I not only think the best division in the NFL is the National Football Conference West, but I also think they have the two best teams in football. Two of the past three NFC Champions are out of the NFC West, albeit they both lost their bid for a Super Bowl title when the New England Patriots downed the Los Angeles Rams three years ago, and the Kansas City Chiefs outscored the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV.
This week, we are going to get to see just how good the Rams and 49ers are, and I am betting they both win their home games. The Rams welcome the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers into SoFi Stadium, the site where both these teams would like to be playing when Los Angeles hosts Super Bowl LVI on February 13, 2022.
The Buccaneers have the championship ring, and the Rams are just that much hungrier to get it. The edge that comes from defeat and the challenges of being the champion are in play here, and both favor the home team.
Why are the Rams better than they were three years ago when they failed to score a touchdown in their Super Bowl Loss to Tom Brady and company?
This year, they made a bold switch at quarterback that could have the same effect that adding Peyton Manning to the Denver Broncos or Tom Brady to the Buccaneers generated. Both those quarterbacks won Super Bowls with their new team, but both Manning and Brady brought a winning pedigree from their previous NFL experience.
Manning had a Super Bowl ring and the best regular season record in football as a member of the Indianapolis Colts, then guided the Broncos to a pair of Super Bowls and a career crowning win in Super Bowl 50 over the Carolina Panthers. Brady had six Super Bowl wins with the New England Patriots, and won his seventh title last season with his new team.
The Rams declared they were all in on this season when they made the trade for Matthew Stafford. Risking the future while packaging three high draft choices, two of them first rounders, with Jared Goff to acquire the thirteen-year veteran of the Detroit Lions. The thinking had to be all in on winning it now.
Can the Rams get the same positive results as the Broncos and Buccaneers did?
There is a concern here, Stafford does not bring with him a winning pedigree. In his career, he only twice led the Lions to the playoffs and lost both games. This is not Manning or Brady joining a new team, this is a talent with a lot still left to prove.
Even though we know of the success Manning and Brady accomplished with their new teams, I contend that Stafford has even more incentive to do well. I also believe that a quarterback that twice got the Lions into the playoffs has a real good shot at winning it all when the Rams talent is combined with his skill set.
The Rams will be challenged all year long by the 49ers in the talented NFC West, but a defending champion off a pair of unimpressive wins against sub par talent on their home field is a sitting duck for a talented Rams squad returning home off a hardfought road win last Sunday in Indianapolis.
The final score made the Buccaneers win last week over the 0-2 Atlanta Falcons look more lopsided than the game actually was. In the second half, the Falcons had pulled to within a field goal before late lapses and a turnover led to the lopsided 48-25 final.
On Sunday, we are going to find out just how much better the NFC West leaders are against the toughest challenges. The Niners host the Green Bay Packers while the Rams battle the Super Bowl Champs.
The better team is at home, motivated and getting points, sometimes winners just fall into place.
Qoxhi Picks: Los Angeles Rams (+1½) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers