In 2019, the LA Rams defense got demolished by Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 2020, it was the 0-13 New York Jets pulling out a late season upset. In 2021, the Detroit Lions actually took a lead against the Rams going into the fourth quarter.
Coming off of a Super Bowl victory last season, could the Los Angeles Rams fall victim to a dramatic upset in 2022?
The Rams pretty much avoided any such embarrassments last season. But reigning champions can often fall victim to the “Any Given Sunday” mantra, as the Bucs brought back the whole squad and still got swept by the New Orleans Saints and dropped a midseason contest to the Washington Football Team, 29-19.
If L.A. is going to have to be wary of any supposedly “bad” teams on their 2022 schedule, who is the most likely franchise to play the part of the 2020 Jets?
Let me know in the comments what your answer is. Read the full 2022 Rams schedule here.
Teams on the schedule who I think are too good to be “bad”: Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers*, Arizona Cardinals**, Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas City Chiefs, Las Vegas Raiders, Green Bay Packers, Denver Broncos, L.A. Chargers.
You know, I gotta say... tough schedule.
*If Trey Lance is good
**If Kyler Murray is playing and is good
Which bad team on the schedule is most likely to pull the upset?
Seattle Seahawks (Week 13, Week 18)
The Seahawks are expected to hold a competition between Drew Lock and Geno Smith, and even if they do bring in a third wheel, he isn’t likely to be a more attractive option than those two. I do not think Seattle is interested in Baker Mayfield, nor do I find him to be much of an upgrade to those other two. At best, the Seahawks would find themselves adding Nick Foles to the mix.
Lock is in the conversation for “Worst starter over the last two seasons who was not a rookie” and Geno Smith moved like Frankenstein during his brief appearance in place of Russell Wilson in 2021. The Seahawks lack talent and experience at most of football’s key positions and could be in the running for worst team in the NFC because of their transition from Wilson to potentially this year’s lowest-ranked starting quarterback.
On top of that, the Seahawks have been completely owned by Sean McVay and Aaron Donald. There’s little reason to expect much of a change in that regard that season, but Seattle does get twice as many shots to pull an upset than these other teams.
Atlanta Falcons (Week 2)
The Falcons went 7-10 last season, but played much worse than that. They beat the Giants, Dolphins, Jets, Saints, Jaguars, Panthers, and Lions. Those teams picked 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 15th*, and 18th* in the draft this year.
The answer to their woes was trading away Matt Ryan and replacing him with Marcus Mariota, a twice-claimed reclamation project who has never reclaimed anything. Mariota threw 30 regular season passes for the Raiders over the last two years, and he threw 31 touchdowns and 25 interceptions over his final 36 appearances with the Titans.
Other than dumping off as many passes as he can to second-year tight end Kyle Pitts and hoping for the best from Drake London, a rookie recovering from a broken ankle, Mariota will be supported by a cast of characters who remain mostly anonymous to greater NFL success.
All of which only shields the Falcons from the fact that Atlanta could also have the worst defense in the league. The Falcons ranked 30th on defense by DVOA and the only player with more than two sacks was former Rams pass rusher Dante Fowler, who had 4.5.
Barring an immense turnaround or an ironclad agreement with owner Arthur Blank, head coach Arthur Smith could be the first fired, as it may be difficult for the team to avoid a top-three pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Carolina Panthers (Week 6)
The only saving grace for Arthur Smith and Panthers head coach Matt Rhule, one of the other most likely hot seat candidates, is that they face each other twice and that the Saints and Bucs no longer have Sean Payton and Bruce Arians.
Yes, Matt Rhule is the longest-tenured head coach in the NFC South. For how much longer, because the Sean Payton rumors have already started?
When the Panthers finally fire Matt Rhule. pic.twitter.com/A0yoLKXGgW— Chris Harmon (@KeepPounding84) December 21, 2021
No NFL franchise has done a worse job of rebuilding the quarterback position than the Carolina Panthers over the last three years. They were too late on separating from Cam Newton, too eager to sign Teddy Bridgewater as a replacement for $33 million guaranteed, and too desperate when they traded for Sam Darnold and then picked up his fifth-year option. Finally, they’ve been too late on getting any decent quarterback to agree to play for Rhule and so it seems like Carolina will take their shots at a high draft pick and a marriage with C.J. Stroud or Bryce Young or some such rookie option in 2023.
The Panthers could choose to start third round pick Matt Corral simply out of a desire to see someone more interesting than Darnold, or because he might legitimately be better already, but the end result looks like 5-12 or worse unless the defense is elite. There are a lot of good players on that side of the ball in Carolina, but the quarterback situation does imply that 5-12 could be a best case scenario.
New Orleans Saints (Week 11)
No, the Saints aren’t that bad. But they aren’t that good either.
Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton are the top two quarterbacks. Michael Thomas has caught 40 passes and zero touchdowns over the last two years. Trevor Penning is the new starting left tackle, replacing Terron Armstead. Taysom Hill could be TE1. Alvin Kamara hasn’t played a full season since 2017. Sean Payton retired (for a short while).
Though New Orleans did go 9-8 a year ago, including two wins against the Bucs, and victories over the Packers and Patriots, they also claimed wins over Washington, Seattle, Carolina, Atlanta, and the Jets. They lost to the Panthers, Giants, Falcons, Eagles, and Dolphins, too.
It seems to me that the Saints are plugging just enough holes this offseason (Tyrann Mathieu, Jarvis Landry, Marcus Maye, Chris Olave, Penning) to reach the postseason, and in the NFC South, they’ll probably do it. That’s why I won’t include them in the poll.
But the Saints are not “good”.
Which bad team is most likely to beat the Rams, even if none of them will?
This poll is closed