Super Bowl Predictions

Updated: February 3rd 2019

Welcome to Super Bowl weekend. As I mentioned on Twitter right after the game, what Tom Brady & Bill Belichick have accomplished over the last two decades will go down as the greatest achievement in modern sports. The parity in the NFL is second to none when compared to other leagues and sustained success is extremely rare, and since becoming the everyday starter in 2001 (and not including 2008 when he was injured), Brady has missed the playoffs once (in 2002 despite finishing in a tie at 9-7 with the Dolphins/Jets in the AFC East), and he has made the AFC Championship game 13 times…to give you some context, during this same time span, the Steelers (a widely successful franchise over the past 20 years) only made the playoffs 12 times. Now entering his 9th Super Bowl, Brady will have played in more Super Bowls than any other NFL franchise. So, what a story for Super Bowl 53. Perhaps the greatest storyline is that Brady (41) and Belichick (66) are up against Jared Goff (24) and Sean McVay (33)…who knows, maybe McVay and Goff are about to start a dynasty of their own (McVay seems to have all the skills of a young Belichick even if Goff seems far off from a young Tom Brady). Brady and Goff will get much of the pregame attention, but the running backs will be critical to the outcome of the game, which should be a classic.

After the first three rounds of the playoffs, here is how our writers stand with their respective predictions:

  1. Stephen Wendell: 6-4 ML & 6-4 ATS
  2. Matt Papson: 7-3 ML & 7-3 ATS
  3. Kyle English: 6-4 ML & 3-7 ATS
  4. Matt Goodwin: 6-4 ML & 5-5 ATS
  5. Nick Andrews: 6-4 ML & 5-5 ATS
  6. Bernard Faller: 6-4 ML & 7-3 ATS

Super Bowl Predictions below (we have four guys on the Pats and two guys on the Rams). Enjoy the game!

New England Patriots vs. @ Los Angeles Rams [Line: NE -2.5]

Stephen Wendell: There is no way Tom Brady loses this game. Something could get crazy with the spread at the end of the game I feel, but I think Tom gets it done in convincing fashion and Pats win by seven. Projected Score: Patriots 31 – Rams 24.

Matt Papson: Tom Brady FTW. Projected Score: Patriots 31 – Rams 27.

Kyle English: No analysis, just predictions. Projected Score: Rams 24 – Patriots 23.

Matt Goodwin: Since I’ve picked against the Patriots since the divisional round, why not do it once more? While I hate to doubt the GOAT Tom Brady in the clutch and it seems unlikely he’d let the Patriots lose two Super Bowl games in a row, the Rams getting points as an underdog is appealing yet again. What a chess match this will be between Sean McVay and Bill Belichick who will be trying to neutralize the Rams offense. I fully expect Todd Gurley to bounce back big time in this game and have a dominant performance after a puzzling one in the NFC Championship.  The Patriots offensive line has been lights out in the playoffs and battles a tough front for the Rams. While Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski made big plays against the Chiefs and the Rams secondary is grossly overrated, I do think Nickell Robey Coleman is actually underrated as a slot corner. Sure, Edelman finds ways to make plays in big moments and the Patriots have looked very solid in the backfield with rookie Sony Michel (a likely 2019 fantasy stud) grinding, James White catching passes and Rex Burkhead doing a little bit of the rest. In the end, I think Jared Goff just figures out a way to carve up the Patriots defense and Greg the Leg gets it done in the dome. Maybe it’s wishful thinking that my son Jory will be happy after this game in that his Rams won, but that’s who I’m going with in what I think will be an incredibly entertaining game. Projected Score: Rams 30 – Patriots 27.

Nick Andrews: As much as the players will determine the outcome of this game the best matchups may be wearing the headsets on the sideline. Sean McVay vs. Bill Belichick is getting a lot of discussion but Josh McDaniels vs. Wade Phillips might be equally as masterful to watch this Sunday. Rarely is the coaching so evenly matched on both sides of the ball. In a close game the tie goes to the G.O.A.T. wearing number 12. Projected Score: Patriots 27 – Rams 23.

Bernard Faller: Simple formula so far for New England offense in playoffs.  Consistently cram Michel down the defense’s throat to suck them in.  Throw to Edelman or check down to White when other receivers not open.  Keep marching down the field.  I see no reason to change now.   Projected Score: Patriots 34 – Rams 27.

