Will the Rams crash for Caleb or finish 9-8? Don’t bet on either outcome

Rams running back Cam Akers dives for a touchdown.
(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

The Rams would like to forget last season’s 5-12 finish, the worst season-after performance by a Super Bowl champion in history.

But it might not be much better this season.

The Rams’ decision to trade or cut high-priced players, and not replace them with additions with similar or better profiles, makes this a season of low expectations.

On the eve of their opener on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field, FanDuel sportsbook has the Rams over-under win total at 6½ games.


Predictably, Rams players say they think otherwise.

Despite what his wife said, Matthew Stafford has no issue dealing with the younger players on roster. Also, he will miss Cooper Kupp in the opener.

Sept. 6, 2023

“There’s always going to be talk in the sports world about this and that,” seven-time All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald said. “Can’t be worried about what everybody says. You got to play the game.”

Younger players also shrugged off the prediction.

“People are going to criticize you no matter what you do,” cornerback Cobie Durant said. “Whatever they put on paper is their opinion, not ours.”

The best reaction is no reaction, receiver Van Jefferson said.

“Everyone’s got an opinion and they’re entitled to it,” Jefferson said. “You can’t really get into that. ... Our record’s going to be what it’s going to be. You just play the games as best you can, whatever the outcome.

“We’ll see at the end of the season.”

Every loss for the rebuilding Rams is a win this season. If they really want to build for the future, they need to set their sights on drafting Caleb Williams.

Sept. 5, 2023

A look at the Rams schedule, with the FanDuel’s projected over/under win total for each opponent:


Getting started

Sept. 10 at Seattle (over/under total: 8.5), Sept. 17 SAN FRANCISCO (10.5), Sept. 25 at Cincinnati (11.5), Oct. 1 at Indianapolis (6.5):

The defending Super Bowl champions are supposed to get the NFL’s toughest schedule.

But the Rams won in 2021, not 2022.

Did the schedule-makers forget when they handed the Rams this four-game stretch?

USC quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams practices.
Should the Rams be thinking about drafting Caleb Williams?
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

The first four weeks will indicate quickly if the Rams are among the frontrunners for the chance to draft USC quarterback Caleb Williams No. 1 — or if they will be among the NFL’s surprise teams.

If the Rams defeat the Seahawks, Rams confidence will abound going into their home opener against the 49ers, a team the Rams have not defeated during the regular season since 2018. If the Rams lose to the Seahawks, 49ers fans will make themselves even more comfortable at SoFi Stadium.

And then comes a “Monday Night Football” date with Joe Burrow and the Bengals.

Without injured star receiver Cooper Kupp for the opener — and possibly longer if he is placed on injured reserve — the Rams could be looking at an 0-3 start, with 0-4 a possibility if Colts rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson finds his stride.


The running ability of Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts could be an issue for the Rams defense.
The running ability of Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts could be an issue for the Rams defense.
(Rich Schultz / Associated Press)

Approaching midseason

Oct. 8 PHILADELPHIA (11.5), Oct. 15 ARIZONA (4.5), Oct. 22 PITTSBURGH (8.5), Oct. 29 at Dallas (9.5):


It doesn’t get easier for the Rams.

And that’s with three consecutive home games.

The Eagles, with quarterback Jalen Hurts leading the way, are built to return to the Super Bowl. The crowd at SoFi Stadium might not be as green as 49ers fans will have made it red for the home opener, but “Fly Eagles Fly” will be sung heartily by the Philly faithful.

The game against the Cardinals — Round 1 of the Caleb Williams sweepstakes — precedes what is sure to be another opposing fan invasion by Steeler Nation.

After three home games, the Rams might be happy to get on the road to JerryWorld.


The activities of new Rams offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur have allowed coach Sean McVay more flexibility to oversee the big picture even as he continues to call plays.

Sept. 5, 2023


Second half begins

Nov. 5 at Green Bay (7.5), Nov. 12 OFF WEEK, Nov. 19 SEATTLE (8.5), Nov. 26 at Arizona (4.5), Dec. 3 CLEVELAND (9.5):

There might be reason for optimism heading into the off week.

The Rams under McVay are 0-3 against the Packers at Lambeau Field but with future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers now playing for the New York Jets, that streak could end.

The Rams will have a week to heal before getting the Seahawks at home, and then travel to play the Cardinals to see who is really serious about pursuing Caleb Williams.


The Browns’ pass rush is reason for concern. So is quarterback Deshaun Watson.


The Rams’ ultra-young secondary has been rated the worst in the NFL headed into the 2023 season.

Sept. 4, 2023


Down the stretch

Nov. 10 at Baltimore (10.5), Nov. 17 WASHINGTON (6.5), Nov. 21 NEW ORLEANS (9.5), Nov. 31 at New York Giants (7.5), Jan. 6 or 7 at San Francisco (10.5):

With two trips to the East Coast and a finale against a 49ers team maniacally primed to finally win another Super Bowl, this could be a long, debilitating stretch for the Rams.

The Ravens, with Lamar Jackson and Odell Beckham Jr., will probably be dueling with the Bengals for the AFC North title or a playoff spot.

Unless the Saints are in a battle for the NFC South, the “Thursday Night Football” game appears to be a prime candidate to be replaced with another game — the NFL’s flex rule.

It will be a long journey to New York before coming back to the West Coast for what could be a finale against a 49ers team sitting starters to rest for the playoffs.


OPTIMISTIC PROJECTION: 3-2 for 9-8 finish. PESSIMISTIC: 1-4 for 4-13 finish.