After a magical 2018 season that saw them return to the Super Bowl, the Los Angeles Rams came back down to earth in 2019. In the third year under head coach Sean McVay, the Rams finished just 9-7, missing the playoffs altogether. So this year, as the team begins a new chapter in their brand new stadium, Los Angeles will aim to improve that record and return to postseason action.
Currently, L.A.’s Over/Under win total is at 8.5. So we’ll review how their offseason has gone, as well as what their schedule looks like, before giving our official prediction.
As a team who was up against the cap going into the offseason, the Rams didn’t end up with many new acquisitions. During free agency, they added to their defense with a two-year signing of Lions DT A’Shawn Robinson. They also agreed to a one-year deal with Bears EDGE Leonard Floyd. They spent a good deal of their money on their own, however, re-signing OT Andrew Whitworth and DT Michael Brockers to three-year deals and also bringing OG Austin Blythe back for another season.
All that being said, the amount of departures will make this Rams team look very different than in the last couple of years. As far as name recognition, the release of RB Todd Gurley was big news, as their star running back of five years ended up signing with the Falcons. WR Brandin Cooks was also dealt away to the Texans in exchange for draft picks. The defense was hit hard in free agency, with EDGE Dante Fowler Jr. joining Gurley in Atlanta and LB Cory Littleton signing a multi-year agreement with the Raiders. The secondary was also affected by the departure of CB Nickell Robey-Coleman (now with the Eagles) and retirement of S Eric Weddle. Other notable players gone include K Greg Zuerlein, now with the Cowboys, and still-unsigned LB Clay Matthews and QB Blake Bortles.
For the fourth consecutive year, the Rams did not have a selection in the first round of the draft. But when they were on the clock in the second round, they used their two picks on Florida State RB Cam Akers and Florida WR Van Jefferson. They used both of their picks in the following round on defense, selecting Alabama LB Terrell Lewis and Utah S Terrell Burgess. Among their other five draft picks, they took Purdue TE Brycen Hopkins and Ohio State S Jordan Fuller.
The Rams will face off against their division rivals in the NFC West two times each, while also battling both the NFC East and AFC East. As the third-place finishers last season, they’ll also have matchups against the Bears and Buccaneers. According to the NFL’s strength of schedule rankings, Los Angeles is tied for the 10th-toughest schedule in football, with their opponents racking up a .516 winning percentage in 2019. However, only the Seahawks have an easier schedule in the division.
L.A. won’t see many of their division foes in the first half of the season. In fact, they’ll see only one, the 49ers, before their Week 9 bye. The Rams open up season on Sunday night hosting the Cowboys. They’ll then play the other three NFC East teams over the next four weeks, with a road game against the Bills wedged in the middle. Then after that swing comes their road game at San Francisco followed by a home contest versus Chicago and a road matchup against the Dolphins. Coming out of the bye, L.A. will welcome the Seahawks and 49ers to their new stadium, while also taking a trip across the country to Tampa Bay. Then in the final five weeks, they’ll host the Patriots and Jets, visit Seattle and Arizona, before closing their season at home versus the Cardinals.
There’s no denying that the Rams lost some essential players this offseason. However, they’re hoping to offset the losses of guys like Gurley, Fowler and Littleton with younger options like Akers, Floyd and Lewis. But there is still plenty of star power on the field, where QB Jared Goff plus WRs Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods have shown a mastery of McVay’s offense. Then on defense, you still have arguably the best defensive player in football in DE Aaron Donald as well as the ultra-talented CB Jalen Ramsey.
So will it be over or under 8.5 for the Rams? Keep in mind, they share a division with elite teams like San Francisco and Seattle plus a much-improved Arizona club. However, they also play a number of teams who are expected to struggle this season. They’re a tough team to project, since although their offensive line shouldn’t be as bad as it was last year, their defense has objectively taken a step back. For me, the likelihood of them being a .500 team or worse is a little higher than reaching nine or ten wins. So I’m picking the Rams UNDER 8.5 wins for the 2020 season.
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