While much could change between now and NFL Opening Day, one team already stands out as Super Bowl favorite: the Los Angeles Rams.
The Rams are defending NFC West Division champs, coming off an 11–5 record, and have improved this offseason. They acquired cornerbacks Aqib Talib, Sam Shields, and Marcus Peters, wide receiver Brandin Cooks, and—most notably—defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
Peters, who had five interceptions last year, joins a secondary that already included safety Lamarcus Joyner, who had three picks. Shields hasn't played since Week 1 of 2016 due to concussions. Now that he is healthy and in a stacked defensive backfield, he could make a difference.
Those defensive backs will be further helped by consistent pressure on the quarterback. Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald dropped the opposing quarterback 11 times last year and forced five fumbles. On the other side of the defensive line, the Rams now have Suh, who boasts 51.5sacks in eight seasons. He joins defensive end Michael Brockers, who had 4.5 sacks last season.
With all this talent, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is bound to get stellar results. His 48 years of experience will help make this unit flourish. He serves under Sean McVay, last season's Coach of the Year in just his first year on the job. Now that McVay has a season under his belt, his confidence and skill can only grow.
The Rams cleaned up come awards time last year. They boasted Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year...and Offensive Player of the Year, Todd Gurley. Gurley led running backs with 19 total touchdowns. The closest to him was New Orleans' Alvin Kamara with only 14…that’s 84 points to Gurley’s 114!
Handing Gurley the ball is Jared Goff, who performed impressively last year. The Pro Bowl quarterback finished in the Top 10 for yards among quarterbacks and finished fourth in touchdowns! Last year, Goff threw to Sammy Watkins, who left in free agency. Brandin Cooks was brought on as a replacement and figures to be an improvement. Watkins finished last year with just 593 yards. Cooks had 1,082 for the Patriots.
Protecting Goff is a powerful offensive line that will save him from injury and give him time in the pocket. His starters consist of two outstanding veterans in Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan. The other three starters, Rob Havenstein, Jamon Brown, and Rodger Saffold, have flourished.
All of these assets combined will only improve the Los Angeles Rams. The 12th best defense in the league last year, in terms of points scored against, and the No. 1 point-scoring offense will only climb higher this year. Case closed: The Rams will be Super Bowl Champs.
(Photo credit: Harry How/Getty Images)