 

More Analysis by Stephen Wendell

NFC/AFC Championship Predictions

Updated: January 19th 2019

The road teams dominated the first weekend of the playoffs and the home teams took care of business last weekend in the Divisional Round. Consequently, the four best teams from the regular season are now the final four teams left in the chase to the Lombardi Trophy. The #1 seeded Saints will host the #2 Rams in what will be a very boisterous Super Dome and the #2 Patriots hit the road to Arrowhead to face the #1 Chiefs in Tom Brady’s unprecedented 13th AFC Championship Game and his eighth in a row. Here is how our writers stand after two weeks of the playoffs with their respective predictions:

  1. Stephen Wendell: 6-2 ML & 5-3 ATS
  2. Matt Papson: 5-3 ML & 5-3 ATS
  3. Kyle English: 6-2 ML & 3-5 ATS
  4. Matt Goodwin: 5-3 ML & 4-4 ATS
  5. Nick Andrews: 5-3 ML & 4-4 ATS
  6. Bernard Faller: 5-3 ML & 6-2 ATS

A quick summary of the picks for this week are below in case you don’t want to read each writer’s analysis…but you should because there are some great nuggets of information down there:

  1. #2 Los Angeles Rams @ #1 New Orleans Saints (Line NO -3): ML – 2 LA & 4 NO // ATS – 2 LA & 4 NO
  2. #2 New England Patriots @ #1 Kansas City Chiefs (Line KC -3): ML – 2 NE & 4 KC // ATS – 3 NE & 3 KC

#2 Los Angeles Rams (13-3) @ #1 New Orleans Saints (13-3) [Line: NO -3]

Stephen Wendell: Drew Brees is going to prove too good at home. They showed a ton of poise coming back on the Eagles last week and I think the Saints win a shootout. Projected Score: Saints 35 – Rams 31.

Matt Papson: The Rams lost their way a bit toward the end of the season, but they have the most talented roster in the NFL. Even though the Super Dome will be rocking, I think the Rams will take care of business. Projected Score: Rams 31 – Saints 27.

Kyle English: No analysis, just predictions. Projected Score: Saints 28 – Rams 24.

Matt Goodwin: The Rams getting points as an underdog is appealing on many fronts. While they are on the road and lost handily to the Saints there earlier in the season, I like what the Rams are doing with the run game right now with Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson and the chess match between the All-Sean coaching matchup is going to be fun. I expect the very-banged up offensive line of the Saints (three starters got in limited practice on Wed) and that also adds Terron Armstead, who has been playing through a pectoral injury since Week 10, to get all sorts of overpowered by Aaron Donald and the front four of the Rams. I’d like the Rams to have Cooper Kupp in this game to feel better about their passing offense, but I expect them to do enough there to win this game outright and definitely to cover. To me, the only way the Saints win this game is if Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas both go off in this game, which is certainly possible because “Can’t Guard Mike” has been more than a Twitter handle this year and Marcus Peters talks more than he produces. In the end, my LA-born and huge Rams fan Jory celebrates a Rams victory this weekend. Projected Score: Rams 30 – Saints 27.

Nick Andrews: Will the Saints continue to hold off teams with strong running attacks? They better if they hope to continue on in the playoffs. The Rams ran right through the Cowboys last week and will likely gameplan to do the same. I think the Saints have the better defense of these two teams and in a Dome this could be a track meet. It will likely come down to that particular matchup in which I think the Saints do enough to hold back the Rams. Projected Score: Saints 38 – Rams 31.

Bernard Faller: I like the diversity of the Los Angeles passing attack a little better than the Saints where Michael Thomas dominates targets.  The Rankins loss also hurts the core of this Saints defense which is facing a team that ran for 273 rushing yards last week.  The Rams get revenge in this one after losing the first meeting.  Projected Score: Rams 31 – Saints 27.

#2 New England Patriots (11-5) @ #1 Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) [Line: KC -3]

Stephen Wendell: I love Patrick Mahomes and will be rooting for him to win the football game but I have learned one thing in all my years of betting on football games, do not bet against Tom Brady. So, Chiefs win but by one point in an exciting finish at Arrowhead. Projected Score: Chiefs 28 – Patriots 27.

