Football Outsiders has their early 2017 NFL predictions at ESPN (insider subscription required) with some very, very, very favorable fodder for Los Angeles Rams fans.
FO projects the Rams to come in third in the NFC West as of right now. That’s not surprising. What’s perhaps unexpected is that they have the Rams doing so by going 8-8:
Los Angeles Rams: 8-8 (8.1 mean wins; SOS: 20)
The Rams have been trying to compete with a defense and special-teams orientation for years now, but hiring Wade Phillips could finally make that recipe work. Every team that has ever hired Phillips as a head coach or defensive coordinator saw its defensive DVOA improve, including the Broncos, who went from fourth in the league in 2014 to one of the greatest defenses ever in 2015. Phillips' scheme will likely have a similar effect in Los Angeles, where the defense was already loaded with talent in the front seven. If the offense can be garden-variety bad instead of last year's near-historic impotence, it's enough to make the Rams playoff contenders.
I’m certainly not about to question FO’s methods, but it’s just very, very, very hard to buy into the Rams coming off of a 4-12 campaign (on the back of their second 4-8 start in as many seasons) in which their franchise QB went 0-7 operating the NFL’s worst offense...and going 8-8. Crazier things have happened, though!
It would certainly a welcome first season under new Head Coach Sean McVay. If the Rams go anywhere near 8-8 and put in a December that shows some signs of improvement from whatever we’re going to get in September, it will be equally very, very, very hard NOT to buy into the Rams for 2018.
Here are their early NFC standing projections:
1. Seattle Seahawks (11-5)
2. Green Bay Packers (10-6)
3. Arizona Cardinals* (10-6)
4. Dallas Cowboys (10-6)
5. Carolina Panthers (9-7)
6. Atlanta Falcons* (9-7)
7. Los Angeles Rams (8-8)
8. New York Giants (8-8)
9. Philadelphia Eagles (8-8)
10. Detroit Lions (7-9)
11. Washington Football Team (7-9)
12. New Orleans Saints (7-9)
13. Chicago Bears (7-9)
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9)
15. Minnesota Vikings (6-10)
16. San Francisco 49ers (5-11)
* Wild-card teams
It’s April 10. The Rams are on Day 1 of Phase I of the 2017 Offseason. McVay is getting to finally get down to work with his roster for the first time...ever. We haven’t even gotten to the 2017 NFL Draft.
The Rams have not had a winning season since 2003. The entire business model of the franchise has survived on slick marketing for a half decade and a boost from relocation. No fans deserve some legitimate evidence for hope more.
Maybe we finally get some in 2017.