Tuesday, October 4, 2016
The NFC West is not supposed to be this way. Sure, it was expected that the Seattle Seahawks to be among the division leaders - perhaps even among the best in the NFL - but they were supposed to fight him with the Arizona Cardinals, not the Los Angeles Rams.
But the Rams are demanding to be taken seriously, as the Cardinals struggle to maintain relevance.
Sunday was only the latest surprise in a league known for its parity. The Rams were oppressed of 10 points against Arizona, and feed rate had ESPN football Cardinals as the most likely to win his duel week 4 (83 percent probability of winning). Instead, Los Angeles forced five turnovers and quarterback Carson Palmer Cardinals left the game with a head injury en route to a 17-13 victory Rams on the road. Los Angeles is now 3-1 for the first time since 2006 and is a part of the tip of the NFC West division.
"Once you're 3-1 people begin to see that as a real winning team," linebacker Mark Barron told reporters after the game. "I think we're starting to get in that light."
The defense is certainly doing its part. It allows 1.47 points per unit, and the Rams have the No. 2 defense behind Seattle for Pro Football Focus. Football Outsiders defense ranks 12th in DVOA Rams behind its ability to bind to a three and out 31.4 percent of opposing units, the fourth highest rate in the NFL.
And it all starts with defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
Donald was credited with 1 1/2 sacks and a forced fumble against Arizona on Sunday and is the best player in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus, thanks to its ability to stop the pass and the run.
The Rams offense is another story. His disorder is what is keeping the team from being considered a serious contender.