The Matthew Stafford Era will kick off with the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, Sept. 12, as the Rams will host the Chicago Bears and their new quarterback, Andy Dalton, in the first Sunday night game of the new season. Los Angeles opened as a 7-point favorite on the NFL odds with a total of 46 points. Stafford knows the Bears very well from his Detroit/NFC North days.
The NFL offseason annually isn't supposed to start until after the Super Bowl, but the Lions and Rams made a blockbuster trade the week before Super Bowl 55 concluded the 2020 NFL season as the Rams landed Stafford from Detroit for QB Jared Goff in and three draft picks, including first-rounders in 2022 & '23. Los Angeles' SoFi Stadium hosts Super Bowl 56 next February. Could the Rams be the second team to play in the big game in their own stadium? William Hill Sportsbook gives the Rams an Over/Under of 10.5 wins, while the SportsLine Projection Model forecasts 10.4 victories.
Of course, the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers won Super Bowl 55 in their own Raymond James Stadium in Tampa about a week after the Rams-Lions trade – which technically wasn't made official until mid-March. The Rams happened to beat Tom Brady and the Bucs on their home field in Week 11 on the way to a 10-6 record and second-place finish in the NFC West.
In the wild-card round in Seattle, that stellar Rams defense was all over Russell Wilson in leading a 30-20 upset, but Los Angeles was no match for the Packers in Green Bay the following week, losing 32-18.
Few around the NFL thought that would be Goff's final game in a Rams uniform because he had such a mammoth contract, and it cost the Rams extra to unload that deal on the Lions, sending a 2021 third-round pick, a 2022 first-round pick and a 2023 first-rounder for Stafford, who like Goff was a former No. 1 overall pick.
While Goff has two playoff wins under his belt as a starting quarterback and Stafford has none, there's no question that Stafford is an upgrade. Coach Sean McVay simply couldn't run his offense like he wanted to – specifically deep throws downfield – with Goff under center.
Again, though, Stafford is much older than Goff with a career record of 74-90-1 in the regular season and 0-3 in the playoffs. Los Angeles now has little draft capital the next few years, but then the Rams rarely have a first-round pick under GM Les Snead. They didn't for a fifth straight year in 2021 and won't have another until 2024 barring another trade.
Snead did get Stafford some receiving help with the team's initial pick in 2021, Louisville receiver Tutu Atwell in Round 2. Atwell is very small but runs a 4.3 40-yard dash and should be an immediate deep threat.
With little room under the cap, the Rams were quiet in free agency. They did sign receiver DeSean Jackson, who has recorded the most 60-plus yard touchdown receptions (24) in NFL history and ranks sixth all-time in yards per reception (17.4). Jackson is also 34 and rarely stays healthy these days. Defensively, the team was able to re-sign pass-rusher Leonard Floyd after he had 10.5 sacks in 2020.
Arguably L.A.'s biggest loss was defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, now the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. In his first year as an NFL coordinator, Staley's Rams defense ranked No. 1 in efficiency, yards allowed per game and points allowed per game.
The Rams' 2021 schedule is ranked as the 10th-toughest in the league as their 17 opponents – visiting the Ravens is the 17th game -- were a combined 140-132-0 last season.
Los Angeles Rams trends/William Hill Sportsbook odds
- 2020 record: 10-6 (9-7 against the spread, 4-12 Over/Under)
- 2021 strength of schedule rank: 10th (opponents' combined winning percentage of .515)
- 2021 Over/Under win total: 10.5
- SportsLine Projection Model forecasted wins: 10.4
- Odds to win Super Bowl 56: +1400
- To win NFC: +600
- To win NFC West: +180
- To make playoffs: Yes -190, no +160
- NFL MVP odds: Matthew Stafford +1600
Los Angeles Rams Schedule
Week 1 vs. Chicago Bears (SNF): Fourth straight year teams will play and Rams are 2-0 SU & ATS in past two
Week 2 at Indianapolis Colts: They don't play often but Over has hit in five straight meetings
Week 3 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Champs were -4 at home vs. Rams last season and lost 27-24
Week 4 vs. Arizona Cardinals: Cards have dropped their past three in L.A., each by at least seven points
Week 5 at Seattle Seahawks (TNF): Rams lost in Seattle late in 2020 regular season then pulled playoff upset
Week 6 at New York Giants: New York 9-1 ATS in past 10 meetings and covered in 17-9 road loss in 2020
Week 7 vs. Detroit Lions: This will be Lions' first game vs. Rams in Los Angeles since they moved there
Week 8 at Houston Texans: Houston has yet to cover spread in four all-time meetings
Week 9 vs. Tennessee Titans (SNF): Since the Titans moved to Tennessee, Rams are 0-5-1 ATS in series
Week 10 at San Francisco 49ers (MNF): LA's two-game ATS win streak at Niners ended last year in 24-16 loss
Week 11 BYE
Week 12 at Green Bay Packers: Including playoffs, Rams are on seven-game ATS losing streak in series
Week 13 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: Five all-time meetings and the Rams have covered them all (4-1 SU)
Week 14 at Arizona Cardinals (MNF): Arizona is 0-6 SU & ATS in past six home meetings, lost 38-28 last year
Week 15 vs. Seattle Seahawks: Seattle's lone straight-up win in L.A. since Rams moved was in 2017
Week 16 at Minnesota Vikings: LA has failed to cover past six in series but won last meeting 38-31 in 2018
Week 17 at Baltimore Ravens: Added 17th opponent; Ravens won 45-6 in Los Angeles two years ago
Week 18 vs. San Francisco 49ers: Rams are 0-2 SU & ATS in past two at home in series, totaling just 27 points
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