Each season there is a surprise team that sneaks into the playoffs. How many seasons did analysts predict the team that does this would be the Rams during the Fisher regime? It never materialized. This season they are on virtually none of the national analysts radar (I think I have seen two that predict they will) and the number of analysts have grown by leaps and bounds the last five seasons as everyone looks to cash in on this industry.
The Rams are much better positioned to be the team that catches the league by surprise and sneaks into the playoffs than many currently believe (could win division outright). The analysts are shying away from them for one reason, a first time HC. We all know the impact changing regimes have on both sides of the ball when established coaches are hired, it is usually season two when they start playing well in the new system. The Rams have changed not only regimes but have hired a HC with no prior Head Coaching experience. This is why so many analysts are shying away from favorable 2017 predictions for the Rams. The play of Goff in 2016 certainly has played its part as well.
However it is my belief (and I am on an island here, even diehard fans like Dick refuse to make a favorable prediction for the Rams this upcoming season) the Rams will sneak into the playoffs. McVay's offensive design is the missing piece of the puzzle. The Rams 2015 defense was playoff worthy. They played their best football when facing the leagues top offenses on their schedule that season. And they did this with virtually no help from the offensive side of the ball in the majority of the contests. Who were the 2016 Rams? The team that began 3 and 1 or the team that finished 4 and 12? We know what the final record states but how much did the relocation impact the performance? My take, considerably. And the offense took a step back from 2015 even during the games they did win. Once the league had film on Keenum another Austin Davis was born. Arm strength was the issue and opposing defenses shortened the field allowing them to not only defend the air attack, but to also allow them to completely shut down the running game. A complete and utter disaster, maybe the worse offensive showing I have ever seen in many, many seasons of watching the greatest game ever invented.
Yes the Rams have changed the defensive coordinator and are no longer employing the defensive schemes so successful under Greg Williams, but they hired one of the very, very few defensive coordinators who run a scheme superior to GW's. The track record of this coordinator in his first season of taking over a defense is very, very good. Nearly every defense improved in season one under Philips. The missing piece has always been the offense. And this dilemma was addressed by hiring the coordinator with maybe the best offensive scheme in the entire league as the HC. And this HC will be hands on with the offense, a workaholic with the youth and energy to do both for a team with one of the worst travel schedules in the entire league. His youth will serve him well. It will not be the negative factor the analysts currently believe.
The qb is far from proven, the skill positions are very young and the offensive line was redone with a patchwork mentality. The HC does have his challenges working with a front office whose philosophies and decisions have been often debated. But this HC will succeed of that I am certain. He will find a way. He works to tirelessly to fail. The wildcard is Goff. He must develop for success in the 2017 season. He must grow enough to keep opposing defenses honest. Honest enough for Gurley to get to the second level often. Arm strength is not an issue with this qb. No the problem is reads and protections, well at least understanding them. This is Olsen's specialty. Teaching young qb's how to do this at the NFL level. Goff will in no way resemble the qb we saw in 2016. Will he decipher a defense like the greatest ever does in NE? No he will not. But he will decipher a defense to a level acceptable. A level that provides the defense the assistance they have needed since 2014 for this team to make the playoffs. They may experience an early exit and this playoff game may not be played at home, but yes I am predicting the 2017 LA Rams will make the playoffs.