- Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer
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ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams have consistently insisted that they made progress in 2013, the type of progress that has them closer to the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks than their 7-9 record and last-place finish in the NFC West division might indicate.
According to the early odds released by LVH, the Rams did make progress in 2013 but not enough to be considered much of a contender to reach next year's edition of the big game. LVH lists the Rams as 40-1 long shots to win the Super Bowl in its first crack at odds for the 2014 season. That number comes, of course, without the benefit of seeing what happens in free agency or the NFL draft.
Last year, the Rams opened as 50-1 long shots to win the Super Bowl and though their record was a half game worse in 2013 than 2012, it was apparently enough to bolster their odds at least a little heading into next season.
St. Louis is one of four teams at 40-1, along with the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions. That puts the Rams in front of nine teams, including the longest of long shots, Jacksonville and Oakland, both of which are listed at 200-1.
The biggest issue for the Rams moving into 2014 is the expected continued dominance of the NFC West. After locating the Rams at 40-1, it takes the eyes awhile to reach the rest of their division brethren, all of whom are ranked ahead of the Rams.
Seattle is the early co-favorite, along with Denver, to repeat as world champions, sitting at 5-1. San Francisco checks in just behind the Seahawks and Broncos at 6-1. In other words, two of the three most favored teams to win the Super Bowl reside in the NFC West.
In what's a bit more of a surprise, Arizona is one of eight teams with 30-1 odds. The Cardinals didn't make the playoffs in 2013 but finished 10-6 and might have been playing better than anyone by the end of the season. Given Arizona's defensive prowess and another offseason to build the roster, it wouldn't be a surprise to see it challenge Seattle and San Francisco in the West.
As for the Rams, we've discussed at length what they'll need to do to get caught up to the rest of the division. Getting quarterback Sam Bradford healthy will be a great starting point after he missed four of six division games last season with a torn ACL. But the team doesn't have much margin for error in this offseason if it wants to keep up with the likes of Seattle and San Francisco.
The time is going to come soon when the Seahawks and 49ers have to pay up for top-tier quarterbacks but they also get to keep adding talent through the draft. Considering how well both teams have drafted and developed players, the Rams can't afford many misses as they work to one day be a team that has the odds in its favor.