During his first season as a head coach, Sean McVay led the LA Rams to a 5-2 start after seven games, the last of which was a 33-0 stompfest over the Arizona Cardinals. That team also won four of their next five games but was knocked out in the wild card round of the playoffs by the Atlanta Falcons.
In 2018, McVay coached the Rams to a 7-0 start that eventually became 8-0 and then 11-1. LA’s seventh victory that season was a 39-10 defensive squashfest over the San Francisco 49ers in which they forced four turnovers. The Rams finished 13-3 and reached the Super Bowl but they have managed only 16 points combined in their two postseason losses under McVay.
He just needs to figure out how to translate his early season success into postseason dominance.
Even when missing the playoffs in 2019, McVay had LA out to a 3-0 start but then they lost the next three and were 4-3 after seven games. That seventh game was a 37-10 smushfest against the Falcons in which three turnovers were forced. The Rams won five of seven games after their 3-3 start but ended up 9-7 and out of the playoffs.
With Monday night’s 24-10 squishfest against the Chicago Bears in the books, the LA Rams have now allowed a total of two offensive touchdowns in their four “Game 7s” under Sean McVay since 2017. They are now 4-0 in the seventh game of a season under McVay with a point differential of 133 points for and 30 points against, one touchdown of which came via a Robert Woods fumble.
The Rams are now 21-7 under McVay when it comes to the first seven games of a season, the second-best record in the NFL since 2017 behind the New England Patriots, a team that is 2-4 and hoping to avoid 2-5 in Buffalo against the 5-2 Bills next week. Los Angeles has a point differential of +312 in those wins under McVay when it comes to the first seven games of the season, which is the best mark in the NFL since 2017.
The Patriots are at +310. The Baltimore Ravens are at +304. The Kansas City Chiefs are at +282 and the Pittsburgh Steelers are at +216, putting almost 100 points of difference between the Rams and fifth place in these particular standings.
You may have also noticed that those are all AFC teams. The second-best point differential for games 1-7 since 2017 belongs to the 49ers, who are at +213.
99 points worse than the Rams for best point differential in the NFC under those circumstances. Repeat: this is how dominant LA is when they win, but not their overall point differential in those games. The Rams overall point differential in Games 1-7 under McVay is +259, which is also the best in the NFL since 2017. The Chiefs are at +251, the Patriots at +211 and the 49ers fall all the way down to +52 thanks to several blowout losses, which aren’t a common occurrence for McVay.
The second-best point differential in the NFC during this time would be the +120 of the New Orleans Saints, less than half the point differential of the Rams.
This may seem specific and somewhat arbitrary, but what stat isn’t when you’re highlighting it? You can always pull out what you’re focused on and eventually reach a different number but here’s what these particular numbers mean to me:
McVay consistently has the LA Rams working from a place of advantage by the second half of the year. This advantage helped the Rams make the playoffs in 2017 while resting starters in Week 17 against the Niners. It gave them room for error in two December losses in 2018, which helped them hold onto a bye week in the NFC and opened the door to reach the Super Bowl. And despite losing five of eight in the middle of last season, the Rams were in the postseason hunt headed into Week 15 with an opportunity to win 10 or 11 games.
This season it seems as obvious as ever that LA’s 5-2 record will be advantageous in the second half, especially if they can reach the midpoint bye week at 6-2 with a win over the Miami Dolphins. The Rams have two games against the Seattle Seahawks, two games against the Cardinals, another game against San Francisco and a Monday night showdown on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Those six games alone could define McVay’s 2020 and if the Rams go 3-3 there, it’s an overall win. Then LA would only need to beat the Patriots and New York Jets to get 11 wins.
The Rams have their toughest games ahead but thanks to McVay’s ability to keep them out in front, LA’s got more opportunities than most teams.