Ahead of the 2018 NFL season, we’re bringing you a series outlining which teams are getting too much hype and what rosters are sneakily going under the radar.
Disclaimer: I hate your favourite team, regardless of who they are. Please use this rationale if it makes you feel better after hearing about how your team aren’t half as good as they think they are.
If you’ve missed our previews, check them out here:
- What’s not to love about the New York Giants?
- The Minnesota Vikings should be Super Bowl favourites
- Are the San Francisco 49ers overrated?
- NFL: Are Green Bay finally giving Aaron Rodgers the support he needs?
- NFL Hype Check: The Seahawks’ poor drafting in recent years has left them in an unholy mess
- NFL Hype Check: Can the New England Patriots really do it all again?
Los Angeles Rams
Projected Win Total: 9.5
Very rarely has a team’s win total meant so much in terms of front office vindication as it does with this current Rams setup.
Last year’s surprise package were nothing short of spectacular under 31-year-old Sean McVay. In most regimes, losing an offensive coordinator like the Rams did with Matt LeFleur would be problematic, but McVay is the playcaller for that offence regardless.
His play designs were as sophisticated as anyone had seen in the league and Todd Gurley looks the best back in football in this system. This is fairly much a case of this age-old question – has he peaked too soon or is there upward improvement?
First off, it’s hard to see the team win eleven games again. But Seattle won’t be winning nine games like they did last year and the Cardinals have gotten worse. However, his fresh schematics have been sat on game tape for opposing coaches to analyse all summer. And that’s a very, vey long summer.
It’s worth pointing out that Jared Goff’s transformation into an MVP candidate was one of the strangest feats ever seen in the league. Of course, his scheme helps him, but he’s only 23 – that’s part of the process and it should be.
Away from the quarterback position is where the interest should lie, though.
Their dealings probably have them at a net gain overall. Connor Barwin and Trumaine Johnson left for New York and Sammy Watkins is a Kansas City Chief (more on that later).
They acquired Aqib Talib (having to give up even more draft capital) who’s 32. Not to mention Marcus Peters who may be the most talented defensive back in football. They also picked up Ndamukong Suh from Miami. Both Talib and Suh are perennial Pro Bowlers, but their days are numbered.
This stinks of a backroom staff that are over-confident and are willing to flash the big bucks for veterans who will just plug in and play, in the hope of getting a Super Bowl ring. It’s not that easy!
While they’re geared up to tackle anyone, they’ve put their faith in a head coach who is younger than some of his players and a quarterback who’s younger than almost everyone in the league.
If you’re a Rams fan, you should be concerned about the lack of talent that will be the roster for the foreseeable future. They move into their new stadium in 2020 and they’ll probably have Jared Goff and only Goff under the age of 40.
Those youngsters are due big paydays and if you’re signing veterans like Suh and Talib to complement that, there’s only so much wiggle room you have to work with.
They didn’t have a pick in the first two rounds of this year’s draft and they’ve got the fewest selections in next year’s draft (5) – with no pick in the second, fourth or seventh rounds. Their general manager has quite a headache ahead of him.
Should they not land a Super Bowl in the next two years, they’ll be entering a five-year slump unless their scouting department trumps the other 31 over next year by finding exceptional value in the later rounds.
Either way, they’re a couple of injuries away from a complete press of the reset button.
But none of this affects them for the coming season – negligence is long-term and rarely has short-term consequences.
What does have short-term consequences is refusing to come to an agreement with the best player in football and having him not report to training camp because of it. Aaron Donald is in the middle of a contract dispute with the Rams organisation.
The line is set at 9.5. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Rams should be above it with Donald on their roster and absolutely will be below it if he isn’t on the field for them.Their draft class this year will contribute absolutely nothing, as their highest pick was #89. It’s unusual for a third-rounder to have a profound impact on the fortunes of any side in his rookie year, so we can discard that.
A big reason their secondary was so good last year, forgetting raw talent, was because the unit was nearly impossible to run against due to their front four. Without Donald in that defensive tackle spot, Suh is taking on double teams and his knees probably won’t allow him to do that as effectively anymore.
Their four linebackers don’t offer a whole pile in terms of athleticism and run-stopping. Are you overly familiar with Matt Longacre, Samson Ebukam, Cory Littleton and Mark Barron? Of course you’re not. For good reason.
If you can run against this XI and make passing situations like third-and-long less frequent, it adds an element of surprise to oppositions’ passing approach. If you don’t, having Aqib Talib paired with Marcus Peters is almost unfair.
Only four of the Rams’ wins last season were one-score games. Defences were exhausted against them because Gurley and co ran it down their throats and the clock kept running. If you take away a run defence, that levels the playing field.
Having the best secondary unit only matters if you can stop the run in the first place. Without Aaron Donald, their secondary is completely useless.
It will be exciting to see just how well a 23-year-old signal-caller Goff does in tight games. The Rams didn’t win a game in which they trailed going into the final quarter last season. They’ll likely have more of those in 2018.
The line is set on 9.5 for a reason – because an entire season, and in this situation, a betting line – rests solely on the contract dispute of a single performer.