Los Angeles Rams
Head coach: Sean McVay (third year)
Last year’s record: 13-3-0, lost Super Bowl LIII vs. New England Patriots, 13-3
First game: Sept. 8 at Carolina Panthers
Win total: Over/Under 10.5 (Over 10.5 +105, Under 10.5 -125)
Super Bowl odds: +800
You can’t blame the LA Rams too much for losing on the biggest stage to New England in Super Bowl LIII. Third-year pro Jared Goff, at the age of 24, faced the unenviable task of matching up against six-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady, and 33-year-old Sean McVay needed to outcoach 19-year veteran Bill Belichick. It didn’t go well at all for the Rams, who lost to the Patriots 13-3.
Goff completed 19-of-38 passes with one interception and got sacked four times in the game, while star running back Todd Gurley managed just 35 yards on 10 carries. The only true positive takeaway from the season closer was the performance of Wade Phillips’ defense, which allowed a team that averaged the fourth-most points per game (27.7) to score just 13.
Who’s in and who’s out?
Moving forward the Rams must replace a few significant pieces on defense. They lost Ndamukong Suh to the Buccaneers and safety Lamarcus Joyner to the Raiders in free agency. Offensive linemen Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan also moved on from the team.
The line is one area the Rams will need to improve if they want to continue their dominance on offense. Last year they scored the second-most points per game with 30.8, behind the third-best rushing offense and fifth-best passing offense. Only Kansas City averaged more points per game (34.8).
The Rams have locked down the futures of Gurley, whose knee is a bit in question, wide receiver Brandin Cooks and defensive tackle Aaron Donald. In the offseason they signed linebacker Dante Fowler to a one-year deal, added six-time Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews, former Ravens free safety Eric Weddle and backup quarterback Blake Bortles.
Los Angeles also drafted safety Taylor Rapp from Washington in the second round, along with Memphis running back Darrell Henderson (1,909 yards, 22 TDs in 2018), Michigan defensive back David Long and Oklahoma offensive tackle Bobby Evans in the third round.
First game of the season, Sept. 8, 1 p.m. ET, Bank of America Stadium
Los Angeles Rams (-150) at Carolina Panthers (+125)
Spread: Rams -3 (-105)
Over/Under: Over 51 (-105), Under 51 (-105)
The Panthers struggled last year at 7-9. Quarterback Cam Newton has spent the offseason nursing his shoulder back to health following surgery, leaving him questionable to start Week 1. Running back Christian McCaffrey is back in his third professional season, following a year in which he ran for 1,098 yards, sixth-most in the league. The Panthers still have a lot to work out in the offseason in order to improve. The Rams should win on the road by at least a touchdown.
Over/Under win total: 10.5
Schedule (bold font indicates home game): Panthers, Saints, Browns, Buccaneers, Seahawks, 49ers, Falcons, Bengals (in London), BYE, Steelers, Bears, Ravens, Cardinals, Seahawks, Cowboys, 49ers, Cardinals
The Saints, Bears and Seahawks on the road are the games to keep an eye on. The Rams could drop all three and end up matching their 13-3 record from last year. But a slip up on the road at the Falcons or at Dallas could be in order too. The Rams should manage to win 11. Go with the over.
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