Aaron Donald and the Rams are eager to make another run at the Super Bowl
To say that 4-12 campaign when the Rams returned to Los Angeles is a distant memory around town would be putting it mildly. It might as well have been a decade ago when viewed from both the standpoint of on-field progress and in the larger sporting landscape in Southern California. Though the team's new palace of a stadium is still a year away from opening, one wouldn't be wrong in calling this the model NFL franchise right now west of New England.
The offseason hires around the league — i.e. anybody with any connection to head coach Sean McVay — are a good show of respect for the recent past under this still young regime but there's still work left to be done for a team where their core group of players is as talented as anybody. The mistakes made in the Super Bowl may very well be a driving force for the Rams in 2019 and just the extra push needed to get over the hump to hoist the Lombardi.
The path to another appearance in the final game of the year won't be easy however, with tough tests from the AFC North on the docket to say nothing of their own division making things tough with an improved 49ers squad and the always-pesky Seahawks looking to stand in the way. Mix in a few other games against top NFC contenders like the Saints and Cowboys and L.A. will certainly have to bring their A-game each week to fend off challenge after challenge.
How will it all play out for the NFC's current top dog? Athlon Sports asked several experts to share their predictions for just how the Rams' season will play out and what the team's record will be when all is said and done.
Los Angeles Rams Game-by-Game Predictions for 2019
Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)
When healthy, it's hard to see another team in the league that can reach the ceiling the Rams have. As saw last year though, depth is an issue — particularly in the trenches. Still, Jared Goff figures to be even better with another offseason's worth of work and that should be more than enough to pick up any slack from a running game that might not be quite as good as it once was. Aaron Donald has proven to be the game's best player regardless of position and he might have a better pass-rushing supporting cast around him this time around, much to the delight of Wade Phillips no doubt. That schedule is brutal however and even if the Rams are as good as they were in 2018, the record might not reflect it. I'm optimistic about a return trip to the Super Bowl if things break right given how good Sean McVay has proven to be as a head coach but one rarely is able to stay on top for long before the rest of the league catches up.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Motivation shouldn't be lacking for the Rams in 2019. After a disappointing and lackluster performance in the Super Bowl, coach Sean McVay's squad should be primed for another run at the Lombardi Trophy. Los Angeles has a couple of tough tests (New Orleans, at Cleveland and at Seattle) before mid-October, which should provide some insight into how well this team has responded. And of course, all eyes will be on running back Todd Gurley and his injured knee. San Francisco should be better, and Seattle will be a factor for a playoff berth in the NFC. However, the NFC West title still runs through the Rams.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMark)
The Rams came up short in the Super Bowl but is there anyone out there who really expects this team to take that far of a step backward? Yes, there are concerns, such as Todd Gurley's knee, the changes along the offensive line, and the fact that the defense struggled in some areas last season. However, most of the key pieces are back, some new pieces have been added, and let's face it, Sean McVay is the hottest commodity on the coaching circuit right now. So unless Gurley's knee is worse than anyone is letting on, Jared Goff regresses back to his rookie form, or Aaron Donald suffers a serious injury, I fully expect the Rams to make another Super Bowl run.