By Jack Grupka
The reigning Super Bowl champs – the Los Angeles Rams – looked lost in their season opener Thursday night, a 34-10 blowout to the Buffalo Bills. The Rams were among a few teams in the preseason that were picked to win the Super Bowl this year, so should a loss of this margin be concerning?
The answer to this question isn’t so simple as the Rams played another team that’s expected to compete for a championship this season. The Bills looked miles ahead of where the Rams are, but the good thing for the Rams is that a Super Bowl hangover is normal, especially in the first week of the season. The roster is still loaded, and Sean McVay is one of the brightest coaches in the league.
Rams fans shouldn’t be overly concerned with the defense getting torched by Josh Allen, giving up 297 yards through the air and three touchdowns. They also shouldn’t be worried about Jalen Ramsey having an off day, giving up a perfect passer rating on seven targets for 124 yards and two touchdowns. Cornerback is one of the most demanding positions to play and he was going up against an elite receiver in Stefon Diggs. The general expectation is that Jalen Ramsey will return to playing like the all-pro corner he is and the Rams will have one of the best defenses in the NFL.
Back to the Bills, though, as they were the favorites to win by far, and seeing them win wasn’t a total surprise. They’ve improved all over and truly will be one of the favorites for the Super Bowl come playoff time.
What’s concerning about this game for the Rams is their offensive line. McVay has built his offense on the running game and play-action, but the Rams couldn’t run the ball against the Bills, tallying a putrid 52 rushing yards on 18 attempts (2.8 yards per carry), compared to last year’s average of 4.3 ypc. They also allowed 7 sacks, despite not facing a single blitz. If the Rams can’t protect Matt Stafford against a standard four-man pressure, they won’t be able to move the ball effectively against anyone, let alone a top team like the Bills. They need to figure out their offensive line before anything else.
So, will the Rams be able to repeat as champions? Unless they improve their offensive line play throughout the season, it’s hard to see this team repeating. Their division doesn’t give them any room to move. The Cardinals, Seahawks, and the 49ers won’t pose as easy competition going toward the playoffs. They have the talent to be competitive and win games this year, but based on Week One, the Super Bowl doesn’t seem likely.