Bear with me, I’m going to fanboy a little bit.
This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Rams. They didn’t come out and say that before the season started, but their actions laid out the plain truth. They traded Jalen Ramsey, and allowed other veterans to leave in free agency. It was time to balance their budget after they went on a spending spree to win a Super Bowl.
And when they came into Week 1 with a roster loaded with rookies and unproven talent, nobody expected much. I certainly didn’t. Vegas had their over/under at 6.5 wins this season and I was taking the under. I pegged them as a 4-13 team, which I had no problem with. I figured they would grind out a tough year and since they finally have a first-round pick for the first time since 2016 next year, they could invest in a quarterback for the future.
But that didn’t happen. They actually played good football in the early going, beating the Seahawks on the road and hanging tough against the 49ers and Bengals. Then injuries hit and they slid into a three-game skid, falling to 3-6. Time to throw in the towel, right? I was surprised they didn’t deal Aaron Donald at the trade deadline and stockpile some additional draft picks.
They came out of their bye week and beat the Seahawks again at home. OK, maybe they just have Seattle’s number. The following week they took apart the Cardinals easily on the road, which again, not that big of a deal since Arizona isn’t good at all.
But last Sunday, the Rams offense surprised me by not allowing a sack and putting up 36 points and more than 400 yards against a Browns defense that’s near the top of the league. They’re now 6-6 and just one spot of the playoff bubble in the NFC.
And quite frankly, I’m amazed. They shouldn’t be in this spot. Matthew Stafford has missed time. Cooper Kupp has been banged up this season and isn’t the same player he once was. But the offensive line is playing way over their heads, Puka Nacua is already a stud and young players on defense like lineman Kobie Turner and linebacker Ernest Jones are blossoming.
This is a testament to head coach Sean McVay, who wouldn’t have been blamed had he left coaching for a cushy media gig this past offseason. He most likely won’t win the award, because guys like Houston’s DeMeco Ryans, Indy’s Shane Steichen or even Detroit’s Dan Campbell have better odds. But for McVay to get this much out of this roster is an impressive feat.
Now, will the Rams actually make the playoffs? They’ll need help. L.A. has five games left and two are against the Ravens and the 49ers. The revitalized Packers are currently the No. 7 seed and have the tiebreaker over the Rams. The Vikings will need to slide down the stretch to give the Rams a chance to sneak in.
Stranger things have happened.
But even if the Rams don’t make the playoffs, if they can get to 8 wins, you have to consider this season a success. Especially because the team will have cap space and a full complement of draft picks next year.
OK, sorry to turn this into a Rams blog, I just wanted to gush a little bit. Let’s talk about some real teams.
NFL’S TOP 10
1. 49ers – They aren’t going to budge from this spot for the rest of the season. What they did on Sunday in Philadelphia was breathtaking. I’m going to give my first game ball to the defense, which withstood the Eagles’ initial offensive flurry in the first quarter and limited them to just two field goals on those first two drives. They controlled Philly’s vaunted running game and kept Jalen Hurts in the pocket. And then San Francisco’s offense got to work. I was really interested to see how Brock Purdy would respond to the big-game situation and he played like a champ. I was watching this game with my dad and in the third quarter, he asked what was going on with Philly’s offense. The way I saw it, that didn’t matter at all because Philly’s defense couldn’t get stops. Kyle Shanahan schemed so well, the Eagles might as well have been standing still. This is the best team in the league.
2. Eagles – Sorry, fellas. That was ugly. Now you get to face the red-hot Cowboys in Dallas. And you won’t have a member of the security staff to stick up for you (more on that later).
3. Cowboys – I have a feeling that Dallas is going to be in the No. 2 spot at this time next week. They’re going to need some help to win the division and it’ll be even harder to earn a No. 1 seed, but there’s no denying that they’re cooking with gas right now, especially on offense.
4. Ravens – Must be nice to see your competition trip over themselves during your week off. The bad news is they’ve got a tough road over the next month. They should be able to handle the Rams at home this weekend and things might not be that bad against the Jaguars on the road next week if Trevor Lawrence doesn’t play. But then they’ve got the Niners and the Dolphins after that. If they’re going to get the No. 1 seed, they’re going to have to earn it. No free rides.
5. Dolphins – If the season ended today, they’d be the top seed in the AFC. But again, they got here by beating up on yet another bad team. Now they’ve got the Titans and Jets coming up before a trio of tough games against the Cowboys, Ravens and Bills to wrap up the regular season. They’re in a good spot, but I just don’t buy them as a legit Super Bowl contender.
6. Chiefs – I was waiting for that Sunday night loss all season. They’ve made a living out of playing subpar football and still winning games, but they’ve now lost two of their last three and if they’re not careful, are very capable of losing to Buffalo at home this weekend. And it won’t matter if Taylor Swift and Brittany Mahomes – the most nauseating new friendship in humanity – are hanging out in the luxury suite.
7. Lions – They jumped out to a nice lead and then let the Saints claw back and make it a game in the second half. And who knows, if Derek Carr hadn’t left with 47 injuries, New Orleans might have pulled it out. But they didn’t. Detroit has a three-game division lead with five games left. They’re in good shape.
