Rams Preview Capsule
LOS ANGELES RAMS (15-4)
New faces: S Eric Weddle, LB Clay Matthews, QB Blake Bortles, S Taylor Rapp, DT Greg Gaines.
Key losses: DT Ndamukong Suh, C John Sullivan, OG Rodger Saffold, S Lamarcus Joyner, LB Mark Barron, RB C.J. Anderson, QB Sean Mannion.
Strengths: Coach Sean McVay has been on cutting edge of offensive football during two successful seasons, and he’s highly motivated to evolve after LA offense’s Super Bowl belly flop. Almost every significant offensive component of last year’s 527-point team returns, with Jared Goff throwing to elite receiver group while Todd Gurley leads run game. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth also returns to provide stability up front. Wade Phillips’ defense still led by Aaron Donald, who has appeared to enjoy his first training camp since 2016. Weddle comes home to LA to join cornerbacks Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters in veteran secondary. Rams have met almost every challenge thrown their way during McVay’s tenure, and that resilience will be tested.
Weaknesses: Rams have lost several key players over past two offseasons without always replacing them impressively, and talent drain finally could catch up to them. LA hasn’t made first-round draft pick since 2016. Currently counting on youngster Sebastian Joseph-Day or fourth-round pick Gaines to replace mighty Suh at nose tackle, which could be big risk. Secondary is skilled but aging, and linebacker talent appears modest. Rams are counting on untested second-year pros Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen to replace departed starters Saffold and Sullivan from durable unit that played well for two years.
Fantasy Player To Watch: WR Cooper Kupp. Maybe your league has forgotten about sure-handed wideout who caught 62 passes for 869 yards as rookie. He was midway through another prolific season last fall when he tore knee ligament in November and missed entire playoff run. Kupp returns healthy, and McVay seems certain to target him early and often. Kupp and Goff have strong bond from offseason workouts, too.
Vegas Says: Win Super Bowl, 12 1-2 to 1. Over/under wins 10 1-2.
Expectations: Poor Super Bowl performance and static offseason have pushed Rams slightly down most lists of title contenders, even though they’ve won 26 games over last two seasons. That’s fine with Donald, Gurley, Goff and Rams’ other low-profile stars who don’t seek spotlight. Goff and McVay face greatest tests this season after quarterback’s muted play down stretch and head coach’s struggles against Bill Belichick’s defense. If McVay keeps up impressive work on offense and in locker room, Rams can win third straight NFC West title and contend for first back-to-back Super Bowl berths in franchise history.