(CBSLA)- The Los Angeles Rams suffered the Super Bowl losers curse last year, regressing from runners-up to missing the playoffs in 2019.
There were myriad reasons for the regression. From Todd Gurley’s production dipping to Jared Goff struggling, to the defense taking a step back, all were factors in a 9-7 finish. But, aside from the team’s performance, there was also the vast improvement made by the San Francisco 49ers who went from 4-12 to 13-3 and a Super Bowl appearance.
The Niners, not to mention the Seahawks and Cardinals, don’t seem to have fallen off at all this offseason, meaning this division will likely be quite difficult once again. The most recent win totals have the 49ers set at 10.5 wins, Seahawks second at 9.5, the Rams third at 8.5 and the Cardinals bringing up the rear at 7.5.
SportsLine NFL analyst Kenny White has looked at those totals, seen what the teams have done in free agency and the draft, and he’s got a feeling the Rams are the best ‘over’ play headed into the 2020 season.
“My strongest over play will be the Los Angeles Rams to make a come back this year,” said White in an interview with CBS Local’s Katie Johnston. “Eight and a half wins, that’s all it is. This is a team that was in the Super Bowl two years ago. They have all of their main pieces back. I know Todd Gurley is now in Atlanta, but really running backs are a dime a dozen. They have their quarterback Jared Goff, who had a down year last year. I think he makes a nice bounce back.”
Goff’s completion percentage and yardage totals didn’t show a big dropoff last season. Rather is was his touchdown rate and touchdown-to-interception ratio that regressed. After tossing a career-high 32 TDs in 2018 vs. 12 interceptions, he threw only 22 touchdown passes last year and 16 interceptions. But, as White explains, even in a down year, the team came out looking pretty solid by the metrics outside of one particular area.
“Their offense still ranked fifth in the NFL in yards per game on a median basis and their defense was number 10,” said White. “They’re one of the few teams that had both offense and defense in the Top 10. Their offensive line fell a little bit last year, they ranked 22nd. Their Super Bowl year, their offensive line ranked number four. Somewhere in between is where that number is going to fall. I think you’re going to see improvement by the line, improvement by Goff. Eight and a half is such a low number. I have them pegged at nine and a half to the over.”
Granted, Rams fans will note the team didn’t do much to bolster that offensive line this offseason. The organization did re-sign 38-year-old left tackle Andrew Whitworth, but they selected just one lineman in the draft (Clemson guard Tremayne Anchrum in the 7th round). They did add three more linemen as undrafted free agents, but a team hoping to be a playoff contender likely wouldn’t be relying on undrafted guys to get them to the postseason.
Still, there is plenty of talent on the roster and, the organization addressed some of its bigger departures (Gurley, Brandin Cooks) in the draft. Overall, one thing is for sure. The NFC West appears to be a rough road to the postseason once again.