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NFC West

Rams Season Predictions

Jared Goff. Photo by Jeffrey Beall. (CC BY 4.0)

LOS ANGELES – The COVID-19 pandemic has completely discombobulated the sports world this year, causing unprecedented suspensions and postponements of entire sports leagues across the globe. Luckily, it seems like we will get somewhat of a return to normalcy in the fall, as the NFL is scheduled to begin on time, with the first regular season game scheduled for September 10.

While the timing of the season may be normal, the everyday operation of the league will be everything but. Players, coaches, and other personnel will have to abide by social distancing guidelines, and games will likely end up having to be played without fans in the stadiums. With these unique circumstances, one can assume that we are in for an interesting season to say the least; however, we are all still looking forward to a return of football.

The Rams missed the playoffs last year for the first time in Sean McVay’s tenure, finishing with a disappointing 9-7 record. They lost the momentum from their playoff berth in 2017 and Super Bowl appearance in 2018. McVay takes full responsibility for the backslide in 2019 and vows to return the team to its winning ways in 2020. “Our goal and expectation is to prepare to win every single game,” said McVay.

While coach McVay is understandably confident in his team, the league has a different outlook. The NFL Power Rankings have the Rams ranked #17 going into the 2020 season due to “several roster holes and not enough cap space or draft picks to fix everything.” Additionally, the Rams have one of the toughest schedules in the league in 2020, and the NFC West has drastically improved in the offseason.

All factors considered, I think the Rams are in for another mediocre season. The loss of stars like Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, Eric Weddle, and Clay Matthews will likely cause a drop in production. Also, their division features the NFC Champion 49ers, the consistently strong Seahawks, and the vastly improved Cardinals. The Rams have too much talent in Jared Goff, Cooper Kupp, Aaron Donald, and Jalen Ramsey to go into full rebuild mode; however, they are in no position to legitimately compete for a playoff berth.

2020 Season Record: 7-9

 Week 1: Cowboys @ Rams

 The Rams will open the season in their brand new home: the SoFi Stadium. Unfortunately, they are matched up with one of the best offenses in the NFL. Assuming the Cowboys are able to get a deal done with Dak Prescott, their offense will feature the trio of Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and Amari Cooper, with an additional boost expected from first-round pick CeeDee Lamb. Additionally, the Rams will likely have many players seeing their first NFL action. I think the Rams struggle out the gate and drop the first game to the Cowboys, who will be a playoff team this season.

Week 2: Rams @ Eagles

 The Rams’ first away game is against a vastly improved Eagles team, who were able to squeeze into the playoffs last season despite being battered with injuries. A healthy Eagles team is one of the most complete teams in the NFL, and I consider them a Super Bowl contender for the 2020 season. Carson Wentz has an arsenal of weapons with Marquise Goodwin, Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Zach Ertz, and rookie Jalen Raegor, while Miles Sanders and Corey Clement round out the backfield. On defense, Fletcher Cox and Darius Slay are sure to give the Rams some problems. I think the Rams struggle mightily in week 2, as the Eagles win their first home game of the season.

Week 3: Rams @ Bills

 The Bills are fresh off of an impressive 2019 campaign, where they shocked everyone with a 10-6 record and playoff berth. Buffalo only improved in the offseason, adding big names like Stefon Diggs and Josh Norman through free agency to a roster that was already one of the best in the league. In this game, I think the Rams are just simply outmatched in terms of talent, and it doesn’t help to be away from home. In my opinion, the Rams will unfortunately start the season 0-3.

Week 4: Giants @ Rams

After a two-game road trip, the Rams return home to face the young and promising Giants. The Giants are slowly but surely returning to competitive form, but I think they’re a year or two away from realizing some of that potential. In 2020, they’ll be a very young team with a brand new head coach, which will cause for a turbulent season. The Giants struggle heavily on defense, so I expect this game to be the coming-out party for Rams’ rookie Cam Akers, who will likely carry the load in the offensive backfield this season. Additionally, I think Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey will cause problems for Daniel Jones and the Giants’ passing game. The Giants’ youth will show in this game, and the Rams will ultimately get their first win of the season, as well as their first win the new stadium.

