2020 Los Angeles Rams Season Preview

by Hunter Sanders
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In just 2 short weeks, the Rams will kick off their 2020 campaign against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. LA has had 3 straight winning seasons for the first time in 18 years, so expectations are reasonably high for this season. And despite missing the playoffs for the first time in the Sean McVay era, his team looks to rebound with another trip to the postseason.

This Rams team will no longer trot out the likes of Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, Dante Fowler, and longtime kicker Greg “the Leg” Zuerlein, so it’s up to younger players (and veterans, alike) to step up and fill those voids. Can the Rams make it back to the playoffs? Let’s break down their schedule (10th toughest in the league), one game at a time.

Week 1: vs Dallas Cowboys

Key Matchup: Rams DL vs Cowboys OL
Prediction: The last time these two teams met, the Cowboys essentially ended the Rams’ playoff hopes with a 44-21 blowout in Dallas. Many current Rams played in that game, and they’ll want revenge. It will be interesting to see how the Rams defensive line, led by all-world defensive lineman Aaron Donald, will perform against the always-solid Cowboys OL. Dallas got the better of them last time. Jared Goff will ultimately star in this showdown under the brand-new SoFi lights. Rams 27, Cowboys 21
Record after Week 1: 1-0

Week 2: @ Philadelphia Eagles

Key Matchup: TE Zach Ertz vs S John Johnson III
Prediction: Since Doug Pederson joined the Eagles, his team has had Sean McVay’s number. The Eagles are 2-0 against the Rams since the 2017 season, with both wins coming on the road. Philadelphia was ravaged with injuries last season, but still managed to win the NFC East. Many key starters return (including starting QB Carson Wentz), and their secondary improved vastly with the additions of Darius Slay and former Ram Nickell Robey-Coleman. Zach Ertz is a top-3 tight end, and the Rams will have their hands full trying to cover him, as they often do when covering George Kittle twice a year. Pederson will get the best of McVay once again. Eagles 24, Rams 19
Record after Week 2: 1-1

Week 3: @ Buffalo Bills

Key Matchup: Rams WRs vs Bills DBs
Prediction: The Rams will stay on the east coast and travel north to Buffalo, a team fresh off a playoff appearance and is looking to win the AFC East. The Bills boast an elite secondary led by CB Tre White, while the Rams have one of the top WR corps in the league. The Rams have some great route runners, so the Bills will have their hands full containing Woods, Kupp, and Co. These two teams are evenly matched at most positions, but I’d take Jared Goff over Josh Allen any day of the week. Rams 20, Bills 16
Record after Week 3: 2-1

Week 4: vs New York Giants

Key Matchup: RB Saquon Barkley vs Rams ILBs
Prediction: The Rams make their way back to LA to take on the lowly Giants. The Rams have arguably the worst (and unproven) linebacker group in the league, and Saquon Barkley could be in line for a huge game. However, the advantage ends there for the Giants. They lack premium talent at most positions, and Aaron Donald should feast against that offensive line. Rams win this one easily. Rams 37, Giants 14
Record after Week 4: 3-1

Week 5: @ Washington Football Team

Key Matchup: DE Chase Young vs LT Andrew Whitworth
Prediction: The Rams face off against another lowly opponent, the Washington Football Team. While rookie Chase Young should give veteran Andrew Whitworth a great battle all game long, Washington doesn’t have the players to keep up with LA. The Rams win in another blowout. Rams 35, Washington 10
Record after Week 5: 4-1

Week 6: @ San Francisco 49ers

Key Matchup: 49ers DL vs Rams OL
Prediction: The 49ers swept the Rams last season, but I’m not convinced it’ll happen again this time around. LA came very close to knocking off the 49ers in Week 16 last year, but a late collapse saw their playoff hopes end. As the defending conference champs, the 49ers will get each team’s best shot. This will likely be a defensive battle. In the end, I think the 49ers’ ferocious pass rush will be too much for the Rams’ offense to handle, and San Fran wins a close one. 49ers 20, Rams 17
Record after Week 6: 4-2

