Maybe the third time’s the charm in this second incarnation of the Los Angeles Rams. They kick-off the 2018 season – their third back in L.A. after relocating from St. Louis – tonight in Oakland against the Raiders.
Let’s remember back to the Rams inaugural season back in the City of Angels in 2016, Los Angeles jumped out to a 3-1 record only to lose 10 of its last eleven finishing at 4-12. Jeff Fisher was fired as head coach with three games left and the Rams tabbed Washington offensive assistant Sean McVay as the team’s new head coach when the season was mercifully done.
The 31 year-old “Wunderkid” guides the Rams to an 11 -5 record and the teams first NFC West Championship in more than a decade only to fall at the Coliseum in the divisional round of the playoffs to the Atlanta Falcons.
So, here we are. Season three.
A busy off-season’s landed the Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks, defensive backs Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh among others.
The Rams have extended the contracts of 2017 Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley and Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald both for the long term.
Meanwhile, third year quarterback Jared Goff still has a couple of seasons left on his rookie deal. So, the Rams are locked and loaded and are one of the favorites to end up in and win Super Bowl LIII February third in Atlanta.
Rams had the league’s top scoring offense, the top special teams and a top 10 defense last season.
Barring injury – which the Rams have been able to dodge the last couple of seasons – here’s how I think they’ll do this season game-by-game:
Week 1 at Oakland vs. the Raiders.
Jon Gruden’s back on the Raiders sideline coaching the Silver and Black for the first time since Bill Clinton was president. No reason I threw Bubba in this except for some perspective. Gruden gave McVay his first job in the coaching industry and you can see that “Chuckie’s” rubbed off on McVay by just speaking with him. With all that said, Chuckie just dumped the team’s best player – Khalil Mack – to the Bears for a couple of draft picks. Raiders have some good talent but they’re clearly rebuilding. It’ll be close for maybe a quarter when you consider Oakland’s offensive coordinator Gregg Olsen was the Rams QB coach last season. . So, Goff is a Marin County native and is back “home” tonight. His first game as a pro was in San Francisco two season’s ago although he didn’t play in that one as a rookie. The Rams have way too much. 33-13, Rams (1-0).
Week 2 vs. the Arizona Cardinals.
It’s the home opener at the Coliseum against an NFC West foe. The Rams picked Cardinals quarterback Sam Bradford with the first overall pick in the 2010 draft. Arizona got drilled in their home opener yesterday by the Washington Redskins. So, maybe UCLA rookie Josh Rosen gets a shot if Bradford is ineffective against Suh and Donald. By the way….did you know Suh was still giving Rams GM Les Snead a hard time that the Rams didn’t choose him first overall in 2010. He was nabbed with the second overall pick by Detroit right after Bradford was picked by the Rams. 45-14, Rams (2-0).
Week 3 vs. the Los Angeles Chargers.
It’s “The Fight for L.A.” and the battle of the two best uniforms in the league. Both teams are loaded. The Chargers basically did the same thing the Rams did in the off-season. They made some acquisitions included center Mike Pouncey because – like the Rams – the Bolts are all-in having to fill a $4 billion stadium beginning two seasons from now. This is going to be a high scoring tilt and will live up to the billing. Edge to the Rams. 37-24, Rams (3-0).
Week 4 Thursday vs. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings are one of the teams in that NFC Super Bowl mix especially with new QB Kirk Cousins who Sean McVay is quite familiar with. McVay molded Cousins into the QB he is now when both were in Washington. Norseman could come in at 3-0 as well in this Thursday night tilt at the Coliseum. While the Rams will have just had a tough one with the Bolts, Minnesota will be coming off a win over Buffalo. 27-24, Vikings. (Rams, 3-1).
Week 5 at Seattle Seahawks
Rams destroyed the Seahawks in the Emerald City last year. Seattle’s a bit on the decline. Doesn’t really matter because a division foe is a division foe. Plus, they still have QB Russell Wilson. 28-17, Rams (4-1).
Week 6 at Denver Broncos
L.A. defensive coordinator Wade Phillips returns to the Mile High City where he molded a Super Bowl winning defense that included Aqib Talib who now plays for the Rams. Former Rams QB Case Keenum will get acquainted with Donald, Suh and Brockers. 31-13, Rams (5-1).
Week 7 at San Francisco 49ers
So. Ca. vs. No. Cal. A lot of people are picking the 49ers to give the Rams a run for their money in the NFC West because of one QB Jimmy Garoppolo. He was 7-0 as a starter until the Vikings picked him off three times in a season-opening loss for Frisco. It’ll be close because this is one of the marquee rivalry games. I just think the Rams have too much. 27-23, Rams (6-1).
Week 8 vs Green Bay Packers
As future hall-of-fame QB Aaron Rodgers goes, so go the Packers. He got banged up in an epic season opening win over the Bears at Lambeau Field. Who knows how that injured left knee will be when these two meet. Packers O-Line will have its hands full trying to contain Suh and Donald. If Rodgers is healthy, it’ll be close. Still…. 31-27, Rams (7-1).
Week 9 at New Orleans Saints
Another NFC favorite to reach the Super Bowl and a back-to-back meeting with another future hall-of-fame QB in Drew Brees. The Saints and Rams should both be fine tuned by this meeting. If the Rams can win this one in the Big Easy…..look out. They may not lose another game. 35-27, Saints (Rams 7-2).
Week 10 vs. Seattle Seahawks
Sure. It’s the Seahawks and it’s a division foe. But, by this time of the season Seattle might be playing out the string. 31-13, Rams (8-2).
Week 11 vs. Kansas City Chiefs in Mexico City
A Monday nighter in Mexico. Defending NFC West Champs vs. the defending AFC West Champs with second year QB Patrick Mahomes running the K.C. offense. Rams’ Marcus Peters says HI to his former team while wide receiver Sammy Watkins says HI to his former Rams teammates. Rams will be a bit more rude. 35-17, Rams (9-2).
Week 12 Bye Week…
Week 13 at Detroit Lions
Unless LeGarrett Blount and Ameer Abdullah can establish the run, Lions QB Matthew Stafford’s will be running for his life. 41-17, Rams (10-2).
Week 14 at Chicago Bears
Well, Jared Goff gets to run into the Bears’ Khalil Mack after he was supposed to have that opportunity in week one….until Mack was dealt to Chicago. Could be snowing and the Bears are tough, especially with Mack. How about a special teams win for the Rams. 24-20, Rams (11-2).
Week 15 vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The defending Super Bowl champions make it back to the Coliseum where QB Carson Wentz suffered that season-ending knee injury elevating ex-Ram Nick Foles to Super Bowl hero. Was a high-scoring game last season. 38-35, Rams (12-2).
Week 16 at Arizona Cardinals
By this time of the season, I expect rookie Josh Rosen may very well be the starting quarterback for a now rebuilding Cardinals team. 31-17, Rams (13-2).
Week 17 vs. San Francisco 49ers.
To rest, or not to rest his starters. That’ll be the question for head coach Sean McVay. Play them at least one quarter, Sean. 21-13, Rams (14-2).
So, the Rams – I believe – lock up home field in the NFC and make it to the Super Bowl beating the Chargers in the REAL Fight for L.A., 35-24.