As we sit here on May 11, the national expectations of the 2020 Los Angeles Rams are modest, at best.
Most of the post-draft power rankings I’ve seen have them in the No. 16-18 range. DraftKings’ win total for the Rams is eight. After losing a lot of key players this offseason, the Rams are expected to be average and likely out of the playoff mix for the second straight season, even though the playoffs are expanding to seven teams in each conference this year.
Yet, my thoughts on the Rams’ chances aren’t quite as dire. I think they can make a playoff run, but the key is the first three games.
It’s a brutal start of the season.
The Rams open SoFi Stadium against the Cowboys on Sunday night in Week 1. They then travel to Philadelphia to face the Eagles in Week 2, and then to Buffalo for the Bills in Week 3.
In my opinion, this stretch will define the Rams’ season.
These are all tough games. Yes, the Rams will be pumped to open their new stadium, but Dallas has a strong roster and should be very good. The Eagles are a solid playoff threat and the Bills might be a blossoming monster in the AFC ... especially now they don’t have to play Tom Brady twice a year. Playing in Philadelphia and in Buffalo is not easy, either.
If the Rams aren’t careful, they can start 0-3 — and while that might not mean they’re going to be an awful team, it’d be a rough hump to get over. The competition is just that strong.
However, if the Rams can beat Dallas at home and take one of the road games, they will be 2-1 and in really good shape.
The Rams then host the New York Giants and go to Washington in Weeks 4 and 5. Those are very winnable games. So if the Rams can get to 2-1, they could be a stout 4-1 heading into their first NFC West game of the season, which is at San Francisco in Week 6.
Other than the NFC West games, the rest of the schedule is manageable.
The Rams can hang in the playoff mix all season, if they can start fast. That’s the key to it all in 2020.