NFL Update: L.A. Rams Already an NFC Elite

The Los Angeles Rams were supposed to be better in the 2017 NFL Season than they were in the 2016 NFL Season. Ask any NFL fan on the planet and they would have told you the same thing, “The Rams will be better.”

But, being better doesn’t mean going from a 4 and 12 season to possibly winning your division. That’s exactly what the Rams could do this season. It sounds crazy, but before NFL Week 15, the L.A. Rams are at 9 and 4. The Rams are a game ahead of the NFC West’s perennial winner, the Seattle Seahawks.

Could the L.A. Rams actually make the playoffs a year after being one of the worst teams in the league? They could. How far will the Rams go? I try to answer that question after reviewing my 2017 NFL Rams update.

Los Angeles Rams 2017 Update

I answer some of the questions that I posted in my Rams preview blog before the season started. Then, I discuss the Rams’ chances of making the playoffs, and how far they might go.

Who is Sean McVay?

Answer:  He’s one of the best head coaches in the NFL

The L.A.  Rams organization was absolutely giddy after hiring Sean McVay, Washington’s offensive coordinator, as their head coach. More than one individual in the Rams’ front office described McVay as being the next Jon Gruden.

Has that turned out to be the case? Yes, and then some. If there’s one word to describe Sean McVay, it’s fearlessness. He started day one having no fear, and didn’t fear that his second-year quarterback, Jared Goff, wouldn’t pick up the system. He didn’t fear that he had to throw the ball to Sammy Watkins on every down, nor he fear that wouldn’t come together. And he didn’t fear that his star running back, Todd Gurley, wouldn’t perform.

McVay is Fearless

That lack of fear is why McVay is such an electrifying NFL head coach. On Sept. 10, in Week 1, the Rams dominated the Indianapolis Colts 46 to 9. The Rams were only favored by 3.5 points. What’s crazier is that the Rams only rushed for 63 total yards. Jared Goff threw for 306 yards and a TD.

After Week 1, everyone believed that McVay’s offense was all about the pass. That turned out to be untrue. In Week 3’s 41 to 39 win over San Francisco, Todd Gurley rushed for 113 yards from 28 carries. He also rushed for 2 TDs. Goff threw 3 TD passes, but he only threw for 239 yards.

What it showed is that McVay isn’t afraid to mix it up. But the win over the San Francisco 49’ers wasn’t the game that led to my belief that Sean McVay is already one of the best coaches in the NFL. In the very next week versus the Dallas Cowboys, McVay made one of the smartest decisions I’ve seen a coach make during an NFL game in a long, long time.

At halftime versus the Cowboys, the Rams found themselves down 24 to 16. L.A. outscored the Boys 19 to 6 in the second half for a stunning 35 to 30 win. How did the Rams do it? McVay changed up the offense. Instead of having Goff throw to his wide receivers, he had Goff dump down to Gurley on almost every passing play. Gurley caught 6 of 8 targets. He not only rushed for 121 yards, but he also gained 94 receiving yards to go along with a TD catch.

That’s what makes Sean McVay special. He’s not afraid to switch it up.

Has Sammy Watkins to the Rams Worked Out?

Answer:  Yes, but not in the way we imagined it to work out.

During the off-season, the L.A. Rams acquired wide receiver Sammy Watkins and a sixth round pick for cornerback E.J. Gaines and a Round 2 pick. Most NFL fans thought the Bills unloading Watkins for only Gaines and a Round 2 pick was ridiculous. Those fans might believe the Bills got the better end of the deal because Watkins’ stats this season haven’t been mind-blowing.

Sammy has caught 34 passes this season. Before Week 15, he’s averaging less than 3 catches per game. Those aren’t fantastic stats. What are nice stats are Sammy’s 7 TD catches and his 16 yards per catch average. Both of those imply that Watkins has the ability to be much more effective than just 34 catches as of NFL Week 14.

But, Sammy’s stats don’t tell the whole story. Watkins’ abilities make him the top wide receiver on the Rams’ offense. What it means is that more often than not, passing defenses must contend with Sammy Watkins before contending with anyone else on the Rams’ offense.

Watkins’ mere presence has made him a valuable addition to the L.A. Rams. He doesn’t have to catch a single pass to have an effect on the outcome of the game. While shaded by Arizona’s All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson in Week 13, Sammy only caught 3 passes for 38 yards. One of his catches went for a TD. But, other than the TD, Peterson did a good job covering Sammy.

What happened in the game? The Rams dominated the Cards 32 to 16. Acquiring Sammy Watkins was a brilliant move on the part of the L.A. Rams. Goff doesn’t have to throw to Watkins for Sammy to have an effect on the game.

QB Jared Goff is a Solid NFL Quarterback

Due to hand size, I had my doubts regarding Jared Goff as becoming a complete quarterback in the NFL. Goff’s hands were supposed to be too small for him to be effective in the NFL. I did see some great play by Goff during his rookie season, though. There were signs that Goff might be a decent starting QB. I didn’t think he’d be this good.

Goff’s been great this season. It’s only his second season as a pro. Before Week 15, Goff has thrown for 3,833 yards. He’s also thrown 22 TD passes, and only thrown 6 interceptions. He’s got plenty of upside. The stats should only get better from Goff’s sophomore season on.

What About RB Todd Gurley?

Answer: Gurley is the best running back in the NFL

The one player on the L.A. Rams that has impressed me the most is running back Todd Gurley. Gurley has played in 13 games. He’s already amassed 1,035 rushing yards. He’s already rushed for 10 TDs. Gurley averages a ridiculous 4.4 yards per rush.

What’s truly brilliant about Gurley’s game is that he’s one of the best pass-catching running backs in the NFL. Gurley has 51 catches this season. He’s amassed 602 receiving yards. He’s caught 3 TD passes. Todd’s yards per catch average is close to 12.

Has Todd Gurley bounced back from his disappointing second season in the NFL? He most definitely has. I think he’s the best running back in the NFL.

L.A. Rams Defense Has Gotten Better

The Rams defense isn’t ranked in the Top 10 in any defensive category. The Rams’ D has gotten somewhat better in the second half of the NFL Season, though. New Orleans could only score 20 points versus the Rams. Arizona scored only 16 points against LAR’s D in Week 13.

Philadelphia scored 43 points. However, the Eagles have one of the best offenses in the NFL. I also feel that Philly intimidated the young Rams in the Week 14 loss. Don’t get me wrong, L.A.’s defense isn’t where it must be for the Rams to win the Super Bowl.

It is getting better. That’s a big positive.

Bottom Line: The Rams Will Make the Playoffs After That it’s Anybody’s Guess

The Rams are too good of a football team not to make it to the playoffs. Before Week 15, LAR is a game ahead of Seattle in the NFC West Division. If the Rams can beat Seattle this Sunday, they’d take a big step closer to winning the division.

Once the Rams make the playoffs, all bets are off, though. Los Angeles is a good team. I’m not sure they’re a great team just yet. The defense must improve if L.A. is to repeat the victory over the Saints, or upset either Minnesota or Philadelphia.

Just making the playoffs is a huge accomplishment for the Los Angeles Rams. Good times have returned for the Rams’ NFL fans in the City of Angels.

What do you think?

Written by D.S. Williamson

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