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Should the Rams be a 2018 NFC Favorite? Don’t Bet On It!

by Rams HQ Team

This Fan Post, was written by CEO and Founder of  Shoresteinsays Statistically-Based Pro Football Predictions Against the Spread Nicholas Shorestein! Make sure to give him a follow on Twitter at @n_shorestein

The most hyped up team of the 2018 NFL season will undoubtedly be the Los Angeles Rams. Their eventful off-season was full of high profile trades and signings of talented but complicated players.  The Rams front office took the “All-In” approach as it looks to capitalize on the momentum generated in 2017.

However, there is a multitude of reasons why the Rams season could end up disappointing the LA fan base.  I expect the Rams to fall under their projected win total, and I will target them to struggle against the spread.

Why the Rams will Disappoint in 2018:

1.  Jared Goff will not sustain his elite play:  2017 was a phenomenal season for the Rams signal caller.  He was elite in virtually every passing category last year.  The chart below showcases his prolific passing season:

While, he ranked near the top in all of these vital statistics in 2017, he was near the bottom in the exact same statistics in 2016:

I envision Goff settling back to somewhere in the middle between these wild fluctuations.  The eye test on Goff shows that there is still more work to be done on his mechanics and pocket presence.  The “raw-ness” in these elements of his game still act as a detriment to his completion percentage and vulnerability to pressure.  He has struggled in both seasons with completion % at just 54% (dead last) in his rookie campaign and only marginally better last year at 61% (22nd in league).  Last year, the offense relied on explosive, long yardage plays.  With defenses now focusing on limiting those plays, Goff will need to become more efficient on the shorter throws or the Rams offense will take a significant step back.

I think Goff will follow the path of these young QB’s who saw success early on in their career, but were exposed in the following season after opposing teams studied their flaws.

2.  The 2018 Schedule is much harder than 2017:  6 of their games are against teams that ranked in the top 10 in both passer rating defense and points allowed in 2017.  And this list does not include @ Chicago and @ Denver, both venues that are notoriously difficult to score points in. I highly expect the Denver defense to bounce back in a big way this season.  The Rams offense racked up points in blowout wins against inferior opponents in 2017. I expect them to struggle in close games against what looks to be a tough schedule (notably the defenses). Also keep in mind that San Francisco is not the cake walk it was last year with Garoppolo at the helm.

3.  Aqib Talib & Marcus Peters will struggle with on field chemistry: I will preface this section by saying that I am a huge fan of Aqib Talib but, I think he has hit the latter part of his career.

Talib and Peters are both excellent corners.  However, I don’t think they will work well as a tandem.  They have a near identical skill set. I think they are both risk takers for big plays, and they excel when covering the bigger receivers.  I think they will both have problems covering the smaller receivers that rely on quickness. It just so happens that this year’s schedule is full of these types of receivers.  This list includes, Doug Baldwin (twice), Stefon Diggs, Nelson Agholor, Tyreek Hill, Golden Tate, Randall Cobb, and Emmanuel Sanders.

Not to mention, both the Saints and 49ers have quarterbacks that utilize the quick passing game that works against their strengths.  Talib relied on Chris Harris to matchup against these types of quick players while he shut down the bigger receivers. Peters has also had one of the best safeties in Eric Berry to cover for him when he would gamble on making big time plays. These strategies worked in the past, but I am skeptical with how these risks will work out with the current secondary.

4. The loss of Robert Quinn will outweigh the acquisition of Ndamukong Suh:  The controversial Ndamukong Suh was an interesting move for the Rams.  They chose to part ways with Robert Quinn and Alec Ogletree in an attempt to solidify the defensive line and strengthen the weak run defense (which ranked near the bottom in yards/carry).  I disagree with this approach for several reasons.  Suh’s reputation as a disruptive force in the backfield is over rated.  Conventional wisdom would tell you that if you dedicated two blockers to one defensive lineman it would open up the rest of the defense to stuff the run.  This simply hasn’t happened on any of the teams Suh played for over the past few years. (I also threw in the pedestrian sack totals)

Robert Quinn has been a much more impactful pass rusher.  The Rams will surely miss Quinn’s athleticism on the edge over Suh’s potential on the inside.  Quinn’s 8.5 sacks last season were just about equal to what Suh has had in the last two years combined.  Quinn has forced 21 fumbles since 2011.  To give that number some perspective, Von Miller who is arguably the best pass rusher in the NFL has forced 22 fumbles during that same time frame.  Last year, the Rams relied on takeaways, and they have given away two of their best turnover creators in Ogletree and Quinn.

5. The Young Coach Can Not Handle the Volatile Personalities:  Good luck to Sean McVay with this cast of characters.  This guy looks like he could still be a frat boy, and yet he is in charge of handling Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, Ndamukong Suh, and Aaron Donald.  All of these players have had run ins with teammates, opposing players, or officials. On top of dealing with these fiery emotions, he is tasked with the continued development of Jared Goff who will likely face some adversity with the top level defenses that I outlined earlier.  This honestly has disaster written all over it.

Conclusions

Don’t be fooled by the teams that “Win the Offseason” as it typically doesn’t translate to the Actual Season.  (Do you remember the self proclaimed Dream Team 2011 Philadelphia Eagles?….They were 8-8)

Current Vegas Outlook:  Odds to win Superbowl 10/1.  I think there are much better teams with better value including Philly and Minnesota at 10/1 as well.  The Saints at 20/1 might be the best value bet on the board. My favorite longshots right now would be Detroit at 50/1 in the NFC or Denver at 33/1 in the AFC.

The over/under win totals vary, but I would not be surprised to see the Rams go 9-7 or worse.  I’d certainly take the Rams under 10.5 if that presented itself. I anticipate the public could drive the win total up high because of all the off season hype.

This Fan Post, was written by CEO and Founder of  Shoresteinsays Statistically-Based Pro Football Predictions Against the Spread Nicholas Shorestein! Make sure to give him a follow on Twitter at @n_shorestein

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