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The Rams are looking scary going into the NFL playoffs: Is L.A. a darkhorse team?

Los Angeles picked up another impressive win over the Saints on TNF in Week 16. The Rams have won 5 of the past 6 games and appear to be peaking at the right time.

New Orleans Saints v Los Angeles Rams
Head coach Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford of the Los Angeles Rams talk on the sidelines against the New Orleans Saints during the fourth quarter of the game at SoFi Stadium on December 21, 2023 in Inglewood, California.
Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams find themselves back over the .500 mark for the first time since their Week 1 win over the Seattle Seahawks, sitting at 8-7 after a 30-22 victory over the New Orleans Saints to open Week 16 of the 2023 NFL season. The Rams have won five of their last six games and are suddenly looking like the most dangerous team in the league.

There have been many reasons for LA’s recent surge, with a softer schedule being part of the equation. The Rams have played the Browns, Cardinals, Commanders and Saints during the stretch, not having to face a truly threatening offense in any of those contests. A win over the Seahawks and an overtime loss to the Ravens suggests LA’s offensive form isn’t a fluke, especially since Baltimore won on a special teams play.

Fans and fantasy football managers will point to the emergence of Kyren Williams, Puka Nacua and Demarcus Robinson as reasons for LA’s offense finding a new gear. That’s not entirely false. Williams has gone from fifth-round pick to 1,000-yard rusher despite spending time on injured reserve, giving the Rams a running element they’ve missed since the Todd Gurley days. Nacua, another fifth-round pick, is 146 yards away from setting the NFL’s rookie receiving record. Robinson has emerged as a great No. 3 option, allowing the Rams to keep things moving when defenses focus on stopping Cooper Kupp and Nacua. All these players have made massive contributions for a team that looked devoid of talent. However, the two biggest reasons the Rams once again look like contenders are the two pillars of this franchise: Matthew Stafford and Sean McVay.

It looked like everything was going to be a wash when Stafford suffered a UCL injury in a blowout loss to the Cowboys. The Rams managed just 130 passing yards from Brett Rypien the following week in a 20-3 snoozefest loss to the Packers. Thirty-four of Rypien’s passing yards came on one play, so you can imagine how this offense was looking. The Rams entered the bye week at 3-6 with Stafford’s health at an uncertain place.

The veteran quarterback did return in Week 11 but was shaky in a 19-16 win over Seattle. He threw for 190 yards, one touchdown and one interception, looking like he was still dealing with some lingering issues. Since then, it has been vintage Stafford. In the last five games, he is completing 67% of his throws with an adjusted yards per attempt of 9.12. He’s thrown for 1,388 yards, 14 touchdowns and one interception in that stretch, with the Rams going 4-1. The quarterback is the most important position in football, and having a good one can make up for a lot of deficiencies elsewhere. The Rams have found gems late in the draft thanks to their propensity to give away first-round picks like Oprah, but all that would be moot if Stafford wasn’t operating this offense.

McVay’s future with the Rams was in doubt after the Super Bowl victory. He is the youngest coach in the league and appeared to be on a GOAT trajectory, but there were comments about retirement and potentially moving to the broadcast side of things. The Rams were devoid of first-round picks, and Stafford’s health wasn’t exactly a given. There was reason to believe he would legitimately leave.

After Week 16, that all seems far-fetched. Stafford looks like he can play at this level for at least a few more seasons, and McVay looks like he’s genuinely enjoying coaching this group of players. The defense will eventually get some talent back as the Rams start to get first-round picks again, with Aaron Donald, Ernest Jones and Jordan Fuller holding down the fort for now.

When you have low-cost contributors like Williams, Nacua and Robinson playing like stars, you can easily address other areas of concern. And those concerns become even easier to paper over when you have a quarterback and head coach on the same page. This all leads to LA’s chances to make the playoffs and Super Bowl this season.

The Rams are 8-7 and in the driver’s seat for a wild-card spot. They control their own destiny, with games against the Giants and 49ers left. San Francisco might have the No. 1 seed locked up by Week 18 and could potentially rest key players, making that game a bit easier for LA. The playoffs seem likely, with DraftKings Sportsbook pricing the Rams at -250 to make the postseason.

This surge has led to LA’s Super Bowl odds coming in at +5500, a big drop from the +10000 the Rams carried with them ahead of Week 1. Betting on the Rams to win it all isn’t crazy with their current form, but waiting should still be worth something. The Rams are unlikely to be favored in any playoff matchup against the 49ers, Eagles or Cowboys. Their Super Bowl futures wouldn’t drop substantially even if they were to reach the NFC title game, so that would probably be the spot to sprinkle something on LA. The Rams making the Super Bowl is +3000, which is a bit more reasonable to target at this stage if you believe in this offense.