I forget at what point I started pocketing predictions about the 2020 Rams, but I've been collecting for over a month, now.
Less than a year removed from reigning atop the NFC and being pegged as a favorite to return to the Super Bowl, it's been jarring to find the perception of the 2020 Rams closer to where Sean McVay found them when he arrived in early 2017: cast as an underdog in their own division.
We'll get to whether the Rams agree with that assessment in a moment. (Spoiler alert: They don't.)
This is largely a reflection of how strong the West has become, and more simplistically, how the division stacked up a year ago.
To my knowledge, no credible pundit has gone so far as to pick the Rams last in 2020. Still, I suspect someone might be bold enough eventually. After all, Patrick Peterson believes his Cardinals are the "best football team (he’s) been a part of on paper."
But according to the consensus, Los Angeles has been safely ensconced in third for much of the spring, impervious to the tides of the Draft and free agency.
Overlooked is the nuance of the Rams finishing a missed 44-yard field goal away from sweeping Seattle last season, giving the eventual NFC Champions everything they wanted in Week 16 in Santa Clara, and having yet to lose to Arizona under Sean McVay.
Nonetheless, it's understandable after another April without a first-round selection, plus the departures of recognizable talents like Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, Dante Fowler, and Cory Littleton.
"Los Angeles took its shot at a Super Bowl, and the bill is coming due," goes the prevailing narrative.
The league's official site concurred, citing "several roster holes and not enough cap space or draft picks to fix everything in one offseason."
An ESPN.com columnist put a finer point on that matter.
Mix in one of the most challenging schedules in the NFL according to multiple outlets, and there you have it. Los Angeles may still be one of the better teams in football, but they're looking up at the 49ers and Seahawks until proven otherwise.
Unsurprisingly, the Rams aren't ready to concede that point, here in late May.
"I don't really care what the narrative is, I care about the belief I have in our players, our coaches, and how excited I am for us to attack this opportunity and to write our own story," McVay said this week.
"Our goal and expectation is to prepare to win every single game," was his reply to whether 2020 might be categorized as a rebuilding year. "We didn't do what we needed to do last year. I own that. I take full responsibility for it."
Ask Cooper Kupp about returning to the role of hunter rather than hunted, and he echoes McVay's sentiments.
"Our expectations haven't changed; our standards haven't changed. If anything, they're continuing to elevate," the fourth-year receiver said on the Rams Revealed podcast.
There may come a time this fall when a doubting or disparaging word might appear on the proverbial bulletin board. But for now – unlike this writer – Kupp and the Rams don't seem interested in collecting receipts.
"We judge ourselves within the walls we go to work in," Kupp said. "…Any narrative that can be created outside of those walls doesn't matter to us."