Week 7: vs Chicago Bears

Key Matchup: OLB Khalil Mack vs RT Rob Havenstein
Prediction: The Chicago bears have a great defense, and one of the best players in football in Khalil Mack. Last season, however, rookie RT Bobby Evans manhandled the vet in a 17-7 win on Sunday Night Football. This time around, Havenstein will be the man trying to stop the elite pass rusher. If he can contain Mack, the Rams should take this one without too much of a fight. Chicago simply lacks any top talent on offense outside of Allen Robinson, who should be shadowed by Jalen Ramsey again. Robinson had just 4 catches for 15 yards in their meeting last year. Rams 27, Bears 13
Record after Week 7: 5-2

Week 8: @ Miami Dolphins

Key Matchup: WR Devante Parker vs CB Jalen Ramsey
Prediction: When the 2019 season started, the Dolphins looked like the most obviously tanking team in sports history. However, HC Brian Flores changed the narrative after an 0-7 start, finishing 5-11 and ending the season on a high note. Miami acquired many key players in the offseason, including QB Tua Tagovailoa, HB Matt Breida, LB Kyle Van Noy, and CB Byron Jones. This is a trap game for LA. They have to fly across the country to play a team that has a lot of momentum heading into the season. I think the Rams will pull it out, but this’ll be closer than people think. Rams 28, Dolphins 24
Record after Week 8: 6-2

Week 9: Bye Week

Week 10: vs Seattle Seahawks

Key Matchup: QB Russell Wilson vs Rams secondary
Prediction: The Seahawks and Rams never fail to disappoint when they play each other. The Rams have had the edge since Sean McVay became head coach, but you can never count out Russell Wilson. He is easily the best QB the Rams revamped secondary will face this year, and they have to play him twice. While Wilson is amazing, Seattle’s offensive line and secondary will be there downfall here, just like it was in their last meeting. Aaron Donald will dominate like he always does against Seattle (he has Wilson’s number), and the Rams will pick up a huge division win. Rams 30, Seahawks 22
Record after Week 10: 7-2

Week 11: @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Key Matchup: CB Troy Hill vs WR Chris Godwin
Prediction: This is without a doubt, the most intriguing opponent the Rams play outside of the NFC West. After shockingly acquiring QB Tom Brady and TE Rob Gronkowski in the offseason, the Bucs are being labeled as Super Bowl contenders by most media outlets. While their defense will likely disappoint again, the offense is loaded with weapons. The Rams have always seemed to struggle against Brady, going 1-5 against the HOF QB in his career. With this being arguably the best offensive cast Brady has ever worked with, the Rams face a tough challenge. In the end, those weapons will be too much for the Rams secondary to handle. Buccaneers 31, Rams 28
Record after Week 11: 7-3

Week 12: vs San Francisco 49ers

Key Matchup: QB Jared Goff vs 49ers DBs
Prediction: After a close loss to the Bucs, the Rams don’t get any breaks as they have to play the 49ers again. However, this time will be different. LA gets to play at home, and they aren’t going to let a division rival sweep them (…again). Jared Goff will shine against a 49ers secondary that has plenty of skill, just as he did for the majority of their Week 16 matchup last year. The Rams win a close one between two potential playoff teams. Rams 23, 49ers 21
Record after Week 12: 8-3

Week 13: @ Arizona Cardinals

Key Matchup: CB Jalen Ramsey vs WR Deandre Hopkins
Prediction: Under Sean McVay, the Rams are 6-0 against the Cardinals, winning by an average of 23.1 points per game. However, this Cardinals team should be better than the past few years, especially with talented QB Kyler Murray getting more settled in the league. Much like the Bucs, they have potential to sport an elite offense. While their defense was awful last year, offseason acquisitions Isaiah Simmons, Jordan Phillips and Devon Kennard will bolster a weak unit into a solid one. Getting to watch Hopkins battle Ramsey all game will be extremely exciting. Two of the best at their position, they have a long history dating back to their AFC South days. I think it’ll be tough to sweep to Cards, and the home team will take this one. Cardinals 29, Rams 24
Record after Week 13: 8-4

