There is a plausible scenario in Week 4 that could leave the Los Angeles Rams in a tie with the Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, and Minnesota Vikings or Carolina Panthers for the second-worst record in the NFC.
First, the Rams would have to lose to the Indianapolis Colts, a surprising 2-1 team that is getting back rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson this week after missing last Sunday’s win over the Texans. If L.A. loses their third game in a row, the Rams will be 1-3 after Sunday.
Second, two 0-3 teams meet in Carolina when the Panthers host the Vikings. If the favored Vikings win that game, they will be 1-3 and the Panthers will be winless at 0-4. In the opposite, the Vikings will be 0-4 and Carolina will be 1-3.
The winless Bears host the winless Denver Broncos and could manage their first win-full win of the season, which would leave one of them at 1-3. Finally, the 1-2 New York Giants host the 2-1 Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football, a game that could swing in either direction. If the Giants win that one, they’ll be back at .500.
Could the end of Week 4 leave the Rams, Cardinals, Bears, and Vikings at 1-3, with the Panthers “leading” the Caleb Williams race (which would in fact be the Bears leading the race because Chicago owns that pick) at 0-4?
Caleb Williams is reportedly thought to be “in play” for the Vikings if they go 0-3 this week by Rob Gronkowski (former NFL TE).— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) September 21, 2023
Gronkowski said he feels that Cousins will be “shipped out” and the “tank” for Williams will hopefully be on if they lose this week.
Several Vikings… pic.twitter.com/Gfcthr4YVf
Colts game is important for determining Rams immediate future
In all scenarios, the L.A. Rams desperately need a win against the Colts this week otherwise they’ll be near the bottom of the standings in the conference, a place that many people predicted they would be before the season started. The way that the Rams have played through three weeks has been well above expectations, beating the Seahawks by 17 points and holding tough with the 49ers and Bengals.
But at the end of the day, if the Rams are 1-3, nobody’s going to care how they got there.
A season ago, the Rams were 2-1 after three games and 2-2 after four games and look how that team finished.
If L.A. wins and claws back to 2-2, the same record they had after four games last season (Sean McVay’s worst start in his history as a head coach), then the Rams are back to being the surprising upstart wild card contender that they were after beating the Seahawks. It may have only been one game, but it wasn’t a result that anyone expected and in an NFC without many star quarterbacks, it’s easy argue that Matthew Stafford is perhaps still more talented than any of them.
Avoiding a worse record than the Cardinals
Without looking ahead too far, the Rams have games upcoming on the schedule that in theory could give L.A. at least a few advantages on offense: Like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Arizona Cardinals, and Green Bay Packers.
However, a loss to the Colts coming the week before hosting the Philadelphia Eagles could bring up the possibility that the Rams will not just be 1-3 after four games, but potentially 1-4 after five games. Then the top storyline of Week 6’s game against the Cardinals will not be positioning in the NFC West, but positioning in the 2024 NFL Draft.
And whether either team should want to win.
If the Rams are 2-3, then a win gets McVay right back to .500 and that’s probably a winning percentage that gets some team into the NFC playoffs at the end of the season. But if the Rams go into that game at 1-4, then all of a sudden L.A. vs. Arizona becomes one of the most important score results of the season and not for playoff positioning.
The Rams would be in a must-win position to stay out of the NFC West basement. Any given team can win any given Sunday, so if L.A. were fighting to avoid a 1-5 start against a Cardinals team that has proven resilient and superbly-coached through three weeks, anything could happen for the Rams by the end of Week 6.
Can’t play for second half rebound
In an effort to try and justify why it’s okay that his Chicago Bears are so godawful terrible, Justin Fields compared his team to the 2022 Detroit Lions that started 1-6 and almost made the playoffs. Except that the Lions started 1-3 with all three losses being close defeats to eventual playoff teams (Eagles, Vikings, Seahawks). That’s not who the Bears are, they’re just flat out terrible.
The Rams are not flat out terrible, but they also can’t bank on a second half rebound if they start 1-6.
After L.A.’s seventh game of the season, they have back to back road games against the Cowboys and Packers going into their bye week. When they return, the Rams face the Seahawks, Cardinals, Browns, and Ravens. Cleveland has had a historically good defense through three weeks of this season, while Baltimore and Seattle are playoff caliber teams.
Just the immediate six games after the Rams are seven games into the season will be a challenge with four of those being on the road.
The trade deadline comes between the Cowboys and Packers games.
2-2 vs. 1-3
Though it’s only a one game difference and too soon to call it quits, the Rams must make some quick calls about who they are right now if they lose to Indianapolis and decisions about who they want to be for the rest of the season. The next game on the docket is the Philadelphia Eagles and though they haven’t looked as potent offensively as they did in 2022, they remain as good as any team in the trenches and Jalen Hurts is 17-1 as a starter since last season. To be 1-3 will require L.A.’s best effort of the year to avoid 1-4.
Who are the 2023 L.A. Rams? We should find out on Sunday.