The Los Angeles Rams have never lacked for quality wins under Jeff Fisher. They beat some of the NFL’s best teams when they were in St. Louis and they’re doing it in their new home too.
If they could just figure out the other games, they’d be in business.
Last season the Rams swept the Seattle Seahawks and won at the Arizona Cardinals. They beat the Seahawks and Denver Broncos in 2014. The year before they beat the Cardinals and Indianapolis Colts, a couple double-digit win teams. Before that, a win and a tie against Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers, who ended up losing a Super Bowl. The Rams didn’t finish .500 in any of those seasons.
It’s a new season but will it be the same “7-9 (expletive),” as Fisher so famously put it on “Hard Knocks” this summer? The Rams have already beat the Seahawks and Cardinals. They’re 3-1, tied for first place in the NFC West. Will it finally be different this season? Do you believe?
I don’t think this season will be much different than the Fisher seasons that we’ve seen already.
This is still a Rams team that ranks 30th in points scored and 31st in yards gained. Quarterback Case Keenum has been pretty good after a Week 1 stinker at the San Francisco 49ers but it’s hard to trust him to keep it up, especially behind a bad line with very few playmakers to throw to. Todd Gurley is excellent, but he’s averaging just 2.6 yards per carry in this ugly offense. The defense is good, but not great. And we all know the Rams’ history of teasing us before blowing games to bad teams.
Everyone already knew the Rams could beat very good teams. We’ve seen that before. What we don’t know yet is if this Rams team can win against lesser competition when the lights aren’t so bright. It’s fair to be skeptical. Let’s not worry about reserving the Los Angeles Coliseum for any playoff games in January quite yet.
Here are the power rankings after Week 4 of the NFL season:
32. Cleveland Browns (0-4, Last week: 32)
I feel bad having them at No. 32 because this team has played hard, and it has been competitive. I’m not sure anymore this is the worst team in football. It’s a young team that knows it isn’t going anywhere but it’s clearly buying in. That’s a testament to Hue Jackson. But it’s hard to move the only 0-4 team in the league up from No. 32. However, if they played some of the teams in the next few spots on a neutral field, I’d pick the Browns.
31. Chicago Bears (1-3, LW: 31)
Seems weird to consider starting Brian Hoyer even when Jay Cutler is healthy. Perhaps they’re just done with Cutler and this is the signal that he’ll never be the Bears starter again. Possible. But it doesn’t seem like a move that will make your franchise better.
30. San Francisco 49ers (1-3, LW: 30)
The NaVorro Bowman news just stinks. He’s a great player, a ton of fun to watch, and now he’s done for the season with an Achilles tendon injury. Hopefully he’s back next year and picks up where he left off.
29. Miami Dolphins (1-3, LW: 28)
If you watched last Thursday’s game, first of all, sorry. Secondly, the roughing the punter penalty on the Dolphins — Terrence Fede of Miami shoved down the Bengals punter for no reason when his team was going to get the ball with good field position — was one of the worst you’ll see. That, and just about everything else on Thursday night, indicated this isn’t a well-coached team. Prove me wrong, Adam Gase!
28. Tennessee Titans (1-3, LW: 26)
DeMarco Murray has a lot more left in the tank than I expected. And they don’t have to put many miles on Derrick Henry, who should be a big part of their building effort in the future.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3, LW: 29)
I have to assume if the Colts scored on their final drive to win, this space would have been examining who Jacksonville’s next coach will be.
26. San Diego Chargers (1-3, LW: 24)
It’s amazing that this team is 1-3. They’ve blown three fourth-quarter leads, and all have been brutal losses. Mike McCoy can’t exactly use “we could easily be 4-0” as a reason to keep his job though. He better start winning soon.
25. New Orleans Saints (1-3, LW: 27)
Drew Brees has won a Super Bowl, set records, made more money than anyone could ever spend and became a legend in New Orleans … but it still had to feel pretty good to beat a Chargers team that let him go.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3, LW: 25)
Jameis Winston always profiled as a quarterback who would turn the ball over a little too often. He has eight interceptions this season, and that’s far too many. But he’ll get it figured out. And he won’t have to play that Broncos defense again this season.
23. Indianapolis Colts (1-3, LW: 20)
Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton are blue-chip players, and let’s grant cornerback Vontae Davis blue-chip status too. Now ask yourself, who is the Colts’ fourth-best player? After you do this exercise, you’ll understand how awful the Colts roster is.
22. Detroit Lions (1-3, LW: 19)
The Lions can deny they benched Golden Tate (I’m not sure what Jim Caldwell considers a benching, but giving most of Tate’s second-half snaps to Andre Roberts after Tate ran a wrong route would seem to be the very definition of benching someone), but something is amiss there. Tate had 189 catches the last two years, and that was with Calvin Johnson alongside him. This year he’s a non-factor. It makes no logical sense.
21. Washington Redskins (2-2, LW: 21)
They travel to face the Ravens next Sunday. Kind of seems like a crossroads game for both teams.
20. Buffalo Bills (2-2, LW: 23)
It’s great that they won, and at 2-2 they’re not in bad shape anymore. But I do wonder how they can cobble together a reasonable passing game without Sammy Watkins. It’s almost impossible to do with Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and Charles Clay as your top three receiving targets.
