If not for the Green Bay Packers’ surprise win against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night, the Los Angeles Rams would currently have the final playoff spot in the NFC. This is quite a turnaround for the Rams, who have won three games in a row since their bye week and have been performing well on offense despite injuries to key players.
One of those key players is wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who has been sidelined with an injury for the second time this season. However, the Rams’ offense has still managed to score over 35 points in consecutive weeks, including a dominant 36-19 victory against the Cleveland Browns in Week 13.
The Rams’ schedule for the rest of the season is relatively light on competition, with their only tough matchup being against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 18. This favorable schedule has helped the Rams turn their season around after a disappointing 2022 campaign where they finished with a 5-12 record, the third-worst in the NFC.
Despite their struggles last season, the Rams did manage to find a gem in the fifth round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Rookie wide receiver Puka Nacua has been on fire, recording 77 catches for 1,029 yards and four touchdowns in 12 games. Nacua’s speed was a concern for teams during the draft, but he has proven himself to be a dynamic playmaker for the Rams.
Nacua is not the only standout on the Rams’ offense. Second-year running back Kyren Williams, another fifth-round pick, has rushed for 687 yards and seven touchdowns despite missing five games due to injury. Tutu Atwell has stepped up as the No. 2 receiver in Kupp’s absence, and Royce Freeman has been a reliable backup running back.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford has also been a key contributor to the Rams’ offensive success. While he has thrown nine interceptions this season, Stafford’s aggressive style of play, combined with a young receiving corps, was bound to lead to turnovers. He has completed 60.7 percent of his passes for 2,768 yards and 16 touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Rams have struggled outside of star player Aaron Donald. However, since their bye week, they have not allowed a team to score more than 20 points in a game. Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon has been particularly impressive in his contract year, shutting down opposing offenses.
Looking ahead, the Rams will have $80 million in dead money coming off their books after this season. They also still have their first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. With the allure of Los Angeles and a promising roster, the Rams should have no trouble attracting young talent during the offseason.
For now, the Rams have put together an impressive 2023 season despite the obstacles they faced. They gave up years of top draft capital and accumulated a significant amount of debt, but it has paid off with two Super Bowl appearances, including one win, and a shot at the playoffs this year. The Rams’ aggressive approach to team-building has proven to be the right strategy.