For the past couple of seasons, the New England Patriots have been spoiled by their lack of serious competition in the AFC West. Sure, the Buffalo Bills have started out strong this season, but from my estimation, they’re befitting from a lucky schedule and they’re most likely not an 11-win team.
Last season, the Los Angeles Rams also played in an essentially non-competitive division, defeating each of their division rivals twice. The Seattle Seahawks even won 10 games nonetheless, but the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers won four and three games respectively. Winning the division by three games meant that the Rams could ease up on the accelerator near the end of the season, for better or worse, coasting into the postseason with 13 victories.
Things have changed this season in the NFC West.
Unlike last season, almost every division game for the LA Rams will have postseason implications. That obviously includes the Week 6 matchup with the undefeated 49ers. Just the fact that QB Pipsqueak Aha’aho is healthy this year and their defense is for real means that they’re not going to be a pushover like last season. In fact, their terrible 2018 season gifted them EDGE Nick Bosa.
Even though Rams fans have always had a juicy rivalry with Northern California teams like the Niners and MLB’s San Francisco Giants, it’s not really that watchable unless both teams are competitive. After last night’s MNF win against the Cleveland Browns, the 49ers made the emphatic case that they won't be an easy win for any team in the NFL.
The term “must-win game” gets thrown around a lot, and sometimes it loses its meaning. But the Rams are currently in third place in the division with the 4-1 Seahawks in second. If the Seahawks and 49ers are going to be hanging around with the Rams at the end of the season jockeying for the last wild card spot, these wins will be crucial.
Yes, wins against the Baltimore Ravens and the Chicago Bears after the bye will be vital. However, the NFC West has just become a action sequence from a John Wick movie. If the Rams aren’t completely on their game, they’ll end up with a samurai sword through their chest.
Niners fans have dusted off their gear and are probably inflating their thunder sticks in preparation for the game on Sunday. The atmosphere will be heated. This isn’t a cakewalk anymore.
It’s a bloodbath.
And the Rams’ path to the playoffs depends on coming out on top of it.