<
>

NFC West Q&A: Are the Rams viewed as a real contender?

play
Are the Rams real contenders? (1:58)

ESPN NFL Insider Dan Graziano breaks down whether the Rams should be considered a real threat in the NFC West. (1:58)

Today's question: St. Louis is the only NFC West team that hasn't reached the playoffs at least once in the past two seasons. Are the Rams viewed as a real contender in the division or just more of a nuisance capable of pulling off a surprise victory?

Josh Weinfuss, Arizona Cardinals: Cardinals coach Bruce Arians made his stance on the Rams clear after beating them on Thursday Night Football last season, calling them "a team that is always 8-8." Defensively, I think the Rams are considered contenders, especially with that potent defensive line. Offensively, however, is where they become that "nuisance" that's capable of pulling off a victory. But if the offense can produce even a little, the defensive line is good enough to cause issues and win games.

Paul Gutierrez, San Francisco 49ers: More Lambs than Rams, you say? They have seemingly been up-and-coming for a few years now but have not been able to put it together consistently. And now that Los Angeles beckons, they have a built-in distraction as an excuse. Not that anyone in the division would ever go on the record to call the Rams a “nuisance” but that’s exactly what they’ve been, especially to the 49ers. They upset them in Santa Clara last year when Colin Kaepernick lost a fumble at the goal line on what would have been a winning QB sneak, one of the Rams’ mere six victories, and tied and beat them in a 7-8-1 2012 season, when the Niners were 11-4-1 and had to travel to Atlanta for the NFC title game. Either St. Louis becoming a legit contender or the team moving back to Southern California to reignite the SF-LA rivalry would elevate the Rams from nuisance, at least from the Niners' perspective.

Terry Blount, Seattle Seahawks: Probably more of the latter if the truth be told, but this Rams team will have a much different look with Nick Foles under center and Todd Gurley in the backfield. St. Louis could easily move past the 49ers, who have a ton of issues to address. I don’t see the Rams catching the Seahawks for the division title, but they have a shot at moving into the No. 2 spot ahead of the Cardinals if the Rams play up to their potential. The Rams were 6-7 last season before losing their last three games, two of which came against playoff teams Arizona and Seattle. Seven of the 10 losses came against playoff teams. It’s now or never for St. Louis, meaning do it now and move on to Los Angeles and start anew.