When the Los Angeles traded for Matthew Stafford, it was to win big games. It wasn’t that Jared Goff hadn’t won many big games with the team. No. In order to get over the hump, Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams thought that they needed a quarterback with better arm talent and processing than the one they gave an extension to just two year earlier. He needed a quarterback with consistency.
For 12 years in Detroit, Matthew Stafford was seen as a quarterback who couldn’t win big games. Since entering the NFL in 2009, Stafford is 8-67 against teams that finished the season with a winning record. The Lions only made the playoffs three times with Stafford – they were 0-3 in those games.
The marriage in Los Angeles then seemed perfect. McVay got one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL and a quarterback with insane processing ability. On the other side, Stafford joined an organization that was better in all phases. The Rams gave Stafford a competent organization for the remainder of his career. Additionally, the Rams gave him a top-10 defense with Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, one of the NFL’s best offensive minds in McVay, and a series of weapons like Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods.
Still, the trade posed a risk. The Rams had one plenty of games with a 26 year old Jared Goff. A run to the Super Bowl in 2018 comes to mind as well as a gutsy performance in the playoffs in 2020 against the Seattle Seahawks. When Goff’s number was called, most of the time, he delivered.
The Los Angeles Rams might have lost to the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets last season, but they also were the last NFC team to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was a game in which Goff arguably played his best in 2020.
That same Tampa Bay Buccaneers is who the Rams will go up against on Sunday with 33-year old Matthew Stafford. The Buccaneers game starts a three-game stretch that will have a lot of say in whether or not the trade for Stafford was worth it. As mentioned, the Rams will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. They then host a very good Arizona Cardinals team the following week. The difficult three-game stretch is capped off in Seattle on Thursday Night 18 days from Sunday.
As it stands, those teams currently have a combined record of 5-1. These three teams are ranked third, fifth, and seventh in overall team DVOA by Football Outsiders.
The next three weeks won’t make or break the Rams season. However, for it being only Week 3 the next three weeks will have a lot of implications on playoff seeding and where the Rams stand in the NFC West. These are the games Matthew Stafford was brought in for. These are the games that Matthew Stafford can quiet the critics. Can he win the big games? Can he deliver when his number is called?
The Los Angeles Rams are seen as a top contender in the NFC. A record of 0-3, much less 1-2, should be seen as unacceptable. The Rams, McVay, and Stafford all need to deliver. A top team in the NFL should go 2-1, if not 3-0, during this stretch. The Buccaneers are the defending Super Bowl Champions. Arizona has been quite a surprise as Kyler Murray leads the MVP discussion through two weeks. The Seattle Seahawks are of course coming off of an NFC West championship.
Now is the time for Stafford and McVay to deliver. You don’t trade for Stafford to beat the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts. Those are teams you should beat. You trade for Stafford to beat the Buccaneers, Cardinals, Seahawks, and later on in the season the Packers and 49ers.
This three game stretch could catapult the Rams to greatness this season or keep them right where they were. Over the next three weeks we’re going to learn a lot about this team and just how good they are. Are the Rams a wild card team for a second straight year? Is this team the best team in the NFC West? The NFC? These are all questions that we will get answers to over the next month.
It’s still early, but this is an important three-game stretch for the Stafford and McVay era. They both have a to prove during this three game stretch. It all starts on Sunday against the Buccaneers at SoFi Stadium.