The NFL playoffs are in full swing as four teams remain after this weekend’s divisional round games: The Kansas City Cheifs, Cincinnati Bengals, San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles.
One team notably absent from that bunch is the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams. Despite winning it all last year, L.A. is coming off a disappointing 5-12 season in 2022 with a number of key players missing time due to injury.
This year’s version of the Rams was not even close to any of the remaining teams. Last year may have been a different story, however.
Since the Rams currently aren’t playing and the offseason rumor mill hasn’t exactly started up yet, let’s have some fun and envision how the 2022 Super Bowl champion Rams would have fared against the four remaining teams.
The Rams against the Chiefs would have been a very appealing matchup for fans across the world as it would’ve been a rematch of one of the great regular-season games ever when L.A. won 54-51 on Monday Night Football in 2018.
Even though the Chiefs have an exceptional roster led by arguably the greatest quarterback in the world in Patrick Mahomes, this would have been a favorable matchup for Sean McVay‘s Rams.
Arguably the biggest strength of the Rams’ Super Bowl team was their pass rush. The Chiefs are a team with a suspect offensive line and with Mahomes’ ankle being injured this past week, L.A. could have feasted with Aaron Donald, Von Miller and Leonard Floyd up front.
The Chiefs also don’t have a lockdown cornerback, so Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp could’ve continued doing what they did all season and that’s picking apart opposing secondaries.
The Rams played the Chiefs tough on the road this season with all of their backups in, so I don’t think it’s a stretch to say last year’s healthy version of L.A. would’ve come out on top.
Rams vs. Bengals is a game we saw in last year’s Super Bowl, obviously, and there weren’t a ton of changes to Cincinnati’s roster this past offseason.
After Donald, Miller and the rest of the Rams defensive line had their way with Joe Burrow in the Super Bowl, the Bengals made it a point to address their offensive line this past offseason. The only problem is that three of their starters are now injured so they are essentially back to square one.
This is not to discount the Bengals, however. They still have a very strong young core of players that are all better now than they were a year ago. Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins form arguably the best receiver duo in the league. Cincinnati’s pass rush led by Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard is now one of the most feared units as well.
Eli Apple is still in the Bengals secondary though, which is clearly an advantage for Stafford and Kupp. And before Odell Beckham Jr. tore his ACL in the Super Bowl, he was doing whatever he wanted to the Cincinnati defense.
It’s hard to bet against Burrow so I will call this game a tossup, but I would still like the Rams’ chances against that Bengals offensive line.
The 49ers vs. the Rams would be another rematch from last year’s playoffs when L.A. came out on top in the NFC Championship Game.
That is definitely the only matchup between these teams in recent years that we have to go off of. Not like the 49ers have beaten the Rams in eight consecutive regular-season games or anything. Nope, that never happened.
So based off last year’s NFC Championship Game, the Rams would have the clear advantage here.
No, seriously though, this would be a very tough matchup for L.A. Kyle Shanahan has obviously had McVay’s number, and this version of the 49ers is a lot better than last year.
The 49ers added an All-Pro running back in Christian McCaffrey, a lockdown corner in Charvarius Ward and have upgraded at the quarterback position from Jimmy Garappolo to Brock Purdy (from what we’ve seen from the rookie, at least).
Stafford, Kupp, Donald and Co. have been at their best when the money is on the line in the playoffs which would give me some faith in this matchup. But make no mistake about it, the 49ers would have the edge at many positions.
On paper, the Rams would match up the worst with this year’s Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles have the best offensive line in football, which would help contain Donald and Miller. They also have a strong secondary, which would help contain Kupp.
A lot of this matchup would come down to Jalen Hurts and what he could do through the air. Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris typically does not let quarterbacks beat him by running, so they would force Hurts into being a pocket passer. He still has quality weapons in A.J. Brown, Devonta Smith and Dallas Goedert though and the Eagles are a more physical team, so I would get Philadelphia the advantage here as much as it pains me to say.