We are officially at the midway point of the NFL season with the Los Angeles Rams sitting at 3-6. Expectations were slightly raised after the Rams defeated the Seattle Seahawks in Week 1 and were at 3-3 after six weeks. However, Los Angeles has since lost three straight, putting a stain on what was a promising start.
Experts and analysts from around the media handed out their midseason grades this week and some were harsher on the Rams than others. For example, Mike Tanier, formerly of Football Outsiders and currently with The Messenger Sports gave the Rams a “D”, saying,
“The Rams did all they could do with Puka Nucua and vibes early in the season. They are rolling backwards now that Matthew Stafford is injured. Three straight losses have been a mixed blessing: the Rams may have needed a reminder that their stars-’n’-scrubs roster model is completely unsustainable as their stars tumble toward the ends of their careers.”
A “D” seems pretty harsh considering the preseason expectations. Coming into the year, the Rams were seen as a team who was potentially tanking and had a over/under of 6.5. Sitting at 3-6 at the halfway point, they are on pace to hit six or seven wins.
They are currently meeting preseason expectations and have done a good job of identifying talent that they can move forward with, specifically when it comes to Puka Nacua, Byron Young, Steve Avila, Kevin Dotson, etc. That was the goal coming into the year.
Sports Illustrated’s Gilberto Manzano was slightly nicer, giving the Rams a “C-”. Here’s what Manzano had to say,
After many pundits predicted the Rams would be one of the worst teams in the league, they opened the season with an upset victory in Seattle. And they were competitive in four games without Cooper Kupp to start the season thanks to rookie Puka Nacua. But Matthew Stafford sustained a hip injury in Week 4 against the Colts, and the offense hasn’t been the same since. Also, the Rams’ offensive line struggled to protect Stafford after the fast start. The Rams’ defense lacks talent outside of Aaron Donald, but defensive coordinator Raheem Morris has done a fine job getting the most out of his inexperienced players.
Manzano’s analysis is more positive than the grade itself. However, something in the C range seems fair which is exactly what John Kendall of The Athletic gave the Rams in his preseason report card power rankings.
Again, it all comes down to preseason expectations. Not much was expected of the Rams coming into the year. Los Angeles likely didn’t expect a lot from themselves after trading Jalen Ramsey and cutting Leonard Floyd and then not bringing in replacements for those stars.
The Rams understand exactly what this is which is a “re-tool” year. The 2023 season is about identifying talent for 2024 and 2025 when they can attempt to potentially make a final push with Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and Aaron Donald.
This is a team that has exceeded expectations, but they haven’t underachieved either. They are exactly where they are supposed to be. Of course, there is an argument to be made that they could be better and sit at 5-4 or even 6-3 had a few things gone a different way. In that sense, maybe the Rams have underperformed. Still, a “C” seems to be a pretty fair grade for where this Rams team is currently at, especially if you take the preseason expectations into account.
Preseason grades don’t mean a lot at the end of the day. With that said, they can provide a good visual on where a team is at and if they’re meeting expectations. Through nine weeks, that’s exactly what the Rams have done.