19. New York Jets (1-3, LW: 18)
Maybe the offseason holdout has nothing to do with Ryan Fitzpatrick suddenly handing out interceptions like Halloween candy. But Fitzpatrick missed all offseason, was unhappy with how he was treated and is not thrilled with his contract … is it that big of a surprise he’s not having a wonderful season?
18. Arizona Cardinals (1-3, LW: 7)
The roster is better than it was last season. You can’t look at it on paper and think it’s worse. But it’s time to concede that Carson Palmer might not be the same, and that is affecting everything else.
17. Los Angeles Rams (3-1, LW: 22)
The one optimistic thing you can say about the Rams offense is Todd Gurley can’t be this unproductive all season. He has had some tough matchups. The line blocking for him isn’t good, and defenses won’t respect Los Angeles’ passing game, but Gurley is too good to be averaging less than 3 yards a carry. That will change.
16. Baltimore Ravens (3-1, LW: 12)
When every one of your games is close, your record is going to even out eventually. Unless you’re the 2015 and 2016 Broncos.
15. New York Giants (2-2, LW: 14)
Odell Beckham’s tantrums are a legitimate issue. But here’s what else is an issue: How do the Giants forget about a guy like that when they’re calling a game? It was shocking how little the team did to get him involved on Monday night. Bobby Rainey seemed to be a bigger part of the game plan.
Podcast: The Falcons are legit, John Elway is a genius: NFL Week 4 recap
14. Kansas City Chiefs (2-2, LW: 10)
Bad, bad, bad look for the Chiefs on Sunday night. And now they’re already two games behind the Broncos in the AFC West. The Chiefs came back from a much worse start last season, but this isn’t the start you want.
13. Houston Texans (3-1, LW: 13)
Brock Osweiler gets all the critical attention, but Lamar Miller isn’t exactly lighting it up. He has 351 rushing yards for a 3.8-yard average, with no runs longer than 15 yards and no scores. And he has 78 receiving yards with a long gain of 11. Maybe the quarterback would play better if the running game was doing more.
12. Oakland Raiders (3-1, LW: 17)
Amari Cooper hasn’t been bad by any means, with 318 yards in four games, but there’s obviously more coming. He hasn’t scored yet and has been relatively quiet overall. And the Raiders are 3-1 with their best weapon on offense off to a somewhat slow start.
11. Carolina Panthers (1-3, LW: 6)
Another team that, when you look at the roster on paper, it’s not worse than last season. There’s no way this team should go from 15-1 to out of the playoffs. They’ll get it going. But they better not wait much longer.
10. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2, LW: 11)
All offseason we talked about how the Bengals lost Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu (who have both played well with their new teams) and how they’d be without injured tight end Tyler Eifert. Andy Dalton is still averaging 308.5 yards per game with a sterling 8.5 yards per attempt. It’s hard to go completely under the radar as an NFL quarterback, but Dalton does it.
9. Dallas Cowboys (3-1, LW: 15)
I’d still go with Tony Romo when he’s healthy.
8. Atlanta Falcons (3-1, LW: 16)
If you’re picking an MVP right now, based just on what we’ve seen so far … the only answer is Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. He has a 126.3 passer rating. Nobody else in the NFL, with at least 100 passes, is above 104.6.
7. Green Bay Packers (2-1, LW: 9)
Remember when we all thought Randall Cobb’s poor 2015 season was due to not having Jordy Nelson around to occupy extra defensive attention? Nelson is back, and Cobb has 12 catches for 132 yards and no touchdowns in three games. He’s only 26 years old so he’s not losing it. Right?
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1, LW: 8)
Le’Veon Bell came off suspension and rushed for 144 yards on 18 carries. This offense is scary when it’s clicking. That’s not a bad Chiefs defense the Steelers torched on Sunday night.
5. Philadelphia Eagles (3-0, LW: 5)
The Eagles have seven road games left, and there are some tough ones: at Detroit, Washington, Dallas, Giants, Seattle, Cincinnati and Baltimore. And they still have tough home games, like Minnesota, Atlanta and Green Bay. Carson Wentz and Co. will get tested often going forward.
4. Minnesota Vikings (4-0, LW: 4)
Where did that Cordarrelle Patterson five-catch game on Monday night come from? He had four catches in the Vikings’ previous 19 games combined, dating back to the start of last season.
3. Seattle Seahawks (3-1, LW: 3)
Is Russell Wilson ready to go on another hot streak? Despite still dealing with some injuries, he was on fire against the Jets. He was 23 of 32 for 309 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. And many of his throws could not have been any more accurate. He threw touchdowns to Tanner McEvoy (the incredibly rare “former Wisconsin quarterback to former Wisconsin quarterback” connection) and C.J. Spiller, who was signed off the street a few days before. It’s games like Sunday that serve as a reminder: The Seahawks are one of the best teams in football, without any doubt.
2. Denver Broncos (4-0, LW: 2)
It’s not time yet, because Trevor Siemian will keep his job of course. But it seems like a “Paxton Lynch or Siemian?” controversy is coming at some point this season. Good thing Gary Kubiak got experience last season handling a tricky quarterback situation.
1. New England Patriots (3-1, LW: 1)
Here’s how you react to Sunday’s shutout loss if you’re the Patriots: You shrug, knowing you’re going from a rookie quarterback making his second career start to perhaps the greatest quarterback ever this week. And Rob Gronkowski will be closer to 100 percent. And Rob Ninkovich is back from suspension. Nothing that happened Sunday should change how you view the Patriots.
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