The Los Angeles Rams are the 9-2 betting favorite to win the Super Bowl this year. The Rams have followed up last year’s breakout 11-5 campaign with a 3-0 start to this year. They have a high-profile Thursday Night home game against the Minnesota Vikings coming up in a couple days. Are the Rams a worthy favorite?
A listing of Los Angeles’ assets makes a compelling case. Jared Goff, the 24-year-old quarterback, is off to a blazing start. His completion percentage is a tick over 70%. He generates 9.3 yards per attempt. Both are MVP-caliber numbers and significant improvement on what were already good numbers from 2017.
The magnificent Todd Gurley is in the backfield, averaging 125 all-purpose yards per game. The offensive line is still anchored by the 37-year-old left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who continues to play at a Pro Bowl level. The defense is still overseen by the great coordinator, Wade Phillips. And after a summer drama with a contract holdout, Aaron Donald is on the field and looking the part of the Defensive Player of the Year he was in 2017.
Head coach Sean McVay also got some new toys to play with, most notably Brandin Cooks at the wide receiver spot. Cooks gives Goff a legitimate #1 receiver and downfield threat, and has averaged nearly 18 yards-per-catch in the first three games of this season.
Phillips’ defense, ranked 12th in the NFL last year, is first in the league thus far, after three big additions on this side of the ball. Ndamakong Suh was brought in on the defensive front to prevent opposing offenses from putting all their focus on Donald. A marginal secondary was upgraded by adding corners Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters.
The Rams do have some needs. The offense is still a bit too Gurley-centric, whether it’s his running or receiving. A steady #2 receiver behind Cooks has to emerge. Maybe it will be Robert Woods or Cooper Kupp, but a bail-out tight end along the lines of Philadelphia’s Zach Ertz or Minnesota’s Kyle Rudolph, would be perfect.
The defense could also use free safety Lamarcus Joyner or defensive tackle Michael Brockers to have a standout year. Both players have big-time talent, but their reputations shine brighter than their actual performance.
Thursday Night’s game won’t be a good measuring stick. Even though Los Angeles is at home, Peters and Talib are both expected to be out of action. With Minnesota likely in an angry mood after getting crushed in Buffalo, it’s easy to see Kirk Cousins having a big night feasting on an injury-riddled secondary.
But neither injury looks like a long-term situation and even if LA loses, they’ll get an extra few days to rest up for a five-game stretch that will tell us a lot more. A three-game road stretch against the Seahawks, Broncos and 49ers is followed by a home date with the Packers. Then another big road trip, this one to New Orleans.
If Los Angeles is a legitimate Super Bowl favorite, they’ll be at 7-2 by the time that stretch comes to an end in early November. At the very least, they’ll be 6-3, running away with a bad division and in position to peak down the stretch. I believe in these Rams. I can’t say I would bet on any unproven team that’s a favorite this early in the season. But you won’t see me betting against them.