The LA Rams’ reign in first place will only last as long as they can stand taller than Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson.
The Rams have opened the season at 3-0 and they have a legitimate MVP candidate in Matthew Stafford, who leads the NFL in net and adjusted yards per pass attempt, while ranking second in passer rating and QBR, and he’s the only quarterback in the entire league who has started all three games but been sacked fewer than four times.
Best of all, while teams like the Broncos, Panthers, and Raiders can only boast unbeaten records against some of the weakest competition faced by anybody else thus far, the Rams have faced three 2020 playoff teams — including the Super Bowl champions — and come out unscathed.
This confidence that you see from me about LA is only as good as what happens over the next 10 days, however.
This Sunday, the Rams are hosting the fifth and final undefeated team of 2021: the 3-0 Arizona Cardinals. Murray currently ranks second in completion percentage, third in passing yards, third in net yards per attempt, and fourth in adjusted NY/A. His mobility has also allowed for three rushing touchdowns (tied for 1st among all players) and he’s escaped all but five sacks.
Yet, Murray has been much less of a scrambler this season (only six undesigned runs so far) and he’s showing off talent that could signal that Murray will become the most unbelievable thrower-on-the-run that we’ve ever seen in the NFL.
The Cardinals have beaten the Titans, Vikings, and Jaguars, needing Minnesota to miss a chip shot field goal and Trevor Lawrence to turn back into a rookie in the second half in order to get their two most-recent wins. But Arizona also ranks first in points scored, 11th in points allowed, second in third down defense, and Chandler Jones has five sacks and 12 QB hits in three games.
A Rams win puts LA at 4-0 and the Cardinals at 3-1.
A Rams loss, of course, would put LA a game behind first place.
Meanwhile, the 2-1 San Francisco 49ers are hosting the 1-2 Seattle Seahawks in Week 3. Either both teams will be 2-2 or the 49ers will be tied for second place and the Seahawks will be calling back the Chicago Bears about that Russell Wilson trade.
(Yes, ties exist. We mentioned ties now, I hope that satisfies the “What about ties?!” people.)
No matter what result on Sunday though, the Rams will then have to turn around and fly to Seattle for a Week 5 Thursday Night Football matchup against the Seahawks. Whether Seattle is 1-3 and contacting Wilson’s agent about “that approved list” again or not, Thursday night games are atrociously unpredictable and it does seem like the home team usually gets the most favors.
It could also be that the Seahawks are 2-2 at that point and looking for an opportunity to get back to the top of the NFC West standings. Despite Seattle’s defensive and offensive struggles this season, Wilson ranks first in passer rating, third in ANY/A, fourth in NY/A, and he’s yet to throw an interception.
The NFC West is good.
Sean McVay’s LA has not had many issues when facing the Seahawks though, so as long as he’s had his Chunky soup that day, it could be another long game for Wilson vs. the Rams.
If the Rams go to Seattle at 4-0, they could either be 5-0 or 4-1.
If the Rams go to Seattle at 3-1, they could either be 4-1 or 3-2.
If the Seahawks are 2-2 when they host the Rams, they could either be 3-2 or 2-3.
Essentially, the Rams are on top of the NFL world right now at 3-0 but it might not get more critical than how LA does over a 5-day span between Weeks 4 and 5. In 10 days, the Rams could be 5-0 and riding higher than ever, 4-1 and happy to have split two difficult NFC West games on short rest, or 3-2 and figuring out how to get out of third or potentially even fourth place.
(The Cardinals and 49ers play each other in Week 5, so it’s all-NFC West for the next two “weeks”)
The first week of October might be the most important week of LA’s entire season.