The NFC Favorites No One Is Talking About
The Los Angeles Rams are really good but no one is talking about them for some bizarre reason. It’s like everyone has seemed to have forgotten less than 2 years ago the Rams were competing in a Super Bowl. This team is of course very different from the team that beat the Chiefs 54-51 in one of the most exciting games in NFL history. That team was built on explosive offensive plays. Todd Gurley having an All-Pro caliber season opened up the play-action game for Goff and he looked like an MVP candidate. The system was perfect for him and he seemed to have justified his 1st overall selection 2 years prior. Sean McVay seemed to have figured out a way to get the best out of his young quarterback. This team is different, neither Gurley nor Goff who stood out in the first 2 years as a head coach are no longer here.
Defense Wins, But Not On Its Own.
This current Rams team is predicated on elite defense. The biggest change on defense for the Rams this year is the departure of coordinator Brandon Staley, who is now the head coach of the Chargers. But how many teams have ever been able to say they have a generational player on the defensive line and at cornerback? The Rams defense finished number 1 overall last year, number 1 in scoring defense, number 1 in passing defense, and number 3 in rushing defense. In other words, they were incredible on that side of the ball. They gave up 18.5 points a game on average. Although a few of their players on defense didn’t come back, most of their elite game changers are still there. New defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, who was interim head coach in Atlanta last year, is more than capable of maintaining the Rams level on defense. They spent 5 of their 9 draft picks reinforcing that side of the ball. The Rams have no doubts that they will be a top 3 defense again in 2021, Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey will see to that no matter who is calling the plays.
In his first year as a head coach, Sean Mcvay made a name for himself on offense. Explosive plays were a hallmark of that season, finishing second only behind Kansas City in Mahomes’ MVP year. Creative play calling and simply out coaching everyone else earned him Coach of the Year honors. ‘Boy Genius’ they called him and rightly so, the youngest NFL head coach of the modern era was tearing the league apart. McVay kicked on in his second year and took his team to their first super bowl appearance 18 years.
Last season, however, the Rams finished overall 22nd on offense. A lot of that can be and most likely will be attributed the Jared Goff and his inability to make plays consistently when the team is struggling to control time of possession and they got behind. Goff is by no means a bad player, he is a middle-of-the-pack quarterback who under the right circumstances can make plays and help your team get far. But he is not going to be the player that makes pieces around him better and helps the lesser players excel by putting the team on his back. To be fair to Goff he broke his finger towards the end of the season and still managed to return in the playoffs for his team so his toughness cannot be called into question.
Welcome, Mathew Stafford
In 11 years, Stafford had a defense in the top 20 just 4 times. During his time with the Lions, he had a top 10 defense only 1 time. That year they finished 11-5 and went to the playoffs. Stafford is not only one of the toughest players in the whole league, he is up there with the most talented throwers of the ball in the league. He has never had a supporting cast this exciting, a run game this effective, and definitely never had a defense this elite.
The Rams have one of the best receiver duos in the league and last year’s rookie Cam Akers seems to have picked up where Todd Gurley left off a few years ago. McVay has so much more he can do with Stafford as his quarterback. Stafford can make every throw and improvise when plays break down. No disrespect to Goff but Stafford is a massive upgrade at the position for the Rams. This offseason move instantly makes them one of the favorites if not the outright favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
The Rams consistently have one of the best special teams in the league, they are certainly going to have a defense in the top 10 and you can guarantee their offense won’t rank that low again.