Week 5: Rams @ Redskins 

If I had to pick which team will end up with the worst record in 2020, I would pick the Redskins. The team is just mediocre from top to bottom. They have no idea who their quarterback is, there is no real pass-catching threat outside of Terry McLaurin, and the backfield will likely be headlined by an aging Adrian Peterson. Chase Young, the #2 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, will likely give the Skins a boost on defense, but that’s very unlikely to translate into wins this season. The Rams should dominate this game on both sides of the ball and get their second win of the season.

Week 6: Rams @ 49ers 

Week 6 will be the beginning of a tough season within the NFC West division for the Rams. The defending NFC Champions are poised for another strong 2020 campaign. The 49ers have one of the best defenses in the NFL, and their dominant defensive line will cause many problems for the Rams offense. The 49ers offense is designed to pound defenses with the run, and the trio of Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, and Jerick McKinnon will put tons of pressure on the Rams’ weak linebacker corps. The Rams just don’t match up well with this team, and I expect another loss on the board in week 6.

Week 7: Bears @ Rams 

The Bears and the Rams are about equal in terms of talented rosters: both rosters feature some stars, and both rosters have some holes. In terms of the matchup, I give the slight edge to the Rams in this one. The Bears’ strongest aspect is their defense, especially their linebackers and defensive backs; however, they have one of the weakest offensive rosters in the league. Both potential starting quarterbacks are less-than-impressive with Nick Foles and Mitchell Trubisky, their mediocre backfield features David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen, and their receiving core is probably the worst in the NFL. I think this will be a close game where defense dominates, but, ultimately, I think homefield advantage will allow the Rams’ offense to score more than the Bears. Advantage: Rams.

Week 8: Rams @ Dolphins 

The Dolphins had an abysmal season in 2019, but they did make some improvements in the offseason by signing free agents Byron Jones and Kyle Van Noy and drafting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Even with these improvements, however, the Dolphins are unlikely to be competitive for the next couple seasons. This could be another game where Rams’ rookie Cam Akers can thrive, as the Dolphins struggle on both sides of the ball. Aaron Donald will also be able to wreak havoc in the middle of the defense, due to the lack of weapons on Miami’s offense. I expect the Rams’ star players to show up big in South Beach, and the Rams will even up their record at 4-4 after a tough start to the season.

Week 9: BYE 

Week 10: Seahawks @ Rams

Following the bye week, the Rams will host the Seahawks for the first matchup between the division rivals. This game will be the one to decide the trajectory of the rest of the season. The NFC West will be the toughest division in the NFL in 2020, with the 49ers and Seahawks coming off of impressive 2019 campaigns and the Cardinals improving dramatically in the offseason. This leaves very little wiggle room for the Rams to compete for a playoff spot. Unfortunately, the Seahawks are simply more talented than the Rams. While I think this game has the potential to be one of the better games of the year, I would put my money on Russell Wilson and the Seahawks. The Rams lose in a close one.

Week 11: Rams @ Buccaneers

The Buccaneers will be the fourth Super Bowl contender the Rams will play in the 2020 season (49ers, Seahawks, Eagles). The Bucs are absolutely stacked on offense: two Pro Bowl receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, three star-caliber tight ends in Rob Gronkowski, OJ Howard and Cameron Brate, a young and efficient running back in Ronald Jones II, an offensive mastermind for a coach in Bruce Arians, and, of course, the GOAT Tom Brady at the forefront. On defense, the Bucs feature one of the best front sevens in football, bolstered by Shaq Barrett, Lavonte David, and Ndamukong Suh. With so much star power on the Bucs’ roster, the Rams don’t stand much of a chance. I’m expecting a double-digit victory for the Bucs in this one. Rams fall to 4-6 on the year.

Week 12: 49ers @ Rams 

The second game of the season between the 49ers and the Rams won’t be much different than the first. This just isn’t a good matchup for the Rams. The 49ers defensive line is sure to give the Rams’ inexperienced offensive line some major issues, which will make it difficult to get the offense up and running. San Francisco’s running game will likely neutralize Aaron Donald’s impact on the game, which will leave the Rams with very few opportunities to score. Due to home field advantage for the Rams and the division rivalry, this game may end up being closer than expected; however, the Rams will ultimately lose in the end.

