Los Angeles Rams: The 2017 Cinderella Team Or A Legit Contender? [Opinion]

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What can be said about the Los Angeles Rams that hasn’t already been spoken or typed? Their coming-out season has been one for the ages but haven’t we seen this before? The Rams of 2017 have a similar feel to the 2015 Carolina Panthers. Prior to 2015, the Panthers were an up and down team who couldn’t stick with any kind of winning formula. The same could be said for the Rams, who were stuck in St. Louis still reliving the glory years of “The Greatest Show on Turf”.

Fast forward and the Rams are not only enjoying their current success, they deserve this. The Rams have not been to the playoffs since 2004, and during that time, they have failed to end the season with a winning record an astounding 12 straight years (including two 8-8 seasons). In that time, the Rams have moved from St. Louis back to Los Angeles, and in their first year, the losing continued — and it seemed it would for quite a while. I guess that’s why the games are played and not talked about.

But in 2017, it all changed.

Entering the season, there were questions concerning the direction of the team. While the defense was solid throughout the losing, it was the offense where the issue laid. According to SBNation, Jared Goff’s play was under attack after a dismal rookie season and the receiving core was nonexistent after the departure of leading receiver Kenny Britt. Someone had to step up and like the Panthers during their Super Bowl run in 2015, players did.

Before the season, who would have thought that Robert Woods (47/703/4) and Cooper Kupp (51/665/3) would be the leading tandem on a team that included Sammy Watkins (31/528/6) and the highly paid Tavon Austin (10/42)? What this shows is the Rams’ growth much like Carolina’s during their magical run. It doesn’t take a special individual to lead a team, it takes a team effort.

While Todd Gurley is still the focal point of the offense, his numbers have declined some due to Goff spreading the ball around. When you win, the stats are not important. This is what Cam Newton learned during his MVP season that year. Goff, still a little wet behind the ears, has played himself into MVP discussions but it’s been the defense that has kept this team on an even keel.

Led by Aaron Donald, the Rams defense is touted as one of the best in the league. It’s almost a mirror image of what the Panthers were able to do with Charles Johnson, Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, and Josh Norman. One of the biggest issues with NFL fans today is how they view quality wins. Wins are wins for me, but when someone wants to take a team down a peg, that’s the argument they give. Well, if we were to go down the Rams’ schedule, we will see that they do indeed have some quality wins.

This season, the Rams have wins against the Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Houston Texans, and Jacksonville Jaguars, while also sweeping the Arizona Cardinals. It’s safe to say that the Rams are legit contenders to come out of the NFC, and by Sunday night, we should really know as they take on the 10-2 Philadelphia Eagles.

Regardless of what happens this year, the Rams have shown they are here for the long haul. However, what they must avoid is the same fate that happened to the 2016 Panthers. After a great season, the floor fell out from under them and talks of a fluke season begin. While the Rams still have a way to go, they would love to be compared to that Panthers team, but they would also like to one-up them by finishing the year as champs. Fluke or no fluke, the only thing that matters is 2017.