Matt Papson: Deep, deep in my heart, I want Andy Reid & the Chiefs to win the Super Bowl. I think he’s not only the second best coach of the modern era, but one of the best coaches of all time. A Super Bowl victory would cement his legacy. Despite that, for a truly unknown reason, I suspect the Patriots to emerge victorious. Projected Score: Patriots 28 – Chiefs 27.

Kyle English: No analysis, just predictions. Projected Score: Chiefs 34 – Patriots 28.

Matt Goodwin: I was a week premature to officially bury the Patriots as they breezed past the Chargers and looked amazing on offense in doing so. Which Bill Belichick likes to take the best weapon out of the mix for a team like the Chiefs, they have a few to focus on. I think Pat Mahomes gets his anyways, and it will prove impossible to stop both Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill in this game. Hill seems to play big vs. the Patriots. In the end, if this game was in Foxboro, I’d like the Patriots who were 9-0 at home this season. However, the Patriots went 3-5 on the road and while that doesn’t mean much for as experienced team as they are and it is hard to pick against the GOAT Tom Brady in a game like this, I think the weather helps the Chiefs and Arrowhead is a huge home-field advantage. Plus, selfishly I want to see a rematch of the epic Monday Night Football game from earlier in the season. If the Patriots end up on the plus side of the scoreboard, I do think this is the first game where they will feel the sting of having Damien Williams and Spencer Ware instead of Kareem Hunt from a skill-set perspective. Projected Score: Chiefs 31 – Patriots 27.

Nick Andrews: Unlike the first game I don’t see this one being a shootout. In fact I see this AFC Championship going similar to last year’s with a Patriots’ opponent getting out to a lead late in the 3rd quarter but coach Reid takes his foot off the gas just enough for the Pats to rally with a couple 4th quarter scores. Projected Score: Patriots 24- Chiefs 21.

Bernard Faller: The Patriots absolutely decimated the Chargers last week seemingly scoring at will by dinking and dunking short passes to James White and running the ball at will with little resistance from the Los Angeles defense.  The Chiefs similarly destroyed the Colts.  A Brady-Brees super bowl matchup certainly has some appeal, and is a good possibility, but two of the NFL’s top young offenses provide a tantalizing storyline also.  New England edged out Kansas City in the first meeting.  The Chiefs take this one at home. Projected Score: Chiefs 39 – Patriots 35.

 

More Analysis by Stephen Wendell

Divisional Round Predictions

Updated: January 12th 2019

Well, the road teams were the story of last weekend, covering the spread in all four games and winning three of them outright, culminating in an absolutely crazy finish to the Eagles-Bears game with a double doink missed/blocked FG as time expired (putting huge smiles on the faces of Matt and me). Here is how our writers performed last week (some 3-1 ATS and ML but nobody with the clean parlay):

  1. Stephen Wendell: 3-1 ML & 2-2 ATS
  2. Matt Papson: 2-2 ML & 3-1 ATS
  3. Kyle English: 3-1 ML & 2-2 ATS
  4. Matt Goodwin: 2-2 ML & 1-3 ATS
  5. Nick Andrews: 1-3 ML & 2-2 ATS
  6. Bernard Faller: 2-2 ML & 3-1 ATS
  7. Luke Patrick O’Connell: 2-2 ML & 3-1 ATS

A quick summary of the picks for this week are below in case you don’t want to read each writer’s analysis…but you should because there are some great nuggets of information down there:

  1. Indianapolis Colts @ Kansas City Chiefs (Line KC -5): ML – 5 KC & 1 IND // ATS – 5 KC & 1 IND
  2. Dallas Cowboys @ Los Angeles Rams (Line LAR -7): ML – 0 DAL & 6 LAR // ATS – 4 DAL & 2 LAR
  3. LA Chargers @ New England Patriots (Line NE -4): ML – 2 LAC & 4 NE // ATS – 4 LAC & 2 NE
  4. Philadelphia Eagles @ New Orleans Saints (Line NO -8): ML – 2 PHI & 4 NO // ATS – 4 PHI & 2 NO

Indianapolis Colts (10-6) @ Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) [Line: KC -5]

Stephen Wendell: Mahomes overpowers Luck as his legend continues to grow. Projected Score: Chiefs 30 – Colts 24.

