Unpopular Opinions

Sorry, undefeated Seahawks and Packers: Rams are NFC's best team

Listen, I don't try to live my life as a contrarian. That's not true -- I kind of do. I've spent a lot of time in public houses and taverns, and I've heard a lot of the sports world's most popular opinions. Sometimes, I think it's best to take a look at the other side.

In this space, I articulate positions that are the opposite of what most people think -- unpopular opinions, if you will -- and explain why, well, my unpopular opinions are right and everyone else is wrong. Below, I explain why the NFC's best team isn't who you think it is:

The 5-0 Seattle Seahawks and 4-0 Green Bay Packers are the NFC's last remaining undefeateds. But I'm here to tell you that neither one is the conference's top team.

That's right. In this moment, five weeks into an unprecedented, pandemic-shaped season, the NFC's best outfit is ...

The 4-1 Los Angeles Rams.

And if you want to respond with, "LOL, they are the best team in the NFC East," that is fair. After all, each of the Rams' four wins have come against the downtrodden division. Yup, L.A.'s performed a clean sweep of the NFL's current version of Madden on rookie level.

This week should have presented the Rams an opportunity to post a statement win, with Los Angeles traveling north for a showdown with the San Francisco 49ers. A clash of the last two NFC champs! In the stand-alone spotlight of Sunday Night Football!!

But of course, the Niners significantly de-hyped this prime-time affair with their effort last Sunday, when they were absolutely humiliated at home by the Miami Dolphins. That would be like the WWE building a WrestleMania main event of Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar, only to have Lesnar lose a match the week prior to David Otunga. Kinda takes a little bit of the shine away.

That said, the Rams will take care of business on Sunday night by beating the 49ers on their own field. Because L.A. is the best team in the NFC. In fact, this is Sean McVay's best group yet. Allow me to explain ...

Again, at first blush, wins over the NFC East aren't going to be held in the highest esteem. (I mean it's not like the gauntlet the Packers have faced, with wins over the 1-4 Vikings, 1-3 Lions and 0-5 Falcons. Or that murderer's row of (mostly) sub-.500 teams dismissed by the Seahawks.) Take a deeper look at the Rams' road thus far, though, and you might not be so quick to scoff. Los Angeles has played three road games in the Eastern time zone, in that early window that can be trouble for West Coast teams -- when the game kicks off at 10 a.m. PT. But the Rams have scored at least 30 points in all three of those games. In fact, they have scored more points in each of those roadies than they've posted in their two home wins. In the McVay era (going back to 2017), the Rams are 6-1 in early-window games in the Eastern time zone. And they'd be undefeated if their furious rally at Buffalo in Week 3 hadn't been nullified by a controversial pass interference call. (I'm sure Saints fans were all broken up over that development ...)

I've also been impressed with Jared Goff this season. Russell Wilson is finally getting a chance to cook, with the Seahawks' poor defense. And Aaron Rodgers can't pass up an opportunity to let everyone know how great he is, bragging to Pat McAfee that his down years are better than most guy's career seasons. But Goff has played well, especially in comparison to last year, when he looked like West Coast Trubisky much of the time. After posting a 100-plus passer rating in just four games total in 2019, Jared has reached triple digits in each of the past four contests. That's the QB's longest such streak since he went five straight in 2018 -- you know, the season when the Rams hit the Super Bowl. (Do Russ and Rodgers remember what the Super Bowl was like?) Goff's current passer rating sits at a sparkling 108.8, he's completed nearly 72 percent of his throws and he leads the NFL with a yards-per-attempt figure of 9.0. Goff might not be everyone's first choice when choosing a quarterback (in fantasy or reality), but the freshly minted 26-year-old's still pretty darn good. Like a Sami Zayn type, if I can borrow from the WWE again.

The offense as a whole is scoring more points (27.2 ppg) than last year (24.6). Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown and rookie Cam Akers have done a good job of replacing Todd Gurley, though it's a tough backfield for fantasy managers to navigate. I'll see if I can talk to McVay about that. Meanwhile, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee comprise about as solid a pass-catching group as you can ask for. Most importantly, though, the big guys up front have rebounded from a disastrous, injury-riddled 2019 campaign that saw the offensive line finish the regular season as Pro Football Focus' second-worst unit. In 2020, the Rams' O-line boasts top-10 grades in both run- and pass-blocking.

Let's talk about that defense, though. This is what unquestionably separates the Rams from their division rival Seahawks. And while the Packers definitely possess a better defense than Seattle, they don't have anybody like Aaron Donald. Nobody does. In fact, with everyone throwing around early MVP candidates these days, Donald deserves to be in that conversation. He tied a career-high with four sacks in last week's blowout of the Washington Football Team. With a league-high 7.5 sacks, he's on pace for 24, which would break Hall of Famer Michael Strahan's single-season mark (22.5). The Rams, who are 10-1 in the McVay era when they have at least five sacks, finished Sunday with eight sacks -- and they have 17 over the past three weeks. They also limited the Football Team to 108 yards total. That's the fewest yards the franchise has yielded in a game since holding the Archie Manning-led Saints to 96 in November of 1980. In addition to Donald, the Rams boast one of the very best cover men in the game today: Jalen Ramsey, the 25-year-old with three Pro Bowls nods and the biggest DB contract in NFL history. Not a bad guy to have in today's pass-happy league.

And one thing that really stands out to me: Sean McVay's team does not blow leads. Like, ever. The Rams are 29-0 when leading at halftime in the McVay era -- the only NFL team without such a loss since 2017. I know Falcons fans are probably asking what that is like, because it's a world they've never known. But it's so impressive to me and shows that the high praise we give McVay might not be effusive enough.

So, even with one loss -- and it shouldn't have been a loss, but whatever -- give me the Rams over any other team in the NFC.

Follow Adam Rank on Twitter @AdamRank.

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