Stafford leads Rams into race for hometown Super Bowl berth

LOS ANGELES RAMS (11-7)

New faces: QB Matthew Stafford, defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, WR DeSean Jackson, RB Sony Michel, WR Tutu Atwell.

Key losses: Defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, QB Jared Goff, pass game coordinator Shane Waldron, run game coordinator Aaron Kromer, DL Michael Brockers, S John Johnson, CB Troy Hill, C Austin Blythe, LB Samson Ebukam, C Austin Blythe, WR Josh Reynolds, RB Malcolm Brown, DL Morgan Fox, LS Jake McQuaide.

Strengths: The NFL’s No. 1 defense in 2020 lost four starters and Staley, but All-Pros Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey return with a revamped supporting cast under the respected Morris. Stafford’s arrival is expected to be the boost needed by the offense, which had been fairly stagnant for a consistently winning team for the past 2 1/2 years, starting even before their Super Bowl appearance. Stafford has an enviable group of receivers with the additions of Jackson and Atwell, and the veteran passer has the motivation of knowing the next two seasons could define his career.

Weaknesses: The offensive line remains suspect after two up-and-down years and no external improvements in the offseason. Stafford’s talent won’t shine as brightly if he must fear for his safety on every snap, as was frequently obvious during his time in Detroit. Los Angeles restocked its defense, but the losses of Staley, Johnson and Brockers all seem perilous to both chemistry and playmaking ability.

Camp Development: Starting RB Cam Akers’ season-ending Achilles tendon injury prompted the Rams to trade for Michel, who starred against them in the Super Bowl for New England three seasons ago. Michel and Darrell Henderson are likely to share the workload early.

Fantasy Player To Watch: It’s hard to choose one breakout skill-position player from an offense with so many balanced options, but Stafford could be a high-value choice. The 33-year-old veteran has performed solidly from a fantasy standpoint on a series of terrible Lions teams, and these Rams are likely to be better on both sides of the ball than any Detroit team Stafford played on. He’s worth consideration as your QB1.

FanDuel Says: Win Super Bowl: 15-1. Over/under wins: 10 1/2.

Expectations: The Rams want to play in the first Super Bowl at their own SoFi Stadium in February. Anything less will be a disappointment, even though most of this core will be together for the near future. McVay is betting heavily on himself by trading a good, limited quarterback for an older passer with the potential for greatness. Stafford’s success and the revitalization of the Rams’ offense will hinge on the skills of McVay, who could restore his reputation as an offensive guru.

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