11 bold predictions for the Rams this season

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The Los Angeles Rams have gone all-in on the 2021 season after trading for Matthew Stafford, re-signing Leonard Floyd and acquiring Sony Michel from the Patriots. They’re leaving it all on the line, hoping it pushes them all the way to the Super Bowl – which happens to be held at SoFi Stadium this year.

We’ve made 11 bold predictions that may not necessarily happen, but they’re all very possible – ranging from individual projections to the Rams’ fate in the postseason.

Matthew Stafford leads the league in touchdown passes

(AP Photo/John McCoy)

He’s never done it before. He’s come close, with 41 touchdown passes in 2011, but he’s never led the league in this department. That changes this year with Stafford throwing at least 45 touchdown passes. I think he could also lead the NFL in passing yards, which might even be more realistic, but he’s going to get a ton of opportunities to score touchdowns in the red zone. The Rams don’t have Cam Akers, nor an excellent goal line back like Todd Gurley from years past. That will put the ball in Stafford’s hands often when the Rams approach the opposing end zone. And with a plethora of targets, he’ll have no lack of options.

Darious Williams becomes a star

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Williams put together a season in 2020 that was deserving of Pro Bowl consideration. This year, he’ll take the next step and be voted in. He’ll get more playing time with Troy Hill gone, he’ll see plenty of targets come his way with Jalen Ramsey on the other side, and with how often the Rams figure to be leading games, teams will be throwing the ball a lot. Williams makes quarterbacks pay when he’s targeted by coming down with interceptions that he makes look easy. Don’t be surprised if he has 20-plus pass breakups and at least five interceptions. Williams should be even better than he was last season.

DeSean Jackson plays all 17 games and scores 6 TDs

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

In the last three seasons combined, Jackson has played 20 total games. How in the world is he going to stay healthy for all 17 this year? Because the Rams have an outstanding training staff and have already set a plan for the veteran receiver to keep him fresh all season. He’s scored seven touchdowns in his last 20 games so it’s reasonable to think he’ll score six times with the Rams this season, knowing how frequently they expect to throw the ball. A few of those scores will be from long distance, connecting with Stafford on deep shots.

5 players will have 500-plus receiving yards

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

I made this same prediction last year and the Rams came close to accomplishing it. They had four players with 500-plus yards, and Gerald Everett was just short with 417 yards receiving. Believe it or not, but the Rams’ receiving corps is even better this year, which is why I'm coming back to this prediction. Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods will eclipse 500 yards easily. Van Jefferson should, too, as he takes over Josh Reynolds’ role on offense as the No. 3 receiver; Reynolds had 618 yards last season. Tyler Higbee is the unquestioned No. 1 tight end now and shouldn’t have much trouble topping 500 yards. That leaves one more player needing to reach the number. Jackson is the best bet, but if Tutu Atwell can carve out a role, he’ll have a shot to reach 500 yards receiving, too.

Darrell Henderson Jr. and Sony Michel each rush for at least 700 yards

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, the Rams didn’t have a single player who rushed for 700 yards. They did have two who topped 600 yards, though: Akers and Henderson. Henderson figures to be the lead back, at least initially, with Sony Michel also contributing. Assuming there’s a fairly even distribution of carries, both players will rush for at least 700 yards. That may not be as bold a prediction in a 17-game season, since 700 yards is only averaging 41 per game, but it’s more about the Rams needing their two backs to stay healthy.

Tutu Atwell returns 2 punts for touchdowns

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Who knows what Atwell’s role will be on offense. What we do know is he should get plenty of opportunities to return punts, just as he did in the preseason. And during those exhibition games, he looked pretty good taking punts back, returning a couple for big gains – even if one didn’t count due to a penalty. I think he’ll provide a spark on special teams and return a couple of punts for touchdowns, an element the Rams have been lacking since Pharoh Cooper was back there fielding kicks and punts.

Matt Gay makes the Pro Bowl

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

I wanted to say Johnny Hekker would get back to the Pro Bowl after three years without being selected, but that seems somewhat unlikely with how infrequently the Rams expect to be punting. On the flip side, Gay will have ample opportunities to put points on the board, whether it’s with field goal attempts or PATs. He has the leg to drill long-distance field goals from 50-plus yards, which will help him gain recognition around the league. I expect Gay to have a good year and put up a ton of points for one of the league’s best offenses.

The offense and defense will rank in the top 5

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The Rams defense was No. 1 in the NFL in yards and points allowed last season. The offense lagged behind, finishing 22nd in points and 11th in yards. It’ll be tough to finish first in total defense again this year, but a ranking in the top five isn't out of the question. They still have Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. Leonard Floyd, Jordan Fuller and Sebastian Joseph-Day are still there, too. On offense, this is a talent-rich team. Stafford has incredible potential in McVay’s offense. Woods and Kupp are among the most reliable and consistent receivers in football. And the running game is a nice complement with Henderson and Michel. I expect the offense to finish in the top five once again this season, just as it did in 2017 and 2018.

Rams will have 7 Pro Bowlers

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There are two obvious choices to be voted Pro Bowlers: Ramsey and Donald. Then there are a host of others who could make the cut. Stafford has a good chance to earn that honor, while Andrew Whitworth could also contend for a spot in the Pro Bowl in what could be his final season in the NFL. I'm predicting that either Stafford or Whitworth will be named an All-Pro, with a slight lean toward the former. Donald and Ramsey will be All-Pros, too. But when it comes to the Pro Bowl, I'll say Donald, Ramsey, Stafford, Whitworth, Williams, Gay and Jordan Fuller all make it. Good teams typically have more players selected as Pro Bowlers and All-Pros, and the Rams are expected to be one of the best squads in the NFL. That will earn them more consideration from voters.

Leonard Floyd improves his sack total from 2020

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Last season seemed like a flash in the pan for Floyd after he recorded 10.5 sacks, 11 tackles for a loss and 19 QB hits, all of which were career-highs. But he’ll go a step further and top those numbers, putting up even better stats in the sack department for the Rams this year. With so much attention being paid to Donald and likely Sebastian Joseph-Day in the middle, Floyd shouldn’t be double-teamed much this season. And as long as he stays healthy, he’ll hardly ever come off the field. That should make for a big season from No. 54.

The Rams will make it to the Super Bowl ... but lose to the Chiefs

(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

After that wild Rams-Chiefs game in 2018, it seemed like those two teams were destined to meet in the Super Bowl. Tom Brady and the Patriots spoiled those plans, beating Kansas City in the conference championship. Well, three years later, we'll finally get that coveted Rams-Chiefs matchup in the Super Bowl. The Rams will win the NFC West with an 11-6 record, make a run all the way to Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium but lose to the Chiefs in that game. Kansas City looks poised to win it all again this season with an absolutely loaded offense and a defense that doesn't get enough credit. And while the Rams have a great chance too, this collision course ends with the Chiefs being crowned champs.

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