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Are the Rams the most underrated defending Super Bowl champion?

The Los Angeles Rams enter Week 1 as home underdogs. Are they the most underrated defending champion ever?

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Syndication: The Enquirer Albert Cesare/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Los Angeles Rams finally begin the 2022 season on Thursday in primetime against the Buffalo Bills. For the first time, Rams fans will see their team take the field as defending Super Bowl champions.

It seems like forever since we saw Aaron Donald sack Joe Burrow to clinch the victory for the Rams. Yet at the same time, it feels like it just happened yesterday.

The Rams will enter this season looking to do what no team has done since the 2004 New England Patriots - repeat as champions.

Despite losing Von Miller and Robert Woods, this time around, the L.A. Rams have Bobby Wagner and Allen Robinson. After missing all of last season, Cam Akers will hopefully add an immediate spark to the run game. Matthew Stafford spent all of last year as the quarterback who couldn’t get it done when it mattered until he did. Stafford will be in his second year with Sean McVay and this offense.

The Rams accomplished a lot last season as Cooper Kupp won the NFL’s triple crown for the first time since 2005. Stafford had one of the best playoff runs in recent memory for a NFL quarterback.

In the postseason, L.A. went on the road to defeat Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The following week, they came back from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat a San Francisco 49ers team that had beaten them six consecutive times.

Despite all of that, the Rams continue to be underrated and overlooked heading into the 2022 season. The Buccaneers are the favorites to win the NFC (+330) with the Green Bay Packers behind them (+400). The Buffalo Bills are the favorites to win the Super Bowl (+550) with the Rams coming in fifth (+1200).

In Thursday’s home opener, the L.A. Rams will be 2.5-point home underdogs against the Bills according to DraftKings Sportsbook. It will be the first time since 2016 that a defending Super Bowl champion will enter Week 1 not as the favorite. That team was the Denver Broncos and their quarterback was Trevor Siemian.

It’s as if the Rams won the Super Bowl and are now this completely forgotten about team. Last year is looked at as a fluke.

However, this has been happening all offseason.

It wasn’t that long ago that Kupp and Hunter Renfrow were called the “same player.”

That was really only the beginning of the Kupp discussion this summer. There was also a time in the offseason where McVay was ranked outside the top-10 NFL head coaches. Stafford was consistently ranked below Joe Burrow on quarterback ranking lists. Excluding Stafford, the Rams allegedly don’t have a top-5 NFL roster.

In the grand scheme of things, all of the offseason narratives and discussion points don’t matter. They are something to talk about in the months of June and July when there is nothing to talk about. If anything, L.A. has been able to hang it up in Thousand Oaks and use it as motivation to continue to get better this season.

It just seems like no defending Super Bowl champion has gone into their repeat season this under the radar. Sure, teams like the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018, Broncos in 2016, or Ravens in 2000 weren’t expected to repeat. However, none of those teams had the same caliber of pieces on their roster that the Rams have.

The Rams lost Miller to the Bills in free agency, but brought in Wagner. They traded Robert Woods, but signed Robinson. Andrew Whitworth retired, but the team brought back Joe Noteboom.

There has been talk about the health and condition of Stafford’s elbow, but the team and Stafford reiterated on Sunday that everything is fine. Stafford said, “I feel good. I’m ready to go. No limitations.” McVay added, “I tell you what, he’s throwing the ball excellent. And he feels good. Everything that I’m seeing is reflective of everything he’s saying to me.”

Last season, the Buccaneers brought everyone back and were expected to at least make it back to the Super Bowl. It was a true “run it back” philosophy. The season before, with Patrick Mahomes at the helm, the Chiefs were also seen as the favorites.

Les Snead and McVay didn’t bring everyone back, but they replaced the guys that they lost with players of similar caliber. That doesn’t even mention that Odell Beckham Jr. could still re-sign in the middle of the season as well.

The Rams can fly under the radar. They are likely all for it. If the target on their back as defending champions is even just a little bit smaller, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just seems crazy that a team like the Rams is flying this much under the radar in the eyes of the media and NFL fanbase.

Despite coming off of a Super Bowl win, the Rams will still need to prove themselves this season. They had to do the same last year and 2021 ended with a Lombardi trophy.