It has been many weeks since there was any doubt about the Los Angeles Rams being the best team in football.
We should start asking if we’re seeing a historically good Rams team.
The Rams dismantled the San Francisco 49ers 39-10 on Sunday. They’re 7-0 and already have a plus-107 point differential. While it’s not exactly a 2007 Patriots-type start, considering they were challenged by the Seahawks, and the Broncos technically only lost by three (a late score made the game look a lot closer than it actually was), what we’re seeing out of the Rams is pretty good.
Los Angeles can win with a pass-heavy approach or on the ground. Todd Gurley has scored a mind-blowing 14 touchdowns already, and has more points on the season than the Buffalo Bills. The defense, especially with Aaron Donald getting hot, has had its moments of dominance. And the special teams will be better now that kicker Greg Zuerlein is back from injury.
It’s a little early to start talking about an undefeated season, but the Rams are the only team that can give us any 16-0 speculation. They’re the only team left without a loss. Is 16-0 possible? The Rams have the ability to beat anyone, but stringing together 16 in a row against this tough schedule will be very, very hard:
Week 8: vs. Packers
Week 9: at Saints
Week 10: vs. Seahawks
Week 11: vs. Chiefs (at Mexico City)
Week 12: bye
Week 13: at Lions
Week 14: at Bears
Week 15: vs. Eagles
Week 16: at Cardinals
Week 17: vs. 49ers
If the Rams can somehow get to the bye undefeated, running the Aaron Rodgers/Drew Brees/Russell Wilson/Patrick Mahomes gauntlet, they have a chance. But that’s asking a lot. Also, games at the Lions and Bears won’t be easy (an L.A. team in Chicago in December is never a great situation), and even though the Eagles will play in L.A., Philadelphia beat the Rams in the same spot last season. It’s incredibly hard to believe the Rams would be able to avoid a loss through those seven opponents, though if they do the final two games should be wins.
It’s OK that 16-0 isn’t a good possibility. A game at the Superdome in two weeks looks like a candidate for the first loss, or perhaps it will be against the Chiefs in one of the most entertaining regular-season matchups ever. An undefeated regular season isn’t the Rams’ goal anyway. Just because they’re the best team through seven weeks doesn’t mean the Rams will win a Super Bowl, but they’re the clear favorites right now. They’re positioned well to at least get the NFC’s top playoff seed, though that game at the Saints might go a long way in determining it.
It’s still quite possible we could see a 14- or 15-win Rams team if they catch some breaks and stay relatively healthy. They’re good enough to make a run at that kind of record. And if nothing else, it’s going to be fun to watch them chase some history.
Here are the power rankings after Week 7 of the NFL season:
32. Arizona Cardinals (1-6, Last Week: 32)
I think it’s fair to wonder if Steve Wilks will be one-and-done as coach. I assume that won’t be the case because it’s extreme to fire a coach after one year, but if the Cardinals continue to look as unprepared as they were last week against the Broncos, it becomes a topic of conversation.
31. Oakland Raiders (1-5, LW: 31)
It’s become a popular thing to rip Jon Gruden, but give him his due: He got a first-round pick for Amari Cooper when that’s probably way more than Cooper is worth. Nobody thought the Raiders could get a first for Cooper. Meanwhile the Cowboys look rather crazy, but we’ll discuss that in a bit.
30. Buffalo Bills (2-5, LW: 27)
OK, so who’s up next for the Bills after that 37-5 loss? Oh, they host the Patriots. On “Monday Night Football.” With Derek Anderson starting again at quarterback. What fun.
29. New York Giants (1-6, LW: 29)
There’s not much gray area with Pat Shurmur’s decision to go for two after the Giants cut the Falcons lead to 20-12. Going for two gives a team a much better chance to win. To argue otherwise is to argue against pretty simple math. Just because it hasn’t been done that way before doesn’t make it wrong.
28. San Francisco 49ers (1-6, LW: 28)
This might be a lost season, but let’s recognize that George Kittle is becoming a star at tight end. He had five catches for 98 yards and a touchdown Sunday. There are surprisingly few productive tight ends in the NFL this season, but Kittle has become one of the best.
