Back in late May in our last FanPulse update, we looked at the over/under for every NFL team’s win totals in 2019 and why every single fan base avoided picking the under.
Fandom is an irrational state, and nearly all of us live in it.
But recently, every SB Nation site manager was asked what would have to happen for their team to hit the over and what would have to happen to hit the under. Today, those responses from our NFC West sites were posted.
Here was what I put down for our Los Angeles Rams:
Why over: Continued improvement from long-term core and health.
While the Rams are coming off of a “Super Bowl or bust” season that saw them reach that pinnacle, they’re now beginning a process that will see them shed several significant veterans. LG Rodger Saffold III, C John Sullivan, DT Ndamukong Suh, LB Mark Barron and S Lamarcus Joynerall found new homes this offseason. Next year’s potential crop of departures include LT Andrew Whitworth, DT Michael Brockers, edge rusher Dante Fowler Jr., CB Aqib Talib and/or CB Marcus Peters. While the Rams are hoping young depth can help address some of those departures, the likely source for keeping the team as competitive as it has been will be their long-term core.
The Rams have already signed six players aside from rookies beyond the 2020 season: WR Robert Woods, RT Rob Havenstein, P Johnny Hekker, WR Brandin Cooks, RB Todd Gurley and DT Aaron Donald. Throw in QB Jared Goff and you have a core of Rams that will need to drive the team for years to come. They’ll need to be the ones to deliver in big games to ensure the Rams’ success. If they can continue to improve their individual performances for this season and remain healthy, there’s reason to think they can deliver another season of 11 wins or more.
It’s also going to require health. While the Rams have been arguably the healthiest team in the NFL over the past three seasons, last year’s ACL injury to WR Cooper Kupp was a major issue for the offense. His return should be a major boost, but similarly the Rams must avoid those kind of injuries to core contributors.
Why under: Performance decline, OL transition, health.
If improved performances from the core are a key to the over, a potential decline could be the reason the Rams take a major step back. Obviously, the first target here would be QB Jared Goff. After a disastrous rookie season, Goff made huge improvements year-to-year from 2016 to 2017 to 2018. Should he take another leap in 2019, the Rams will almost certainly hit the over; however, a step back would be a major impediment and revive the catcalls of a “system quarterback” moniker that plagued Goff in 2018. To a similar yet lesser degree, should the core have a performance blip, it could hold the team back albeit to varied degrees. Hekker had a performance blip in 2018. Another in 2019 or an even worse season would raise significant questions and concerns. Havenstein, Cooks and Woods are key cogs in the wheel but have less individual impact because of their positions. The idea of a performance blip from Aaron Donald is probably not worth concern. One from Todd Gurley though is. With the way his regular season and postseason ended and the Rams trading up into the third round to take a rookie running back, there’s reason to think Gurley could take a major step back in quantity and perhaps quality.
There’s also the nature of the offensive line transition. The Rams will have new starters at left guard and center. Their right guard, Austin Blythe, is hardly set in stone. And Whitworth is heading into his final season. While that transition to a new left tackle isn’t perhaps relevant to the win-loss total in 2019, his turning 38 in December might spark fears that Father Time catches up to Big Whit before his career is over.
And of course there’s always the unpredictability of injury. Should the Rams lose key contributors for long stretches of time and their replacements fail to provide adequate fill-in performances, injuries could do in the 2019 Rams as they have so many teams before.