corner Nickell Robey-Coleman and longtime veteran safety Eric Weddle. Fortunately for the Rams, they have Jalen Ramsey on their roster and he has the ability to eliminate half of the field on his own.
2019 2nd round pick Taylor Rapp will start at safety in place of the retired Weddle, and will be joined by John Johnson at safety. Playing opposite of Ramsey at cornerback will be Troy Hill, who has been with the team since 2017. The Rams secondary did have some roster churn, but as they enter the 2020 NFL season they are more athletic in the secondary than they’ve ever been under Sean McVay.
Rams 2020 Outlook & Prediction
While the cupboard certainly isn’t bare, the Rams will look much different in 2020 than they have during the first three seasons under coach Sean McVay, who has only posted records of 11-5, 13-3, and 9-7 since being hired to coach the Rams as a 30-year old in 2017.
The Rams were largely seen as Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald’s team with Jared Goff making the occasional cameo appearance, but that is no longer the case whatsoever, as this Rams offense will live and die on Goff’s arm.
Los Angeles lost quite a bit of veteran talent in the offseason and with a salary cap situation that’s not going to get much relief for at least another season, it will be difficult for the Rams to field the assets to contend in an absolutely loaded division featuring the reigning NFC Champion 49ers, Seahawks and a young and up and coming Arizona Cardinals team.
Like the case is with many teams that have good coaching and middle-of-the-pack talent, the Rams have the potential to overachieve this season if they can find a replacement for Todd Gurley and get continuity at offensive line, but if they do not find either of those things in 2020, the Rams inaugural season in their $5 billion stadium may be a bust.
We love Aaron Donald and several of the Rams players, but we just don’t think this is the season they will rebound and get back to the top of the NFC.
Rams 2020 Projection: 7-9, 4th NFC West
Rams 2020 Betting Preview
We like the following futures bets related to the Los Angeles Rams for the upcoming 2020 NFL Season.
- Los Angeles Rams UNDER 8 Wins — (+103) at DraftKings Sportsbook
The Rams have 7 games in 2020 against teams that made the playoffs a season ago, and this is not counting matchups against Dallas, Tampa Bay, and their two games against a very improved Arizona team. We just don’t see the Rams coming out of their schedule eclipsing the 8-8 mark, and we will take the chance with plus-money at the Rams having the first losing season during Sean McVay’s tenure.
- Jared Goff OVER 4325.5 Yards Passing — (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook
In Goff’s past two seasons, he has topped 4600 yards passing in each, but it’s the 2019 season that has us excited for this prop. Last year was a nice preview of what the Rams offense may evolve into without Todd Gurley’s presence in the lineup, and that offense is Goff airing the ball out to his three wide receivers. Regardless of the question marks at running back and offensive line for the Rams this season, we love Goff to clear this number if he stays on the field for the whole season.
- Jared Goff to Lead NFL in Passing Yards — (+700) at DraftKings Sportsbook
On the surface, this bet may seem crazy. But consider that in 2018, Goff finished 4th in the NFL in passing yards, and last season he finished in 3rd. With major question marks at running back and McVay’s love of throwing the football out of his base 3WR personnel, we can see Goff and the Rams getting into some shootouts this season and that could ultimately result in Goff topping 5,000 yards passing for the first time in his career and delivering a nice 7-to-1 hit in the process.