- The Rams defense added several big names, yet there still should be some concern for that unit due to the fact that it had to replace three starting linebackers.
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Rams 2018 win total: 9.5 (over -190, under +170)
Rams 2017 record: 11-5
Key offseason acquisitions: WR Brandin Cooks, DT Ndamukong Suh, ILB Ramik Wilson, CB Marcus Peters, CB Aqib Talib, CB Sam Shields
Key offseason losses: WR Sammy Watkins, DE Robert Quinn, DE Connor Barwin, LB Alec Ogletree, CB Trumaine Johnson, CB Kayvon Webster, WR Tavon Austin, OC Matt LaFleur
Five things to keep in mind before betting the Rams’ win total
1. A major reason behind Jared Goff’s incredible improvement from Year 1 to Year 2 was because of the new coaching staff. And not just Sean McVay, though he was largely responsible for one of the most impressive offensive turnarounds in modern NFL history. McVay also brought in offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur and quarterbacks coach Greg Olson for Goff in 2017. Both assistants are gone, as LaFleur is the OC with the Titans and Olson went north to be the Raiders OC. The Rams stayed in-house with replacing LaFleur and Olson—2017 OL coach Aaron Kromer is the new run game coordinator, 2017 TE coach Shane Waldron is the passing game coordinator and 2017 assistant WR coach Zac Taylor is the quarterbacks coach. McVay is also still running the show with play calls and calling audibles pre-snap, but don’t underestimate the loss of those two quarterback gurus.
2. Luckily for the third-year QB, he’ll have a potent arsenal of weapons to throw to. Star fourth-year tailback Todd Gurley had more receiving yards in 2017 (788) than his first two NFL seasons (515) as he took advantage of a strong offensive line and McVay’s excellent designs on backfield screens. Wideout Brandin Cooks is on his third team in three years, but he’s also one of four receivers ever (Randy Moss, Odell Beckham and John Jefferson being the others) with three seasons of 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns under his belt before the age of 25. His deep presence really stretched the field well for the Patriots last season, and he’ll bring a similar dynamic to the Rams. Goff also displayed a good rapport with Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp in 2017, and that chemistry can only improve with an additional season around one another.
3. A few factors that could signal a Rams regression on offense. They were the healthiest team in the NFL last season, according to Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Games Lost metric. The offensive line was excellent in 2017, but will that group be able to put up a similar effort this time around? Left tackle Andrew Whitworth will be 37 in December. Center John Sullivan turned 33 in August. The starting five of Whitworth, Sullivan, Rodger Saffold, Rob Havenstein and Jamon Brown didn’t miss a single game due to injury last season. The Rams also had the best starting field position average in the league at the 32.31-yard line, per Football Outsiders. Everything went perfectly for the Rams in 2017, and it’s highly unlikely they’ll be able to replicate that success in this upcoming campaign.
4. The Rams signed Ndamukong Suh to pair with Aaron Donald to form the best interior pressure duo in the league. Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib were also added to give Los Angeles a dynamic cornerback tandem with a risk-taking mentality that could lead to plenty of turnovers when there’s a consistent pass rush. But while the superstar acquisitions on that side of the ball headlined the Rams’ offseason, three of their four starting linebackers last season are gone. Middle linebacker Alec Ogletree was dealt to the Giants and Connor Barwin joined him after signing with New York in late June. Edge rusher Robert Quinn, meanwhile, was traded to the Dolphins. The Rams will be depending on the likes of 2016 undrafted free agent Cory Littleton, 2015 UDFA Matt Longacre and 2017 fourth-round pick Samson Ebukam to replace that production.
5. The Rams are the class of the NFC West. The 49ers have Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo, but the team still seems a year away with other question marks surrounding the roster. The Seahawks lost a plethora of major contributors this offseason and seem primed to take a step back. The Cardinals have a first-year head coach and could send rookie quarterback Josh Rosen into the fold at some point this season.
But despite being the NFC West favorite, the team may still have a tricky path to double-digit wins. Los Angeles plays the NFC South and AFC West along with the Eagles and Saints due to the first-place schedule. The Rams will need a lot to go right for them to be one of the NFC’s best teams, and especially with the juice on the over being as high as it is, I’m willing to gamble that this season will have more adversity they’ll have to overcome.
Pick: UNDER 9.5 Wins
Other NFL team betting previews: Redskins, Panthers, Lions, Ravens, Patriots, Jets, Vikings, Bills, Raiders, Cowboys, Texans, Broncos, 49ers, Steelers, Cardinals, Browns, Buccaneers, Bengals, Giants, Saints, Packers, Falcons, Chiefs, Bears, Chargers, Dolphins, Eagles, Seahawks