Week 14: vs New England Patriots

Key Matchup: WR Robert Woods vs CB Stephon Gilmore
Prediction: So far, the Rams have followed up each loss with a win. Unfortunately for them, I don’t think that will happen against the Patriots. Yes, they lost Tom Brady and many key starters, but they are still led by the greatest coach of all time in Bill Belichick. While Cam Newton hasn’t been himself the last few years, there are few better coaches to help him regain his confidence and skill. The Patriots always seem to have the Rams’ number, and this time will be no different as they upset the Rams on the road. Patriots 23, Rams 14
Record after Week 14: 8-5

Week 15: vs New York Jets

Key Matchup: WR Jamison Crowder vs CB David Long
Prediction: For the second straight year, the Rams sit at 8-5 after 13 games, likely needing to win out to make the playoffs. That stretch starts here against the Jets, who aren’t exactly an elite NFL team. Still, no game in this league is a given, and the Jets will give the Rams a fair fight. In the end, the Rams’ secondary will be too much for QB Sam Darnold to take on, and they’ll shut down a lackluster group of receivers. Rams 26, Jets 10
Record after Week 15: 9-5

Week 16: @ Seattle Seahawks

Key Matchup: TE Tyler Higbee vs S Jamaal Adams
Prediction: In their second meeting, the Rams and Seahawks will put on a great show, as they always do. LA has actually had great success in Seattle over the past 3 seasons, going 2-1 and barely losing their meeting last year. Sean McVay’s squad plays better on the road than at home, and he won’t be phased by the 12th man (especially if fans aren’t allowed at games). Tyler Higbee ended last season with one of the greatest stretches by a tight end in NFL history. It’s too early to tell how much the Seahawks will have Adams play man coverage, but if these two get to go head-to-head, expect an exciting battle. Jared Goff will lead a late drive to seal it for LA, and make up for last season’s devastating loss. Rams 27, Seahawks 24
Record after Week 16: 10-5

Week 17: vs Arizona Cardinals

Key Matchup: OLB Chandler Jones vs LT Andrew Whitworth
Prediction: In the final regular season game, the Rams and Cardinals could very well both be fighting for a playoff spot. LA lost in their previous meeting, and that will only add more fuel to the fire as they aim to qualify for the postseason. Chandler Jones is one of the most underrated players in all of football, and 38-year old Andrew Whitworth will be tested thoroughly on the edge. I expect another thrilling game between these teams, and the Rams will end up on top to make the playoffs. Rams 28, Cardinals 27
Record after Week 17: 11-5

2020 Season Prediction Recap

In 3 seasons as the Rams’ head coach, Sean McVay has averaged 11 wins. I think he’ll keep that average going in 2020, and make the playoffs for the 3rd time in 4 seasons. The Rams are still a talented squad, but not quite Super Bowl contenders. They’ll need Goff to finally take leadership without a steady run game to fall on, and the defense will need to perform consistently. Until these happen, I see the Rams as an 11-win team who will have to battle in the toughest division in the NFL for a playoff berth.

Rams MVP: DE Aaron Donald

This goes without saying, but Aaron Donald is one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history. He proves his value to this team every season, and this year will be no different. While he likely won’t win an NFL MVP, expect him to be the favorite for DPOY yet again.

Rams OPOY: QB Jared Goff

With a plethora of weapons to throw to, and no proven run game, Jared Goff will be asked to carry a heavy load for LA, and I think he’s every bit capable of doing so. Goff was an MVP candidate in the 2018 season, before regressing last year. If he can get back to his form from 2 years ago, look for him to become a top-10 QB in this league.

Rams DPOY: CB Jalen Ramsey

For the sake of not repeating everything I just said about Donald, I’ll declare Jalen Ramsey as the (2nd) best defensive player for the Rams this season. He’ll be looking to prove himself and earn a contract extension, and his play will back up his mouth.

Rams ROY: OLB Terrell Lewis

With Aaron Donald taking up double- and triple- teams just about every snap, the rookie from Alabama should have no problem facing one-on-one situations against offensive lineman. If Lewis can stay healthy, he will be in the running for DROY, and his play in college can back that up. A double-digit sack season isn’t out of the question with his talent.

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