Matt Papson: Andy Reid is dominant off a bye. Projected Score: Chiefs 35 – Colts 24.

Kyle English: Call it a homer pick if you want, but I think the Colts are the real deal.  I expect plenty of points to be scored, I just think the Colts offense has a larger advantage over the Chiefs defense than the Chiefs offense has against the slightly underrated Colts defense. Projected Score: Colts 31 – Chiefs 28.

Matt Goodwin: Color me impressed by how dominant Andrew Luck, Marlon Mack and the Colts were last weekend in Houston. I’m really impressed with the Colts’ offensive line and running the ball will be paramount to controlling clock and keeping the high-octane Chiefs offense off the field at raucous Arrowhead Stadium. With that said, I think Pat Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill are too much for the Colts defense to contend with and Kansas City has found ways to still get solid contributions out of their running backs as well.  Projected Score: Chiefs 30 – Colts 20.

Nick Andrews: There is only one factor that will determine the outcome of this game, Indy’s O-Line. If the Chiefs are unsuccessful at getting pressure on Andrew Luck the Colts defense should be able to hold of Pat Mahomes for a least enough drives to keep them under 28 points. If there is snow during the game this only helps the Colts who are better equipped to produce through their run game. Despite all this, I still think the Chiefs will come out the victor but the Colts will have a real shot at the end. Projected Score: Chiefs 27 – Colts 21.

Bernard Faller: This should be a shootout with two of the top passers in the NFL.  Andrew Luck is playing at a MVP level and second-year pro Patrick Mahomes likely wins the MVP.  Kansas City scored 30+ in all but four games this year and the Colts won 9 of their last 10. Questions remain as to how Mahomes will react in his first post-season start but the Chiefs offense is playing at a different level.  Projected Score: Chiefs 34 – Colts 28.

Dallas Cowboys (10-6) @ Los Angeles Rams (13-3) [Line: LAR -7]

Stephen Wendell: Cowboys keep it really close but the Rams learn from last year and prevail. Projected Score: Rams 24 – Cowboys 20.

Matt Papson: I expect this to be a relatively close game. Despite being 13-3, the Rams seem vulnerable. Projected Score: Rams 27 – Cowboys 24.

Kyle English: I expect this to be a blowout with the Rams dominating the Cowboys across the board. Projected Score: Rams 31 – Cowboys 17.

Matt Goodwin: Dallas is 3-5 on the road this season and head to Los Angeles to face the Rams who have had several weeks to get Todd Gurley healthy and scheme for the Cowboys (since the Seahawks are in the Rams division, guessing the focus was on scheming for either Dallas or Chicago since the playoff bracket was announced). Anyways, while Dallas looks to run the ball with Ezekiel Elliott and get their defensive line pressuring Jared Goff into bad decisions, the Rams just have too much for Dallas to handle schematically on the road and if a team like the Colts can blow the Cowboys out, imagine what a more dynamic offense can do to them. Projected Score: Rams 34 – Cowboys 17.

Nick Andrews: All the talk this week with head coaches being hired has surprisingly focused on a coach who is already employed, Sean McVay. Every pundit and analyst is saying that X team needs to find their Sean McVay but can we pump the breaks until he’s won a playoff game at least. The Rams this season have looked superhuman, and then average around the 2/3rds marker, then back to great the final two weeks of the regular season against cupcake opponents. Whichever team shows up against the Cowboys this weekend is likely going to be the decider. Projected Score: Rams 24- Cowboys 20.

Bernard Faller: Dallas has the tools to bleed out the clock, keeping the ball away from the potent Los Angeles offense.  It will not happen this game.  Too much Aaron Donald.  Too much Rams passing attack.  Los Angeles learns from last post-season’s loss.  Projected Score: Rams 27 – Cowboys 20.

Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) @ New England Patriots (11-5) [Line: NE -4]

Stephen Wendell: Tom Brady in Foxboro in January. Enough said! Projected Score: Patriots 22 – Chargers 17. 

Matt Papson: I had more trouble picking the victor in this game than any other, but have to give the edge to BB & TB in the playoffs. Projected Score: Patriots 24 – Chargers 23.

