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L.A. Rams' 3-1 start different than last year's 3-1 start

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The Los Angeles Rams have been here before. Last year at the season's quarter mark, L.A. sat at 3-1, atop the NFC West, and, perhaps, the world.

As documented by All or Nothing, the collapse was epic. The Rams won a single game the rest of the season, fired Jeff Fisher midway through, and watched the No. 1 overall pick look lost and lose every start he made. Basically, the Rams became milk-drinking Ron Burgundy.

With L.A. off to an identical 3-1 start in 2017, sitting atop the NFC West, and, yes, the world, are we in for another classic collapse? Is this team made up of many of the same characters in for a better outcome this time around?

"Yeah, but you know this is only the beginning," running back Todd Gurley said after Sunday's 35-30 win over the Dallas Cowboys, via the team's official website. "We've been here last year at 3-1 and then we only won one game after that. So, we have to keep that in mind as well and we definitely have to keep moving forward and get better every week. Don't get complacent."

Based on just about every metric this year's 3-1 start is vastly different than last year's.

Let's start with a basic visual test.

This year's squad under coach Sean McVay oozes confidence. Jared Goff looks comfortable and his poise in the pocket is nothing like what we saw last year. Todd Gurley looks fast and spry. And the defense is more than Aaron Donald-or-bust.

None of those things could be said about Fisher's squad.

In 2016, even with the 3-1 start, success felt fluky. The players seemed to know it. The coaches seemed to know it. Certainly, Rams fans knew it.

This year feels different in every way, right?

"Aw, hell yeah!" Donald said after the game.

Yes, Aaron. Hell, yeah.

Whereas the 2016 Rams' first three wins felt almost accidental, McVay's squad has a distinct flavor of dominance that won't melt away like last year's cotton-candy squad.

McVay deserves credit for building up an offense that has staying power. The Rams have scored 30-plus points in three of their four games this season -- tied for most 30-point games in the NFL this season (Patriots). Under Fisher, L.A. scored 30-plus points once last season and the Rams had a grand total of three games with 30-plus points in previous 32 contests entering 2017.

In 2016, the Rams averaged 14.0 points per game. This year they are averaging 35.5 through four games. McVay's unit could get shut out the next six games and still be averaging more than 14 points per game (14.2).

Goff has back-to-back games with multiple passing TDs and no INTs for the first time in his career. His passer rating of 112.2 is third-best in the NFL and has risen 48.6 points from 2016 to 2017 -- would be the largest increase in passer rating from Year 1 to Year 2 since the 1970 merger, per NFL Research.

Gurley has 100-plus rushing yards in back-to-back games after going the previous 26 contests with just one 100-yard rushing game. The running back has caught a receiving TD in three straight games. Before that stretch, he had exactly zero career TD receptions.

There will be bumps in the road. As with every team, there are still flaws that will be exposed throughout a 16-game schedule.

The difference between last year's Rams and this year's Rams is that today it doesn't feel like the bottom is going to inevitably crater.

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