8. Jaguars – I was watching the Monday night game by myself and I let out an audible, “ohhhh, nooooooo” when Trevor Lawrence went down with what the team is calling a high ankle sprain. It looked way worse than that. Who knows when he’ll play again, but Jacksonville will have to tread water without him. Which will be tough because …
9. Texans – … Houston is gaining ground. They’ve won four of their last five, and even though they’re behind Jacksonville and Indianapolis in the AFC South, I like their chances to get into the postseason. Especially because they have one more game against the Colts in Week 18. That should be a fun one.
10. Packers – There are teams with better records, but I have to take a moment to slobber over Jordan Love. He’s looked great lately and is a big reason why Green Bay, after starting the season 2-5, are now back at .500 and will probably make the playoffs. Kudos!
WHAT’S THE CHATTER?
Clown of the Week Award: Dom DiSandro. I had no idea who the Eagles’ chief security officer was before this past Sunday. I had no idea that such a position existed in the NFL. Nobody should know who any team’s chief of security is. So, why he found himself in a back-and-forth with 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw during a game is beyond me. But there he was jawing with Greenlaw after the latter picked up a personal foul and got ejected from the game. DiSandro also got thrown out and Philly head coach Nick Sirianni said Dom was trying to “defuse the situation.” OK, fine. But I was under the impression that a head of security’s job is to make sure FANS don’t rush the sideline. It’s not his job to get involved with an opponent’s players. I dunno, maybe I’m wrong. But I don’t think I am.
QB graveyard: Every week, it seems another signal-caller is leaving with a bad injury. I used to mock all the rules that are meant to protect quarterbacks as “soft,” or “weak.” Now, I’m starting to see the league’s point. I want to see star quarterbacks ply their trade, not watch some untested backup try and figure things out. Except Jake Browning. He played great in the Bengals’ win. And he was just named AFC offensive player of the week! How about that?
Tyreek’s time: I know a quarterback always ends with the MVP award, and after what I saw on Sunday, maybe Brock Purdy should win it. Throwing for 314 yards, 4 touchdowns and zero interceptions on the road always makes a convincing case. BUT … what Tyreek Hill is doing in Miami is unreal. Like Tecmo Bowl unreal. He ran a wrong route against the Commanders on Sunday and still managed to bring in a touchdown catch. He’s unguardable. If there was a year to break the mold with the MVP, this is it.
The old man is back: Yes, the Browns lost to the Rams, but the lopsided final score wasn’t indicative of how close the game actually was. Joe Flacco looked good after being signed to Cleveland’s practice squad a couple weeks ago. All the team needs is someone who can push the ball downfield and take care of the football and he did that for the most part. I think the Browns have a good shot of not collapsing down the stretch with Joe at the helm.
They stink! I’ve been yelling this all season and I was finally proven right when the Cardinals, who had won just two games before Sunday, went into Pittsburgh and made the Steelers and their now -37 point differential look like the frauds they really are. Nobody was happier than yours truly. Unfortunately, they’re still in a wild card spot, but that should change before the regular season ends.
APPOINTMENT VIEWING FOR WEEK 14
Patriots at Steelers: Wow, what a compelling Thursday night matchup, said nobody ever. But we’re all going to watch it, if only to laugh if Pittsburgh loses. Heck, I’ll laugh if New England loses, too. They could not win a game for five years in a row and I’ll still laugh. That franchise had such a cartoonish run of a success, they’ve earned many years of irrelevance.
Lions at Bears: An NFC North brawl! The weather is cold, so it’s time for some old-fashioned hittin’! And Chicago has actually played some good football lately, so Detroit better not view this as a walk in the park.
Colts at Bengals: I mentioned it last week, but Indy’s win streak is at four and they’re right in the thick of the playoff race. Meanwhile, maybe Cincinnati can hang around and somehow sneak into the postseason. I doubt it, but it’s possible. Weird things can happen between Weeks 14 and 18.
Rams at Ravens: The L.A. fan in me really wants to believe that the Rams have a chance to shock the world and steal this game in Baltimore. But the realist in me can see this going much the same way that the Lions’ trip to Maryland did, where the Ravens have their way with the Rams right from the opening kickoff.
Vikings at Raiders: This is a big one for Minnesota, because a loss here would really damage their playoff hopes. Won’t sink them entirely, but they can’t afford a loss when they have the Bengals next, then two games against the Lions sandwiched around a contest against the Packers.
Seahawks at 49ers: Will there be a letdown for San Francisco after their big statement win? Nah. Niners will win this one easily.
Bills at Chiefs: Before the season started, this game would have been circled on many calendars. Doesn’t seem so exciting anymore, does it? Regardless, it’s still important.
Broncos at Chargers: Another week in the “when will Brandon Staley get fired?” storyline. If it hasn’t happened yet, why would I think it will happen now? Watch it happen on Monday.
Eagles at Cowboys: Give me Dallas in this game. That being said, I can’t pick a winner to save my life this season, so maybe fade my pick and go with Philadelphia.
Packers at Giants: Jordan Love is playing great! Also, it’s Monday night, what else are you gonna watch?
Enjoy the games!
Currently a Mobile Editor at Yahoo, Saraf spent 5.5 years (Oct. 2010 – Feb. 2016) working for FOX Sports as an NFL Editor and Writer. Prior to that, Saraf worked for CBS Interactive for 4.5 years (May 2006 – Oct. 2010) as a Staff Editor.