Coming off a Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots, the Los Angeles Rams entered the 2019 NFL season with similar championship aspirations after retaining the core of their roster while adding a couple of notable contributors in free agency.
The Rams immediately faced a tough stretch to begin the season, but nonetheless jumped out to an impressive 3-0 start following wins over the playoff-hopeful Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns.
Despite the early success, L.A. went on to drop their next three contests against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers. The latter two losses were especially hard to swallow, given the significance of divisional matchups.
The Rams have since answered back with back-to-back wins against the Atlanta Falcons and Cincinnati Bengals, improving to 5-3 ahead of their Week 9 bye. They return to action on Sunday for an important road contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers in what marks the start of another difficult stretch.
“It’s a different feeling any time that you’re able to get all the results that you want at this point in the season — that’s a good feeling,” McVay said. “But I think that part of the moments that we’ve gone through, some of the adversity, has definitely helped strengthen us and, hopefully, we’ll see that pay dividends.”
As McVay notes, the Rams can certainly benefit from the hardships they experienced in the first half. They also stand to improve with the expected returns of Malcolm Brown and Clay Matthews this week, while the secondary has fared much better since the acquisition of Jalen Ramsey.
After their matchup against the Steelers on Sunday, the Rams return home for back-to-back contests against the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens to close out the month of November.
Another factor that will likely determine whether the Rams advance to the playoffs this season is how they perform against their NFC West rivals in the second half. L.A. still has two games remaining against the Arizona Cardinals and one apiece against the 49ers and Seahawks.
At 5-3, the Rams currently find themselves in third place in the NFC West, trailing the undefeated 49ers by three games and the Seahawks by 1.5. They additionally trail the Minnesota Vikings by only half a game for the sixth seed in the NFC playoff picture so they are right in the mix of things.