If I had to use a single word to describe the NFL in 2022, the first thing that comes to mind is “weird”.
It’s weird that the New York Giants possess one of the best records in football at 6-1. Also in the NFC East, The Philadelphia Eagles have taken a major step forward and seem like the best overall team in the league. The Dallas Cowboys should have been out of contention when star QB Dak Prescott went down with an injury in Week 1, but Cooper Rush kept them afloat with a 4-1 record during his replacement stint.
Teams that were expected to contend for the top stop in the NFC are middling and clinging to relevancy - including the Los Angeles Rams.
Last year’s Super Bowl winners have limped to a 3-3 record, and their Week 7 bye seems to have come at just the right time. They face a showdown this week against the San Francisco 49ers that will tell us exactly who they are.
The Green Bay Packers lack offensive firepower - and Aaron Rodgers is growing more frustrated by the week. The Green Bay defense was supposed to be good enough to keep them in games while the offense worked through its growing pains, but they just seem like a mess at 3-4.
Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be a lot better than they are right now (also at 3-4), and there’s no one weakness you can really point to as to why the Bucs are struggling. They don’t have a catastrophic failure on the offensive line like the Rams or a lack of talent in the receiving corps like the Packers. Tampa Bay’s roster is filled with players who have shown better production in the past than what they are getting out of them right now, but for how long will that continue?
The AFC conference is just as hotly competitive, even despite slower than expected starts from teams like the Denver Broncos, Las Vegas Raiders, and others.
There are very few teams that seem unfit to compete in 2022, aside from maybe the tanking Carolina Panthers and the outright bad Houston Texans. Even the 1-5 Detroit Lions have the overall talent to make things interesting at some point this year, and they will be dangerous out of the gates in 2023.
It’s just weird that seven weeks in we still aren’t sure who’s good and who’s not - and even teams with losing records are only a couple games back from first place and feel they can turn things around this year.
And that complicates the trade market for the middling or good teams who feel a star player could put them over the top - which is where the Rams find themselves.
LA planned even as far back as this offseason to be active at the trade deadline in order to supplement their pass rush next to Aaron Donald and opposite Leonard Floyd, but they probably did not expect to find their options so limited.
If the Panthers and Texans are the only teams truly out of contention, then the realistic pass rushers in the Rams’ sights were probably Brian Burns and Jonathan Greenard. But Houston recently placed Greenard on IR with an ankle injury, and Carolina reportedly rejected an offer of two first round draft picks in exchange for Burns.
Los Angeles could turn their focus to someone like Bradley Chubb, who’s a free agent on a Broncos team that is devoid of draft capital and salary cap space after making a heavy investment in their struggling quarterback, Russell Wilson. Denver has a breadth of younger pass rushers, so Chubb is somewhat expendable - but as a player Chubb is a step down from the pass rushing prowess of someone like Burns.
As the Rams look down the gauntlet of the signal callers they’ll face over the second half of the season - Tom Brady, Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes, Geno Smith (twice), Derek Carr, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and Justin Herbert - they probably feel pressure to make a move.
The question is where do you turn when the weirdness and parity of the NFL in 2022 hasn’t created a bottom tier of teams ready to sell off their assets and turn towards the future. As a result, the Rams face a complicated trade market and could find it difficult to find a partner.
If LA is compelled to improve over the second half of the season, the pressure on general manager Les Snead is immense and building. Will he be able to make a move?