Matthew Stafford will play again for the Rams this season. In the best case scenario, as soon as Sunday in Green Bay.
And that means the Rams had good reason to stand pat at the trade deadline and stay in the fight.
Why wouldn't they?
Plenty of NFC competitors are feeling the pain, too. The Minnesota Vikings just lost their starting quarterback Kirk Cousins for the season. The San Francisco 49ers have lost three in a row and Brock Purdy's had a rough go of it lately.
The Washington Commanders tapped out on Tuesday. And the Rams can put the Green Bay Packers out of their misery this week.
So the question becomes – which other contender do you favor above the Rams, once Stafford returns to the lineup?
The Vikings with Josh Dobbs coming over from Arizona? The Saints with Derek Carr? The Bucs with Baker Mayfield?
Even after the worst loss of the season, I'm doubling down on the Rams as a playoff team – especially if they can dig deep and find a way to win in Green Bay.
The Road Ahead
And here's the most practical reason to hang with the 2023 Rams:
The schedule they've played to date is one of the toughest in the NFL. Their opponents have combined to go 34-25 (a win percentage of .576).
Conversely, the Rams remaining schedule has a record of 32-37 (.464). Five of those foes are currently at or below .500.
Since the NFL expanded to the 14-team playoff format, nine victories have been sufficient to secure an NFC playoff spot every time. In 2020, the eight-win Chicago Bears got in.
So if you're asking whether or not I can still see a path to nine or ten wins for the 2023 Rams? My answer is absolutely, so long as Stafford is at the switch.
In recent weeks we've been finishing this column with a look at games that matter to the Rams postseason odds. Given the current conversation, let's get to it earlier here in Week 9 with the matchups I've got circled.
The 5-2 Seattle Seahawks are now atop the NFC West and they go to Baltimore this week. Any assistance from the AFC is always welcome. Similarly, the 3-4 Bucs go to Houston. And what's left of the Commanders are in New England.
The most consequential game of the week might be the 4-4 Vikings, currently in the seventh playoff spot, going to Atlanta to challenge the suddenly-South-leading, 4-4 Falcons. Before Dobbs gets up to speed in the Minnesota offense, perhaps Atlanta can deal the Vikings a fifth loss?
And if you're feeling greedy, maybe the Bears can go to New Orleans and pick off the 4-4 Saints.
Take a look through photos of Los Angeles Rams players practicing ahead of Sunday's Week 9 matchup against the Green Bay Packers.
All that is only relevant if the Rams handle their own business, which begins with snapping a couple gnarly streaks.
First, the calendar has turned to November – historically, the Rams worst month under Sean McVay.
Since 2017, they are 8-13 in November, and their last win in the calendar's 11th month came way back in Week 11 of 2020, Monday Night Football at Tampa Bay.
Would be great to put that to bed before the bye.
Take a Leap at Lambeau
And similarly, the Rams are seeking their first win in Green Bay since 2006. They've lost five straight, including the 2020 Divisional Round defeat (kind of eerie that Jared Goff was playing with a bad thumb in that one).
Maybe the extra hour of sleep will prove helpful – Daylight Savings Time ends this weekend.
Thursday, Cooper Kupp wondered aloud why the NFL keeps sending the Rams to Lambeau Field (though I suspect he understands the scheduling formula better than he lets on).
We've detailed it previously. This time around, it was because the Rams and Packers were like-place finishers in their divisions last year (which is to say, they each finished third). And it was the Rams turn to travel to the NFC North in 2023, whereas they play host to the NFC South's third-place finisher from last season, the New Orleans Saints, this December.
As for 2024, I can promise you the only way the Rams will return to Green Bay is in the postseason. The Packers will visit SoFi Stadium, as the NFC West crosses over with the entire NFC North next year.
Youth Will Be Served
Inexperience is no excuse this week. The Packers are just as green as the Rams, among the youngest rosters in the sport.
In fact, according to ESPN, Green Bay has the fewest receptions (32) and receiving yards (307) from players with at least three years of NFL experience. And they're the only team in 2023 that has not even targeted a receiver with at least three accredited seasons, because they simply don't have any.
Packing It In?
The Packers have lost four straight games after a 2-1 start. They've scored 20 or fewer points in each of their last five games.
Slow starts have been their downfall. Last week against the Vikings, the Packers failed to score a first-half touchdown for the fifth consecutive game. Green Bay has scored nine points combined across that span.
Their only move at the trade deadline was sending secondary stalwart Rasul Douglas to Buffalo, reportedly sending shock waves through the locker room.
And yet, Packers defensive back Jaire Alexander expects to win out.
Brotherly Love > Brotherly Shove
Had to squeeze in a quick mention of the LaFleur Brothers, as both are contending with quarterback conundrums.
For Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, it's Jordan Love's inaccuracy. In his first year as the Green Bay starter, Love has hardly been the Aaron Rodgers replacement they'd envisioned. He is last in the league in completion percentage, has thrown an NFL-worst eight interceptions since the start of Week 3, and his QBR in that time is second-worst, according to ESPN.
Therefore, it's high time the Rams capitalized with some non-offensive production.
At present, the Rams are dead last in the league in special teams DVOA. Newcomer Lucas Havrisik was a bright spot last week, but this goes well beyond making kicks.
A week after Dallas scored against them in all three phases, it's L.A.'s turn to turn a corner. On defense and on special teams, they're due for a plus performance. Especially if Stafford can't go, they'll need it in Green Bay.
Who better to nominate for a game-changing play on defense than rookie edge Byron Young?
He was our guest on Rams Revealed, and he revealed to us a few notable stories.
First, there was a false start on his draft day, when the Las Vegas Raiders texted his agent as they were about to draft the other Byron Young (a defensive linemen from Alabama who came off the board seven spots ahead of the Rams pick).
Second, he's the youngest of 13 children!
And thirdly, the meaningful context of why he's the first L.A. Ram to wear the No. 0.
For more on his incredible journey from the Lowlands of South Carolina to the bright lights of Los Angeles, check out the full episode.