Sean McVay’s offenses took the league by storm at the beginning of his coach tenure in 2017, but it was the Rams’ defense that dominated opponents last season to get them to a 10-6 record (9-7 ATS). The Rams allowed the fewest yards per game (292.9) and Aaron Donald took home Defensive Player of the Year honors (+750) to get the Rams back to the playoffs (+140) for the third time in McVay’s four years. The Rams won their third playoff game under McVay in a dominant victory over the Seahawks in the Wild Card Round before falling to the Packers in the Divisional Round. Jared Goff’s sharply declining play the last two seasons held the franchise back, and they remedied the situation by trading for Matthew Stafford this off-season. The Rams are hoping to follow in the Buccaneers’ footsteps by winning a Super Bowl in their new home, SoFi Stadium, after getting rid of a #1 overall pick for a proven star at the quarterback position.
The Rams allowed a league-low 18.5 points per game and they scored the 10th-fewest points per game (23.3), which resulted in a 12-4 record toward unders. Los Angeles ended the year 4-4 in one-score contests and a perfect 3-0 in games decided by three scores or more, and they finished with the league’s 10th-best point differential (+76).
Los Angeles’ 2021 win total (10.5) climbed by 1.5 victories after dominating opponents with its defense last year and after landing Stafford this off-season. The Rams topped their 2020 win total by a victory and they passed their total with their 10th victory of the season over the Cardinals in the season finale. Entering this season, I have the Rams power rated as the fifth-best team in the NFL (+1300 to win Super Bowl LVI), as the second-best team in the NFC (+600 to win the conference), and as the best team in the NFC West (+180).
Spreads are first-look lines from the SuperBook, which were released in early June.
|3||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-1||4:25|
|5||@Seattle Seahawks||PK||8:20 (Thurs)|
|6||@New York Giants||-3.5||1|
|10||@San Francisco 49ers||+3||8:15 (Mon)|
|12||@Green Bay Packers||-1||4:25|
|14||@Arizona Cardinals||-2.5||8:15 (Mon)|
|18||San Francisco 49ers||-3||4:25|
The Rams need to make some noise in the middle of the seasons when they take on the Giants, Lions, and Texans in Weeks 6-8. Each of those teams is lined at seven wins or worse entering the season. They’ll also get a matchup with the Jaguars later in the season since the NFC West takes on the AFC South this year. The Rams caught a break since they’re one of 11 teams that won’t face an opponent coming off of a bye this season.
The Rams will face the 15th-toughest schedule this season based on 2021 win totals (per Sharp Football), and they’ll be challenged to lock up the NFC West and/or a playoff spot with a brutal stretch in the final four weeks of the season. They’ll square off against the Seahawks, Vikings, Ravens, and 49ers to close out the year, and each team is lined at 9+ wins. They also have a tough stretch in Weeks 9-12 with three consecutive games against the Titans, 49ers, and Packers, who are each lined at 9+ wins. The NFL scheduled the Rams for five primetime games too, which isn’t a surprise with Matthew Stafford raising the profile of this franchise even more this off-season.
Key Off-season Moves
|Matthew Stafford (QB)||Tutu Atwell (WR)||Jared Goff (QB, Det)|
|DeSean Jackson (WR)||Ernest Jones (LB)||Malcolm Brown (RB, Mia)|
|Bobby Brown (DT)||Josh Reynolds (WR, Ten)|
|Robert Rochell (CB)||Gerald Everett (TE, Sea)|
|Jacob Harris (TE)||Austin Blythe (C, KC)|
|Michael Brockers (DT, Det)|
|John Johnson (S, Cle)|
|Morgan Fox (DE, Car)|
|Troy Hill (LB, SF)|
|Samson Ebukam (LB, SF)|
2021 Season Odds
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
|Season Win Total (O/U)||10.5 (+105/-125)|
Season Prop Movement
Win Total: 10.5 (+123) in late March to 10.5 (+105)
Super Bowl: +1200 in early February to +1300
Reasons to Bet Over the Season Win Total
The Rams are 3-1 toward the over on their season win totals since Sean McVay joined the fold in 2017, and Los Angeles just got the biggest quarterback upgrade in the league outside of the Jaguars going from Gardner Minshew to Trevor Lawrence this off-season. Matthew Stafford has been stuck in football hell for the last 12 years with just three postseason berths to his name despite being one of the most physically gifted quarterbacks in the league. Stafford has no more excuses this year after the Rams traded for him to put this talent-laden roster over the top. He’ll also be playing under one of the best offensive minds in McVay and this is the most complete offensive roster he’s ever orchestrated.
The Rams now have a top-five caliber offense to go along with their top-rated defense from last season, which will once again be led by top CB Jalen Ramsey and the reigning Defensive Player of the Year winner Aaron Donald. Los Angeles was the only team to allow fewer than 300 yards per game last season (281.9) and it allowed 22.7 fewer yards per game than the next closest team (Washington at 304.6 yards). The Rams were also just one of three teams to allow fewer than 20 points per game as they gave up a league-low 18.5 points per game. Los Angeles lost a few key defenders like S John Johnson, CB Troy Hill, and DE Michael Brockers this off-season, which will test the depth of their defense, but this will still be one of the league’s better defenses.
