The Rams aim to play the Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium – a home date that can be more easily achieved by securing home advantage for the playoffs.
The first step is to win the NFC West.
That will not be easy.
The division is considered one of the toughest in the NFL, with the Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and Arizona Cardinals all being contenders.
“I wish it was easier,” said Rams CEO Les Snead. “But realistically, we know we’re playing six games that no matter how good you are. It’s going to be a fight. “
The Rams won the division twice in four seasons under coach Sean McVay.
In 2017, the Rams became division champions for the first time since 2003 and then lost a home game with an NFC wildcard against the Atlanta Falcons. In 2018, a 13-3 record earned the Rams a bye into the division round. They beat the Dallas Cowboys in a home game before beating the New Orleans Saints in overtime on the street in the NFC championship game. The New England Patriots defeated them 13-3 in the Super Bowl.
The Rams finished third in 2019 and missed the playoffs. Last season they were runner-up to the Seahawks, which forced them to win a wildcard game in Seattle before advancing to a division round game in Green Bay, where the season ended.
With new quarterback Matthew Stafford and a defense led by Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey, the Rams appear poised to take on another division title.
The 49ers, under coach Kyle Shanahan, are trying to recover from last season’s injury-related nosedive and return to 2019 form when they won the division and advanced to the Super Bowl.
The Seahawks’ division title last season was their first since 2016. The Cardinals haven’t won the division since 2015 when they were promoted to the NFC championship game.
A look at the division:
Will Lance, 5, from San Francisco be featured in the 49ers’ quarterback pic this season?
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
How to Win the Division: With quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo making a strong return from an ankle injury – and Shanahan also effectively training rookie quarterback Trey Lance into an offense with tight end George Kittle – the 49ers could be impressive. Defensive lineman Nick Bosa has returned from a knee injury and is making his outstanding seven even better.
Why not: injuries. That goes for any NFL team, but the 49ers made it an art form last season. If Garoppolo is struggling and Shanahan is slow to replace him, that could set them back too. DeMeco Ryans was promoted to defensive coordinator from within, but can he get as much out of his players as Robert Saleh did before he became the Jets coach?
Will any off-season trade rumors affect Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson?
(Jennifer Stewart / Associated Press)
How to Win the Division: Russell Wilson showed MVP form in the first five games last season, cooled the rest of the way down a bit, and the Seahawks still finished first. If Chris Carson’s reflux stays physically healthy and Wilson moves to the next level with receivers Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf and Freddie Swain, the Seahawks could repeat themselves, particularly with a defense with linebacker Bobby Wagner and Safety Jamal Adams.
Why They Wouldn’t: Wilson, upset by off-season speculation that he was about to trade, deviates from his typical laser focus and stalled. Carson is out due to injury. Coach Pete Carroll loses track of how to win for the tenth time in a row.
Can Arizona’s new defensive end, JJ Watts, help take the Cardinals to another level?
(Matt York / Associated Press)
How to Win the Division: Kyler Murray brings it all together in his third season as a passer-by and runner and finds a way to end Sean McVay’s dominance over the Cardinals. Three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year JJ Watt brings in a new mindset that lifts the entire roster.
Why They Wouldn’t: Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the Rams are built for a Super Bowl run, the Seahawks are a runaway winner under Carroll, and the 49ers are a year away from playing in the Super Bowl. The Cardinals must prove they can do more than just the occasional clutch play.