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Are the LA Rams contenders or pretenders?

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SB Nation’s Geoff Schwartz has his midseason takes on which teams are for real and which teams aren’t.

NFL: International Series-Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Having reached the midway point of the NFL season, several NFL pundits are taking a closer look at teams with winning records. Are they for real or did they just get lucky with a small sample size?

With all the praise that the Los Angeles Rams have been getting, it’s only understandable that there would be some skepticism thrown their way. Today’s SB Nation piece about the NFL contenders and pretenders is a prime example:

The Rams are the most improved team this season. It’s a great story. They just aren’t totally there yet. You have to know how to win intense, close games, and I don’t feel the Rams are there yet, as evidenced by their first Seahawks game. Show me they can win those close games against quality teams and I’ll change my mind.

What Schwartz fails to mention here is that the Los Angeles Rams are a different team than they were when they played the Seattle Seahawks. Their defense playing at a high level, Aaron Donald is in season-shape, and Tavon Austin isn’t on special teams anymore. However, Schwartz does have a point that the Rams are inexperienced in situations like this. It’s been a while since the Rams have experienced playoff implications that actually involved them.

Lastly, they have a rough schedule for the back eight: Texans, at Vikings, and Saints for a three-game stretch, and Eagles, at Seahawks, and at Titans for another. If they sneak into the playoffs, they will have earned it.

Schwartz ain’t lying about the last eight games of the season. At least four of these teams are probably better than any team the Rams have faced in their first eight games. However, the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans are beatable. Tough? Sure. But I believe that the Rams have learned from their two losses this season.

Also, when you read the article, notice that the Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers are listed as contenders. Which to me, signals that the past couple of years is factoring in heavily with this judgement. He’s also listing the Buffalo Bills as pretenders, which is consistent with his narrative, because they’re a surprise team that many thought was a team on the rebuild.

I strongly disagree that the Rams are “pretenders” in the NFC. While I do admit that they have something to prove and their losses to Washington and Seattle were unfortunate games that they will learn from, they are improving each week. Coach Sean McVay is going to have these guys playing competitive against teams like the Eagles and the Saints -- at the very least, they will make the Rams fans proud. They are not pretenders.

So, what do you guys think? Is it too soon to call the LA Rams contenders?