Throughout the early weeks of the 2023 offseason, the LA Rams seemed to be running efforts to restock their roster in reverse. While other teams were signing players from the 2023 NFL Free Agency market, the Rams were either extending low-cost veterans, waiving players, or trading players for next to nothing.
Familiar names and faces in NFL circles were vanishing from the Rams roster, leaving just QB Matthew Stafford, WR Cooper Kupp, and DT Aaron Donald left behind, appropriately described by LA Rams GM Les Snead as the three 'weight-bearing walls.' Of course, there was a great deal of intrigue mixed with anxiety with that combination of words. The Rams roster fell to less that 45 players, less than half of the number sought for OTAs and training camp.
Without sacks of cash, the Rams were unable to shop early in the 2023 NFL Free Agency market. Instead, like any family on a tight budget, the Rams had to shop sales, and buy from the NFL thrift shop - the 2023 NFL Draft. In the end, the Rams roster was a funky blend of a few veterans who started in the NFL, a few more returning veterans hoping for larger roles in 2023, even more rookies who heard their names called out in the 2023 NFL Draft, and all topped off by free agents who were willing to accept a team-friendly contract in hopes of playing well and earning better earnings in the future.
By Week 6, the LA Rams were 2-3, but the players on the team had not yet earned any recognition among NFL analysts, pundits, or fans. The No Name LA Rams were highly competitive, but just as highly unrecognizable.
Of course, the Rams falling to a record of 3-6 by their BYE week did nothing to improve the team's anonymity. But that would soon change, and change quickly.
While the Rams offensive stars like QB Matthew Stafford, rookie WR Puka Nacua, and RB Kyren Williams would splash NFL headlines with some incredible offensive performances in the second half of the season, the Rams defense boasted some stars as well. OLB Byron Young, NT Kobie Turner, and ILB Ernest Jones were all young players who blew past expectations, and carried the Rams to win after win.
This is a team built around young players who love the game of football. Their passion for the game is so great that there is no room for fear or worry. And it's that passion for competition that makes the young players so very dangerous in Week 18 and in the playoffs.
Many of the Rams players have never been here before, so they don't know that they are fighting against the odds. In their minds, it's not who the Rams must beat at all. They view the next five possible road games as a challenge and burden that applies more pressure on their opponent.
Nobody expected the LA Rams to make it this far. Now that they have done so, and shocked the NFL in the process, nobody wants to face them. A win against the top-seeded San Francisco 49ers would be incredibly uplifting for the Rams heading into the playoffs. A win in the Wild Card Round of the NFL Playoffs would only add to their momentum.
In 10 days, it's win or go home season. But for the LA Rams, it's a matter of taking one game at a time. And with a record of 6-1 over the past seven games, I believe that the Rams are entirely capable of doing that, and against any opponent.