Week 13: Rams @ Cardinals 

Depending on how the rest of the NFC performs for the season, The Rams and Cardinals could end up fighting with each other for a Wild Card spot in the playoffs. While the Cardinals had a disappointing season last year, the team has drastically improved in the offseason and will likely build on the momentum of Kyler Murray’s Rookie of the Year performance. The addition of All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins makes the Cards’ offense very intriguing, but they still have many holes to fill on the defensive side of the ball. Rookie first-rounder Isaiah Simmons will likely make an impact, but the defense is clearly the weak spot on this team. I think this game will be an offensive shootout. Both teams have capable offenses with questionable defenses, which will result in a high-scoring affair. Due to home field advantage, I will give the edge to the Cardinals in this one, but this will definitely be one of the more entertaining games of the season.

Week 14: Patriots @ Rams 

There are a lot of question marks surrounding the Patriots after the departure of Tom Brady. On paper, their roster doesn’t seem to have the necessary star power to be competitive, but you can never underestimate the power of Bill Belichick to get the most out of his team. Even so, I expect the Rams to break their 4-game losing streak and get the win at home. Barring any blockbuster free agent signings or trades, the Patriots will likely have either Brian Hoyer or Jarrett Stidham playing quarterback. Let’s just say neither of those guys instill fear into a defense. On top of that, their best offensive weapon is an aging Julian Edelman who can hardly remain healthy enough to play anymore. The Patriots’ defense is solid, but, other than Stephon Gilmore, they lack impact players. I’m expecting big games from Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey in this matchup, and Jared Goff should be able to lead the offense to some points. This may not be the highest scoring game of the season, but I give the edge to the Rams in this one.

Week 15: Jets @ Rams 

The Jets and the Rams will likely finish with a similar record in 2020, but this will be because of the Rams’ tough schedule. In terms of talent, the Jets do not matchup well with the Rams, and Los Angeles has more star power on the roster. The trade request of All-Pro safety Jamal Adams will likely put a stake through the Jets’ hopes of a decent season. The Jets have many holes on their roster, including an ineffective pass-rush and mediocre pass-catchers. Even with the lack of talent, the Jets could still be in playoff contention at this point due to the weakness of the AFC East, which could amount to an exciting football game. However, I think the Rams have the better team and ultimately get the win at home.

Week 16: Rams @ Seahawks 

If my season predictions are correct, this could be the game needed for the Seahawks to clinch a playoff berth. I fully expect the Seahawks to take care of business at home to secure their place in the post-season. Russell Wilson will have likely put together another MVP-caliber season to this point, and the Seahawks will be trying to bring the season to a close with some momentum. On the flip side, this might be around the time when the Rams start planning for the next season, as their playoff chances will be very unlikely. Unless the Seahawks are devastated by injuries like they were last season, I don’t really expect this game to be close at all. Seahawks win.

Week 17: Cardinals @ Rams 

This game is an interesting one. While I don’t expect it to mean much, there’s a possibility that this game could decide a Wild Card spot in the playoffs, depending on the trajectory of the season. Even without playoff implications, I expect this game to be a good one. Both teams, at the very least, will be playing for bragging rights within the division, and the Rams will be trying to avoid a season sweep in the NFC West. Due to homefield advantage, I think the Rams will finish the season strong and get the win at SoFi Stadium. They’ll split the season series with Cardinals 1-1.

2020 season record: 7-9

The Rams will finish the 2020 season out of playoff contention and just below .500 for the year. The biggest reason for the mediocre season will be the strength of the other teams in the NFC West. Whenever you have two Super Bowl contenders in the same division, it’ll be a tough year for the other members of the division. The biggest positive from this season will be the anticipated impact of rookie Cam Akers, whom I expect to make a push for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. If Akers can fill the shoes left behind by Todd Gurley, the Rams should be optimistic about building a competitive team for the 2021 season.

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