27. Indianapolis Colts (2-5, LW: 30)
Marlon Mack had a career day, with 126 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries against a good Bills defense. I don’t think the Colts are on the verge of a huge run, but it’ll be important for them to see which young players emerge the rest of the way.
26. Cleveland Browns (2-4-1, LW: 22)
Assuming Hue Jackson doesn’t have a major turnaround, it will be very interesting to see if Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley gets any buzz for the job. NFL coaches have been picking his brain about his offensive schemes. He obviously has the connection to Baker Mayfield. The NFL has finally warmed up to using more college concepts. It might be a fun fit.
25. Denver Broncos (3-4, LW: 26)
It makes sense for the Broncos to trade Demaryius Thomas. Amari Cooper was more attractive because of his age and salary, but if the Raiders could get a first for Cooper you’d think the Broncos could get something for Thomas. And it’s clear Denver needs to give rookie Courtland Sutton more playing time. He’s really good.
24. Atlanta Falcons (3-4, LW: 24)
The Julio Jones touchdown thing is strange. He hasn’t scored a touchdown all this season. He didn’t score in the Falcons’ final five regular-season games last season. His last regular-season touchdown was Nov. 26, 2017. Jones is one of the best receivers of this or any other generation, so I’m at a loss to explain this.
23. Tennessee Titans (3-4, LW: 23)
The decision to go for the two-point conversion was the right one. But how do you line up with an empty backfield from the 1-yard line? Wouldn’t you want to at least to make the Chargers worry about the threat of the run there, maybe from 247-pound Derrick Henry?
22. Dallas Cowboys (3-4, LW: 20)
The gamble on Amari Cooper is twofold. You simply don’t trade a first-round pick for a year-and-a-half of a player who hasn’t been productive in two seasons. The Cowboys are going to need to give him an extension at some point after paying that price. If Cooper turns his career back around, then it’s easy. If he’s average or worse, are the Cowboys just going to let him walk? Or overpay him to justify the (too high) trade price?
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3, LW: 21)
The Buccaneers are lucky they beat the Browns, because they did just about every single thing they could to lose it. Jameis Winston is always going to be the same guy: capable of making great plays or absolutely soul-crushing mistakes. The interception he threw in overtime and the sacks he took near the end were confounding.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4, LW: 10)
Hey, remember the Power Rankings last week when I said the Jaguars’ schedule and the AFC South was easy enough for them to rebound? Yeah, it turns out they had to actually play well to take advantage of that and not totally melt down in the locker room either. It seems like this week’s London game against the Eagles is a litmus test. I could see them rallying to save their season or entirely giving up on each other. No idea which one will happen.
19. Houston Texans (4-3, LW: 25)
I’m still not sure what to do with the Texans. Their first three wins weren’t impressive at all. The fourth one, a blowout of Jacksonville, was better, and now they’re suddenly 4-3 and in first place. At this point, who else in the AFC South is really going to beat them for the division title?
18. New York Jets (3-4, LW: 17)
Sam Darnold was bad on Sunday against a good Vikings defense, completing 40.5 percent of his passes and throwing three interceptions. This is just life with most rookie quarterbacks. Darnold will have his good and bad days this season, and it’ll be worth it in the long run.
17. Miami Dolphins (4-3, LW: 16)
Kenyan Drake had 72 yards … on six carries. That Adam Gase can’t figure out that Drake is good and deserves more work makes me wonder what other less-obvious decisions Gase is screwing up (we all know DeVante Parker’s agent isn’t a fan of Gase).
16. Seattle Seahawks (3-3, LW: 19)
Seattle’s next five games: at Lions, vs. Chargers, at Rams, vs. Packers, at Panthers. That’ll determine if the Seahawks can at least stay in the wild-card race (we’re best off assuming the NFC West race is over). That’s a tough stretch.
15. Detroit Lions (3-3, LW: 18)
The Lions can run the ball all of a sudden? They went eons without a 100-yard rusher, then Kerryon Johnson broke that streak earlier this season and had 158 yards Sunday. He had more than 100 yards on his first four carries Sunday against the Dolphins. The Lions traded up to draft Johnson in the second round, and that looks like a smart move.