Reasons to Bet Under the Season Win Total
Stafford had no or little say in the personnel and coaching staff decisions made by the dysfunctional Lions during his stay in Detroit, but it’s worth noting that the Lions reached double-digit victories just twice in Stafford’s 12 seasons. They climbed over 10.5 wins just once in 2014 when they went 11-5, which is the number the Rams will have to reach to beat their win total this season. Overall, Stafford went 5-7 to the under against win totals during his time in Detroit. Stafford will be playing with by far the best lineup that he’s ever played with to start his career as the Lions’ highest preseason win total sat at nine victories before the 2012 season — he had a miserable campaign and the Lions won just four games.
The Rams have the starting lineup on both sides of the ball to challenge any team in the league after landing Stafford this off-season, but we’ll see if their thin depth is really tested at any point in 2021. They already lost standout RB Cam Akers for the season with a torn Achilles injury so they’re down to Darrell Henderson and two backs (Xavier Jones and Jake Funk) without a career carry behind him. Los Angeles had some of the best injury luck in the league last season as it finished with the second-fewest adjusted games lost (per Football Outsiders). The Rams’ offensive line is still their shakiest position group, but they weren’t a problem like in 2019. The move to Stafford could make them look better since Goff was an extremely limited second-reaction player, but Andrew Whitworth will be entering his age-40 season and he missed his first extended playing time with a torn MCL and PCL.
Notable Player Props
Matthew Stafford: passing yards (4595.5), passing TDs (29.5), MVP (+1600), OPOY (+2200), most passing yards (+1000)
Fantasy Points Projection: passing yards (4395), passing TDs (33)
Best-Case Scenario: Stafford puts up an MVP-worthy first campaign in Los Angeles’ dynamic offense and he finally gets full recognition for being one of the league’s best quarterbacks.
Worst-Case-Scenario: Stafford looks out of sync with his new receivers and he fails to put the Rams’ offense over the top and the once-popular overrated talk once again resurfaces.
Darrell Henderson: rushing yards (925.5), rushing TDs (9), OPOY (+2500), most rushing yards (+1600)
Fantasy Points Projection: rushing yards (1020)
Best-Case Scenario: Henderson takes full advantage of his opportunity to be the team’s lead back after Cam Akers’ unfortunate Achilles injury and he thrives in one of the league’s best offenses.
Worst-Case-Scenario: Henderson’s ankle issues creep in again in his third season and he struggles to separate himself from the rest of the backfield committee assembled in Los Angeles.
Robert Woods: receptions (92.5), receiving yards (995.5), receiving TDs (6.5), most receiving yards (+4000)
Fantasy Points Projection: receptions (89), receiving yards (1075), receiving TDs (8)
Best-Case Scenario: With a switch to Matthew Stafford, Woods reverses his downward trending YPR average from the last three seasons (14.2>12.6>10.4) and he makes it three straight years with 90+ catches.
Worst-Case-Scenario: Woods can’t quite keep up his 132.7 targets per season average from over the last three years with DeSean Jackson, Van Jefferson, and Tutu Atwell pushing for targets.
Cooper Kupp: receptions (93.5), receiving yards (1005.5), receiving TDs (6), most receiving yards (+3300)
Fantasy Points Projection: receptions (93), receiving yards (1015), receiving TDs (6)
Best-Case Scenario: Kupp remains a constant force in the middle of the field and he gets back to averaging more than 12.0 YPR as he did in his first three seasons in the league.
Worst-Case-Scenario: Kupp sees a small dip in targets and his efficiency tails off a bit with Matthew Stafford attacking downfield more than Jared Goff ever did.
Tyler Higbee: receiving yards (650.5)
Fantasy Points Projection: receiving yards (660)
- Best-Case Scenario: Higbee finally gets a sustained role as a receiver with Gerald Everett leaving for Seattle, and the ceiling he flashed at the end of 2019 is opened back up by Matthew Stafford.
- Worst-Case-Scenario: Higbee’s five-game blowup at the end of the 2019 season remains a complete apparition as he remains an afterthought in Sean McVay’s passing attack.
Darrell Henderson under 925.5 rushing yards (-115, DraftKings). Risk one unit to win .87 units — I’m hoping Henderson is a wild success in his new role as someone who drafted him a ton before Cam Akers’ injury in July, but I’m a little skeptical he can be the main man for the entire season to get up over this rushing total. Each of his first two seasons has come to a premature end because of high-ankle sprains — an injury to each ankle — so I’m a little worried about his durability with a bigger workload widely expected to come his way. I’m also in the camp that the Rams will bring in a veteran RB to take some of his early-down work whether it’s Adrian Peterson or a back that’s released on cutdown day before the season starts like a Mark Ingram type. The Rams are aggressively going for a Super Bowl this season after trading for Matthew Stafford this off-season and GM Les Snead isn’t going to cheap out on the running back position when they can get a viable option in the $1-4 million range.
Los Angeles Rams under 10.5 wins (-125, DraftKings) — I don’t have a real strong feeling on Los Angeles’ win total, but I’m leaning toward the under with their defense and their injury luck due for some regression. An improved Rams’ offense with Matthew Stafford can overcome some of the regression on the defensive side of the ball, but I wouldn’t be shocked if their new-look offense takes some time to get clicking at a high level. It also doesn’t help that the Rams have a fairly tough opening stretch of games against some of the league’s better defenses in the Bears, Colts, and Buccaneers. The Rams would sign up for a 4-2 divisional record before the season starts, and I’m expecting the NFC West race to be tight between all four teams until the very end of the season.