Kyle English: I’ll be cheering for the Chargers, but I don’t think they have enough to pull out another road upset. Projected Score: Patriots 20 – Chargers 17 

Matt Goodwin: While I don’t want to stake myself against the Patriots at home with all their playoff experience, this Chargers team is 8-1 on the road this season and with such a lack of home field advantage at Stubhub Center, you can argue they play on the road every week. 12-4 in the regular season and with the most balanced team they’ve had, this Chargers team is capable of going into Foxboro and beating a potentially “cooked” Patriots team and signaling a changing of the guard. While the Patriots like to run the ball when the playoffs come, I don’t think they have enough in the passing game (especially with Gronk seemingly all sorts of banged up) to fool the Chargers stalwart secondary. On the other side, I don’t think the Patriots can take away the best weapons the Chargers have and even if they do, the Chargers have secondary weapons like Mike Williams to deal with. It will be nice to see what Hunter Henry does in his return as well. I’m calling the upset here. Projected Score: Chargers 27 – Patriots 23

Nick Andrews: Can Philip Rivers finally give Brady a loss? Does the silly stat of Nick Saban and Bill Belichick alternating championships mean anything? The answer to both is no, probably, but a fun idea for people to debate about. The Patriots are 19-3 at home in the playoffs, 11-1 in Divisional games after a bye, and 2-0 against Rivers and the Chargers during the Brady-Belichick era. The Chargers are a great team and should be a better matchup than several of the previous years’ divisional opponents but making the AFC Championship is what the Patriots do.  Projected Score: Patriots 20 – Chargers 16.

Bernard Faller: Do I necessarily trust Phillip Rivers over Tom Brady? No.  I do believe the Chargers are the better, more balanced team on both sides of the ball.  Los Angeles basically played away games this whole season so they handle one more.  Projected Score:  Chargers 28 – Patriots 24.

Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) @ New Orleans Saints (13-3) [Line: NO -8]

Stephen Wendell: I projected Sir Nick to go 7-0 and win the SB when Wentz went down with injury. He has won four in a row since then and Sunday he will make it five. Projected Score: Eagles 35 – Saints 34.

Matt Papson: The Church of Nick Foles. Projected Score: Eagles 31 – Saints 21.

Kyle English: I’d love to see more Foles magic and he’ll probably have a good game, but I think the Saints offense will be too much for them. Projected Score: Saints 31 – Eagles 27.

Matt Goodwin: St. Nick struck again last week in Chicago and the Eagles seek revenge from an earlier in the season drubbing at New Orleans. The Saints are a different team at home and while a project a close shootout, I think the Saints move on to the NFC Championship behind Alvin Kamara and Drew Brees. Look for the Eagles to lose a close one, although nothing would surprise me. Projected Score: Saints 34 – Eagles 31.

Nick Andrews: A rematch of what should have been the NFC Championship game last year we will see if Nick Foles is really a football Messiah. The Saints obliterated the Eagles 48-7 in the regular season with Carson Wentz as the starting QB and there’s not much that would make me think that the outcome would be any different this time. Blowouts are hard to pull off so while the Saints should win again the likelihood of a 41 points spread is highly unlikely. If Nick Foles somehow upsets the Saints with the same roster Wentz had in week 11 he may really have a direct link to the man in the clouds. Projected Score: Saints 31 – Eagles 20.

Bernard Faller: The key to this game is Philadelphia’s defensive front against New Orleans’ run game.  The Eagles have a chance if they can shut down Kamara and company.  The odds are against it.  New Orleans is too good in both the pass and run areas.  I also really like the Saints’ defensive backfield improvements to finish the year. Projected Score: Saints 31 – Eagles 20.

More Analysis by Stephen Wendell

Week 1: React to Overreact

Updated: September 14th 2016

What an exciting first week of football! There were a lot of surprises, both good and bad, in the fantasy community that have owners either patting themselves on the back or pulling out their hair. Tuesday after week 1 is one of the largest scrambles for the waiver wire in the year so I wanted to go over a collection of players that I felt needed to be talked about. Note that this is just the first week of the season and you shouldn’t be basing all your hard offseason work off of 60 minutes worth of football. Instead, evaluate your own team and its performance and be prepared to throw around some serious dollars. Let us begin.

Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers

Keenan AllenWhat a buzzkill this was. After an entire offseason that led many to believe Allen would return healthy and back to his WR1 form his knee gives out. Ending his season before the second half of game one, Allen owners are now left holding the bag with a big hole in their fantasy line-ups. It will be tough to say who on a game to game basis will immediately benefit from his absence. Danny Woodhead seems to have held off the doubters based on his performance and, along with Antonio Gates and Travis Benjamin, will have the first opportunities to increase their targets. Undrafted rookie Tyrell Williams looked good in the preseason and had two catches for 71 yards after Allen went out. With the other three likely being owned already Williams would likely be your immediate replace for Allen owners. Just don’t expect to see consistent fantasy results on a week to week basis.

Spencer Ware/Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Talk about feeding off of other’s misery. For Charles owners who were unable to handcuff Ware in the offseason, they were shedding tears at the near 200 total yard performance that he was able to put up in a thrilling come from behind win. Word is spreading that Charles may also be sitting a second week which leaves Ware owners foaming at the mouth. While there’s not much Charles owners can do at this point other than wait and see, it’s not time to panic just yet. Too often coaches ask players to come back before they are ready (i.e. Lynch, Dez, Romo, John Brown.) This just hurts the player’s value more by starting and subsequently leaving games early. Hopefully, Andy Reid is taking it slow with his star running back and he will be 100% healthy soon. When he does return though, it would be a surprise if he took the lion’s share back after Sunday’s performance by Ware.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills

Sammy WatkinsSpeaking of letting injuries heal, reports are surfacing that Sammy Watkins is still feeling pain in his surgically repaired foot which could be affecting his performance. It was suggested that the team could be shutting him down for a significant amount of time but those reports were quickly shot down and he is said to be ready to play on Thursday night. Still, we have seen what a receiver trying to play through a foot injury looks like, Dez in 2015 and A.J. Green in 2014, with unimpressive results. If Robert Woods isn’t already owned in your league I would definitely be picking him up and stashing him. Either way, it is hard to own Watkins at this point as he could be a major dud due a lackluster passing game and now his lingering injury. If you can move him for any other WR2 or a 2017 1st and a replacement receiver I would be getting out now.

Tevin Coleman/Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons

Tevin ColemanThis was an interesting turn of events with Coleman looking more efficient with his 32 snaps (117 total yards) than Freeman’s (40 yards) on 36 snaps. Dan Quinn has stated that he will continue to use the committee approach making all those who spent big offseason dollars acquiring Freeman very nervous. Even more nerve-racking was how efficient Coleman was in a receiving role (95 yards) which was assumed to Freeman’s role. After being a fantasy beast early last season Freeman’s big knock was his inefficiencies without volume down the stretch. With a healthy Coleman (who remember was handpicked by this coaching staff in last year’s draft) this could be an early candidate for the one year wonder RB.

Los Angeles Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers

Jeff Fisher*Cricket… Cricket…* that’s the sound of the second Monday night game as the Rams looked awful; being shut out by a team that many expected to win less than five games this season. While the Rams may not offer much in terms of startable fantasy players (except Gurley), you would like to see them put up at least something to build off of. Touted as the best prospect since Adrian Peterson, Gurley seems to have the same trajectory of having to play on a bad offense that doesn’t scare the defense from stacking the box unforgivingly. You can’t help but wonder how successfully he would be if he didn’t have Jeff Fisher holding him back.

As for San Francisco call me a doubter but I have seen this narrative play out before; in last year’s opening Monday night game in fact. The 49ers held Peterson and Vikings in check and started the season 1-0 only to win four of their next fifteen games. It was nice to see Hyde play well and score two touchdowns but it will take a few more games before I see anything on this offseason as a consistent fantasy play.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

Cap Analysis: Rams

Updated: March 4th 2016

Los Angeles Rams

Trending: Slightly Up ↑

The Rams enter year five of the Jeff Fisher era with a tremendous amount of young talent. But, the team still has a few notable holes, and competes in one of the best divisions in football. Personally, I think the transition to Los Angeles is going to benefit the team. Because this transition has been looming for several years, the team was forced to play amid uncertainty in a stadium with empty seats in 2015. The buzz in Los Angeles might wear off eventually, especially if a second team ends up there, but for now I expect the support to be incredible. I also hope that football returns to St. Louis in a few years, because it’s a great city worthy of an NFL team (and home of my favorite defunct franchise and business heroes).

