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Last Minute Thoughts: Are Rams facing “must-win” game in Week 1?

LA’s opening five games will feature some of the NFL’s top teams

Seattle Seahawks v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

It’s almost preposterous to claim that a team could be facing a “must-win” scenario in Week 1, but it certainly seems that could be the case for the 2023 Los Angeles Rams.

Sean McVay’s team will start its season on a gauntlet over the first five games and will compete against some of the top teams in the NFL. The Seattle Seahawks will be a strong litmus test in the opener, but over the next month the Rams will also see the likes of Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts, and Nick Bosa:

Week 1 - at Seattle Seahawks

Week 2 - vs. San Francisco 49ers

Week 3 - at Cincinnati Bengals

Week 4 - at Indianapolis Colts

Week 5 - vs. Philadelphia Eagles

If we are trying to be as objective and fair as possible, it’s difficult to see a rebuilding Rams team emerge from this stretch with more than a 1-4 or 2-3 record. Does roster have enough talent to overcome such a deficit? It’s a fair question and something I think underscores just how difficult it will be for this Rams team to carve out a playoff berth.

Dropping the opener in Seattle could reasonably lead down a slippery slope towards an 0-3 start. The Bengals were the only team to make the playoffs last year after three consecutive losses to begin the year, and they made it all the way to the AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Before last year’s Bengals, only six teams had accomplished such a feat.

So seven teams since 1979 doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, The Seahawks are likely LA’s best shot at a win over the first three weeks, especially consider how the 49ers have had the Rams’ number in recent history and how the Bengals have been one of the winningest franchises in the NFL over the last two years.

No pressure, Matthew Stafford.

The veteran quarterback will look to re-energize the Rams offense—but he will be without his star receiver in Cooper Kupp. Kupp re-pulled his hamstring in practice last week and has already been ruled out for this game. It’s possible the wideout ends up on the injured reserve list and misses LA’s first four games. Tutu Atwell and Cam Akers had success in the two late-season matchups against Seattle a year ago, and a better supporting cast could list the offense overall.

The tougher test for Los Angeles will be on defense, where Aaron Donald and another 10 unrecognizable names will look to slow down a resurgent Seahawks’ offense that features dynamic playmakers in DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Kenneth Walker, and rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Multiple of these names are listed on this week’s injury report, which could provide a reprieve to LA’s young defensive corps.

The standard for the 2023 Rams may not be a playoff berth, but for some within the team and for some fans that is the expectation. A loss in Week 1 certainly clouds the likelihood of a postseason berth for Los Angeles, and the stakes are as high as reasonably possible for a season opener.

The Rams may very well be facing a “must-win” proposition this weekend in Seattle.

Atlanta Falcons v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images