We are now guaranteed a fourth winning season by Sean McVay in four tries with the Los Angeles Rams. At 9-4, the Rams are not only a lock to be above .500, but they are only a formality away from clinching a berth in the playoffs for the third time under McVay. This is not a diss against the New York Jets, it is merely a fact that the NFC playoff picture has become clear ahead of schedule this season.
That being said, LA does appear to have a good shot of winning at least 10 games. The last Rams QB to win at least 10 games three times was Kurt Warner. Jared Goff is one win away from doing that in year four as a full-time starter.
Whether Goff is responsible for that is not the important matter at hand, so try not to get distracted by a “QB wins” argument. Instead focus on the fact that with McVay and Goff and Aaron Donald and a handful of others, the LA Rams have been a consistent presence in conversations about true Super Bowl contenders. That will continue in 2020 but not everyone saw it that way prior to the season.
By beating the New England Patriots last Thursday, the Rams moved to 9-4. Here are a few predictions from August and early September about how LA would do in a division that also featured the 49ers, Seahawks and Cardinals.
Tyler Sullivan of CBS Sports picked the Rams as his team to “plunge” this season.
Tyler Sullivan: Rams
They took a significant plunge a season ago, going 9-7 following a trip to Super Bowl LIII, but I see this free fall continuing in 2020. Los Angeles’ roster is the epitome of stars-and-scrubs, and that won’t win you many games in the NFL, especially when you’re playing in as tough of a division as the NFC West is primed to be. The Rams could be looking at a last-place finish here.
Only two people (out of 35) at NFL.com chose the Rams to win the NFC West. Those two were Maurice Jones-Drew and Gregg Rosenthal. (Warning: NFL.com wants to force a video on you when you click the link.) There were only three votes for the Rams to win a wild card spot, including Kurt Warner and Peter Schrager (both affiliated with the team) saying that they’d get the seven seed.
The Sporting News picked the Rams to finish in third place in the division, at 8-8, saying “there enough issues” with the team to not post a winning record.
The Rams always are dangerous because of Sean McVay’s coaching and their Super Bowl experience. But now he must operate his offense without Gurley and Brandin Cooks, trying to find sources of explosiveness to boost a leveled-off Jared Goff. Defensively, in between Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, there enough issues to limit L.A. to .500.
Neither writer at USA Today expected LA in the postseason.
Something called Chat Sports (with 226k subs) picked the Rams to finish in last place in the division at 7-9.
At SI, Jenny Vrentas and Conor Orr had LA making it to the divisional round as a wild card, Gary Gramling had them making it that far as the NFC West champs. Gramling had this to say about his pick:
The Lions and Rams will topple last year’s 13-win teams to win their respective divisions. In the Rams’ case, it has a bit to do with the injury-ravaged 49ers. But it also has a lot to do with their coach, who is both good at coaching as well as youthful and handsome, and because of some luck finally comes their way. Ty Schalter had a great breakdown of “coin-flip games” over at FiveThirtyEight last year—games in which each team had more than a 40% win probability in the final five minutes of regulation, much more telling than “one-possession wins”—and the Rams were 0–4 in those games (and yet still would have been the NFC’s seventh seed if it had existed).
Danny Kelly was the only writer at The Ringer to pick the Rams to make the postseason, and as a wild card.
The LA Rams are guaranteed to finish above .500 but they are not guaranteed to win the division or to win a playoff game and to make a run at it. Let this be a reminder that there are still skeptics out there. Skeptics worth proving wrong.