Rams 2021 win total preview: Officially a contender with Stafford
The Los Angeles Rams pushed all of their chips to the middle of the table this offseason.
Head coach Sean McVay won the NFC West in his first two years, with a Super Bowl appearance coming in the 2018 campaign. But the Rams recorded their lowest point total last season of McVay's four years on the sideline, causing the front office to pull the plug on Jared Goff and trade for Detroit Lions veteran Matthew Stafford.
Expectations are once again high. Will Stafford prove to be a worthy acquisition or crumble under the pressure in Year 1?
Let's dive into the Rams' outlook this fall.
Rams' 2021 win total
Over: 10.5 (+120)
Under: 10.5 (-140)
A look back
McVay's been as good as advertised since taking the post in 2017. He's 43-21 (.627), with winning seasons in all four campaigns.
Though the Rams improved from 9-7 in 2019 to 10-6 last season, the offense lagged.
Los Angeles' 23.3 points per game ranked No. 23 in the league following a three-year run in the top 10. The Rams regressed in yards per play (5.7 to 5.5) while dropping from No. 10 in explosive play rate to 20th.
Goff completed a career-high 67% of his passes last season, but that was one of the rare positive takeaways. The 2016 No. 1 overall pick threw roughly 700 fewer yards than the year prior and finished with his worst YPA clip since his rookie season.
Another Super Bowl run may have been in the cards if the offense picked up the slack, because the defense was arguably the best in football.
Former Rams defensive coordinator and new Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley led the unit to the No. 1 rank in yards per play and No. 2 in points allowed.
Top 10 defenses in 2020 (by DVOA)
The best way to counter a stagnant offense is to bring in an established veteran who can chuck it. Stafford may have no playoff wins to his name, but he wasn't the real problem in Detroit.
Stafford never had a running game - the Lions had just 11 100-yard rushers with him under center over his 12-year career - and he was barely kept upright, finishing among the seven-most-sacked quarterbacks in five of the last six years.
His new supporting cast will put him in a position to get back to the postseason: PFF grades both the offensive line and wide receiver corps No. 8 in the NFL.
Staley's gone, but the defense returns key personnel, including Aaron Donald up front and Jalen Ramsey in the secondary. The Rams gave up 24 points or less in four of their six regular-season losses last year; with Stafford under center, the defense shouldn't need to carry the team in a cutthroat division.
Due to the San Francisco 49ers (win total of 10.5), Seattle Seahawks (10), and Arizona Cardinals (8.5) all projected for solid seasons, the Rams play the ninth-toughest schedule in the league when accounting for combined opponents' win totals.
Best bet - Over 10.5 (+120)
Not to discredit Goff, but the Rams needed an upgrade. The Niners just landed Trey Lance in the draft, Russell Wilson's still playing at an elite level with Seattle, and Kyler Murray adds a whole different dimension to the Cardinals' blueprint.
McVay's one of the brightest offensive minds in the game who brought in arguably the best option available at the time. This is a brilliant addition for the Rams, and perhaps an even better proposition for Stafford, who finally gets to contend for a title alongside a talented roster.
Alex Kolodziej is a betting writer for theScore. Find him on Twitter @AjKolodziej.