Last season was not as spectacular as the Rams Super Bowl run the previous year.
The West was a dominant division in the NFC as the Seahawks and Forty-Niners finished in the top five in the conference.
This season will be no different as the Rams will have a lot to prove to get back in the Super Bowl race.
Let’s take a deep dive into the NFC West and see what’s in store for the Rams this season.
Last Season’s Setbacks
The Rams were a few inches away from the eighth seed in the NFC after going 9-7. That spot ultimately went to Philadelphia as they were the NFC East divisional winners.
Even if the two teams battled it out for that final spot, the Eagles would have beat the Rams because of their better divisional record; the Rams went 3-3, and the Eagles went 5-1.
Let’s flip the games where the Rams lost by a field goal or less. Now they are 11-5 and 5-1 in the conference.
San Francisco would drop to 4-2 in the conference, and the Rams would have been divisional champs. It was the away games that hurt them last season. If the Rams won the game in Pittsburg as well; they go 12-4. Not enough for a first-round by but enough to play the Eagles in the wild card round. The Rams played great but need to finish on the road, especially those divisional games.
Arizona made a splash in the offseason trading for DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins gives second-year quarterback Kyler Murray a much-needed target. In exchange, they gave away their All-Pro running back in David Johnson. There must be some confidence in the running backroom to depart with Johnson.
But the Rams have the best rush-and-cover duo in the NFL in Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. Look for Ramsey to lock up Hopkins and Darnold to make plays in the backfield on both passing and rushing attempts. Even with the addition of Hopkins, the Cardinals still have a lot to prove and should be wins for the Rams.
Seattle has one of the most dynamic offenses in the league. They have a rival wide receiver duo in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. Russel Wilson is one of the best quarterbacks in the game and can get creative in the backfield. They have one of the top quarterbacks with Russel Wilson. The Seahawks can also burn you on the run with a deep and experience running backroom.
The Rams won’t play Seattle until week 10; right after the bye week. That’s both a blessing and a curse. While that means that they’ll get an extra week to get ready; Seattle will also have eight weeks to study Brandon Staley’s new defense.
If the Rams want to beat Seattle, then the defense needs to get pressure on Willson. Sacks were a difference-maker in the Rams win last season where they recorded four more compared to the game they lost. They also held Wilson to a lower yards-gained per pass attempt average. If Aaron Darnold can get in Wilson’s face and make plays in the backfield, then the Rams should pull out two wins. Expect them to split the series though, losing on the road.
San Francisco 49ers
If the Rams won their game against the Forty-Niners last season, then we could have seen a completely different NFC playoff picture. The biggest challenge for San Francisco next season is the expectations of them as conference champs. The Forty-Niners are a young team lead by second-year starter Jimmy Garapallo, who threw 13 interceptions last season.
The difference between a blow out loss and a close game was four sacks. However, the offense needs to match the defense’s production. The Rams were only able to put up one touchdown against San Francisco in their first game. The offense needs to find ways to put numbers on the board, and the defense needs to put pressure on Garrapalo. It wouldn’t hurt to take George Kittle out of the game and force him to throw to his receivers instead of the no. 1 tight end in the NFL.
Featured Image: Keith Birmingham / Pasadena Star-News