14. Chicago Bears (3-3, LW: 13)
I’m still not too worried about the Bears. Two special-teams breakdowns are what killed them in Sunday’s loss to the Patriots. The offense had 453 yards and 31 points, and while the defense has had two bad games, there’s a lot of talent on that side and they’ll rebound. Don’t bury these guys yet.
13. Cincinnati Bengals (4-3, LW: 12)
Sure, maybe we saw the Bengals exposed on Sunday night. I’m willing to just bang the gong and move on. Newsflash: The Bengals can’t match up with the Chiefs offense. Nothing we didn’t know before kickoff.
12. Washington Redskins (4-2, LW: 15)
Washington is lucky the Cowboys missed that field goal — reportedly thanks to them seeing on film Dallas’ long snapper moving the ball and alerting the officials to watch for a penalty — because they almost had an epic collapse. But they got the win, and the schedule remains easy for the foreseeable future.
11. Green Bay Packers (3-2-1, LW: 14)
The Packers play at the Rams and at the Patriots in back-to-back weeks. If they’re going to live up to their promise this season they probably want to avoid getting swept, though it’ll be hard to even split those two games.
10. Baltimore Ravens (4-3, LW: 9)
Justin Tucker’s missed extra point was shocking, but the top-ranked defense in the NFL still shouldn’t blow a 17-7 fourth-quarter lead at home. A home loss to the Saints isn’t the worst thing, but the Ravens should still feel that 4-3 is a bit disappointing.
9. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4, LW: 6)
I still think the Eagles will make a run, but they better not wait much longer. Put it this way: If the Eagles win six of their last nine, that puts them at just 9-7 and that’s no guarantee to qualify for the playoffs. Whatever ails them, they need to fix it very soon.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2-1, LW: 11)
For all the issues through the first six weeks, the Steelers are in first place, thanks to a very fortunate bye week in which the rest of the AFC North went 0-3. They’ll still need to show more consistency, but at least a slow start didn’t end up putting them in too bad of a place.
7. Carolina Panthers (4-2, LW: 8)
That was a heck of a win at Philadelphia. You won’t see many teams, on the road against a team as good as the Eagles, overcome a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit. Credit to Cam Newton for making plays, and everyone else on the Panthers as well. Huge victory for them.
6. Los Angeles Chargers (5-2, LW: 7)
It wasn’t the most dominant win, but the Chargers are 5-2 with their two losses against the two best teams in the NFL, and Joey Bosa is probably returning after this week’s bye. Not too bad.
5. Minnesota Vikings (4-2-1, LW: 5)
I fully understand that only quarterbacks or record-breaking running backs can win MVPs. That’s how voting has gone for decades. But if someone outside of that group was going to make a run, it might be Vikings receiver Adam Thielen. He’s been the best receiver in the NFL so far this season and it’s really not close.
4. New Orleans Saints (5-1, LW: 4)
Winning outdoors, in the whipping wind, is a good sign the Saints are here to stay. That was an impressive comeback, and under the radar due to the shock of Justin Tucker’s miss.
3. New England Patriots (5-2, LW: 3)
We shouldn’t just gloss over the Patriots’ win. To win on the road against a good Bears team without Rob Gronkowski, after Sony Michel got hurt, was a quality victory. The Patriots are clearly back to being the Patriots, and the news that Michel’s knee injury isn’t serious is great for them.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (6-1, LW: 2)
Kareem Hunt had 141 total yards and three touchdowns in Sunday night’s blowout win. When you consider the 2017 NFL rushing champion has been relatively quiet and overshadowed in this offense, I’m not sure how anyone can stop the Chiefs.
1. Los Angeles Rams (7-0, LW: 1)
Aaron Donald had four sacks and six tackles for loss on Sunday. He also had an absolutely incredible play in which he simply took the ball from 49ers running back Matt Breida for a forced fumble and recovery. Imagine how good the Rams are going to be if Donald is hitting a hot streak.
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