Projected 2016 Team Salary$97.8M (not including escalators and Not Likely To Be Earned incentives)

Projected 2016 Cap Room: ~$59.6M (~$155.27M Estimate; ~$2.2M Rollover)

Situation: Strong

The Rams have several extremely talented young players, in large part thanks to the infamous RG3 trade. Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald might be the best 24 and under pair in the league. But, their quarterback situation is an unsolved mystery, and half of the Ram’s 2015 defense become free agents in a week. You can count me among a very small group of people that thinks the Peyton Manning to L.A. theory has real merit. As I’ll touch on later, Nick Foles will be on the Rams roster in 2016 – but he looks like he may never return to his 2013 form.

I think Manning intends to play in 2016. The guy who keeps him out of the GOAT conversation because he has had more success in the same era, just signed a 2-year extension. The lure of Los Angeles, with a post-retirement Hollywood gig or potential front office role, and the possibility of becoming the first quarterback to win a Super Bowl with three teams, might be enough.

Notable Free Agents:

Rams FAs

The Rams released Chris Long, James Laurinaitis, and Jared Cook. Long and Laurinaitis have been staples of the defense for many years. Long was pretty dominant for a four-year stretch from 2010-2013, starting 64 consecutive games and posting 41.5 sacks. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy the last two years, and his $14.25M cap figure was far too high.

Laurinaitis has started every game of his seven-year career with the Rams, but his production has been steadily decreasing since 2012.

Cook has shown flashes of greatness in his seven-year career, but he has never been able to produce consistently.

In addition to Long, the Rams will lose three other players from their defensive line rotation – Nick Fairley, William Hayes, and Eugene Sims.

In the secondary, Rodney McLeod, Trumaine Johnson, and Janoris Jenkins are all free agents. It’s not likely that all three return, but one or two will almost certainly have to be re-signed for continuity – and either Johnson or Jenkins could be the recipient of the franchise or transition tag.

Top Projected Cap Hits:

Rams Top Proj Cap Hits

The Rams made Robert Quinn one of the highest paid defensive ends in the league shortly after he became eligible for an extension, fresh off a 19-sack season in 2013. The man who plays beside him, Michael Brockers, is scheduled to play under his fifth year option.

In retrospect, the Nick Foles contract looks like a bad investment. If reports on his contract structure are accurate, Foles will earn a fully guaranteed $6M roster bonus on 3/16, plus his base salary will become fully guaranteed three days earlier, on 3/13. That is really the only reason the Rams will give him another chance to compete for the starting job. RG3 would have make for an interesting storyline, but it’s hard to envision it coming to fruition.

Cap Casualty Watch List:

Rams Cap Cas

Each of these veterans releases would represent significant savings and have roster bonuses indicating the team knew it would consider cutting them before the expiration of the deals, but if they were going to do it, they likely would have done it already.

Extension Watch List: 

Rams Ext Watch List

Tavon Austin and Alec Ogletree are each eligible to have their fifth year option exercised by the team, pushing their expected free agency out to March, 2018. Ogletree’s 2015 was cut short by a broken fibula, but he is almost a lock to have his option exercised. Austin’s situation is less certain. He had his best season as a pro in 2015, but hasn’t generated the kind of production the team expected when they selected him eighth overall in 2013.

Brockers has already had his fifth year option exercised, and there’s no doubt the team would like to keep him around long-term. Complicating the situation is the fact that the team is going to have to offer a monster contract to Aaron Donald at some point between March 2017 and December 2018. While there is a significant amount of time between now and then, it will impact the way the team approaches its negotiations with Brockers.

Position Needs: 

Quarterback, Corner, Safety, Wide Receiver, Tight End.

Sleeper Watch: 

With better quarterback play, Lance Kendricks might be in line for a considerable increase in targets and production.


Matt Papson (@RealitySportsMP) formerly worked in football administration for the Philadelphia Eagles. He is the President, co-founder and creator of Reality Sports Online, a fantasy front office platform that enables fantasy owners to build and manage their fantasy team like a professional sports general manager. The Reality Sports Online platform has been featured in Fortune, on Bloomberg TV, and was the 2012 Fantasy Sports Trade Association Rookie of the Year.

Sources: Spotrac, Pro-Football Reference, and Rotoworld

More Analysis by Matt Papson