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The more people say, “The 2023 Los Angeles Rams are tanking for USC QB Caleb Williams,” the less I believe it. Recently on a gambling Discord channel, I got into an argument with dozens of sports bettors about the Rams’ 2023 forecast.
Apparently, it’s a foregone conclusion that the Rams are throwing in the towel this season. While it’s true the Rams didn’t do much to improve their roster this offseason, this “tanking” thought is nonsense.
First of all, things never go according to plan in the NFL. I’ll happily be on an island where the Rams have a fighting chance to win the NFC West or make the NFC playoffs. A contrarian mindset is a must for cashing sports bets.
Second, if the Rams are tanking, why would LAR coach Sean McVay sign an extension this offseason? Everyone knows McVay would be great on TV. Talking heads expect McVay would fetch a $20 million per season offer to become a TV broadcaster for the NFL.
McVay signing an extension suggests he believes this Rams core has enough to win now. If McVay is on board, I don’t get all the doom and gloom with this Rams roster.
Sure, they are top-heavy, but the Rams are only two years removed from a Super Bowl. If the Rams won 10+ games in 2023, it wouldn’t even be a bigger turnaround than when McVay inherited a 4-12 team in 2017.
Los Angeles Rams 2023 Odds (DraftKings Sportsbook)
- Regular-season win total of 6.5: Over (-110) | Under (-110)
- To make the playoffs: Yes (+250) | No (-300)
- NFC West: +750
- NFC: +4500
- Super Bowl: +6500
LAR had the 2nd-most games lost to injury in 2022, per Football Outsiders. They get back the best quarterback in the NFC West, Matthew Stafford, and the best offensive player, WR Cooper Kupp, who both suffered season-ending injuries last year.
People forget how good Stafford was in his 1st season as a Ram in 2021. Stafford threw the 2nd-most TD passes (41) and ranked 4th in both QBR and adjusted expected points added per play.
Also, this isn’t the 1990s, why can’t Stafford bounce back from his 2022 season-ending elbow injury? Tommy John surgery is a prerequisite for MLB relievers who routinely hit 100 mph on the radar gun.
With that in mind, this is the healthiest Stafford has been in years. Stafford played through injuries in LAR’s Super Bowl run and had an injury to his throwing arm entering 2022.
Kupp was the 2021 NFL Offensive Player of the Year as well and was ballin’ before getting injured last season. Kupp led the NFL in catches (145), receiving yards (1,947), and receiving TDs (16) in 2021 before winning the Super Bowl LVI MVP.
The Rams also have the best defensive player in football, Aaron Donald. LAR still had above-average blocking win rates in passing and rushing on both sides of the ball last year, according to ESPN.
They did this despite not having Donald missing six games and former Pro Bowl LT Andrew Whitworth retiring after the Rams won Super Bowl 2022. LAR’s O-line should be better this season with an offseason to regroup.
LAR to win the NFC West is a great price considering their competition
- Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.
San Francisco 49ers (-150)
No one knows who the Niners will be starting under center in Week 1. Yet San Francisco is the odds-on favorite to win the NFC West at -150.
I know Niners coach Kyle Shanahan is an offensive guru. But, how shocking would it be if 1st-year 49ers QB Sam Darnold failed in San Francisco? Answer: Not shocking at all.
Furthermore, the Niners have had some of the worst injury luck in the NFL over recent seasons. San Francisco ran out of quarterbacks in the 2023 NFC Divisional round.
The 49ers were 24th in injury luck last season and 29th in 2021, per Football Outsiders. If they get bit by the injury bug again in 2023 or San Francisco’s QB situation is FUBAR’d then it could be a lost season for the Niners.
NFL talking heads bow at the feet of Shanahan. He and McVay were both hired by their respective franchises in 2017. But, Shanahan has three losing seasons in six years on the job and McVay’s 1st losing season was in 2022.
How come Shanahan gets three passes and McVay doesn’t get one?
Seattle Seahawks (+200)
Seattle was +2000 to win the NFC West entering last season. Now they are +200 to win the division this year. Doesn’t that feel like an overreaction? The Seahawks were just 9-8 in 2022 and lost five of their last eight games.
Look, I like a lot of Seattle’s defensive personnel. But, the Seahawks still had the worst defensive EPA/play in the NFL last season. They are cluster injuries away from being a bad defense again in 2023.
Even though I like the weapons around Seattle QB Geno Smith, he could easily turn back into a pumpkin this season. If Smith isn’t playing like a top-10 quarterback, are the Seahawks still a playoff team? I think not.
Arizona Cardinals (+2500)
The Cardinals are the biggest longshot in any NFL division in 2023 for a reason. Arizona QB Kyler Murray starts the year in the IL. The Cardinals have a rookie head coach with a weak roster.
Murray will probably miss all of 2023 if Arizona is out of the playoff race by the time Murray is healthy. The good news for the Cardinals is they could have the 1st two picks in the 2024 NFL Draft since they have the rights to Houston’s 1st rounder.
BET: Rams “Yes to make the playoffs” (+250) and to win NFC West (+750)
First of all, I’d recommend waiting until right before the start of the NFL regular season before making these futures. If 49ers QB Brock Purdy is on track to start Week 1, we could get a better number for the Rams to win the NFC West.
Plus, there’s an outside chance key Rams players get injured in OTAs or in the preseason. Albeit it’s less likely to happen in the preseason since McVay doesn’t play his starters much in the preseason.
Gambling strategy: I’d risk 0.25 units (u) on the LA Rams to win the NFC West at +750 and 0.75u on them to make the playoffs at +250. For example, 1u = $100.
Listen to the ‘OutKick Bets with Geoff Clark’ podcast HERE.
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