Rams put NFC on notice with Von Miller trade, Aaron Rodgers and more
Los Angeles Rams GM Les Snead put the NFC on notice pulling off a blockbuster trade for Von Miller that could shape the playoff race, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ success just might change the narrative, and more
The Los Angeles Rams are all in.
Monday, in advance of Tuesday’s trade deadline, Rams general manager Les Snead pried the MVP of Super Bowl 50, Von Miller, from the Denver Broncos in exchange for a second and third-round pick in next spring’s NFL Draft.
The Rams can now drop Miller into a defensive line alongside Aaron Donald and opposite Leonard Floyd, forming one of the NFL’s most formidable and disruptive front-sevens.
Los Angeles’ new pass-rushing triumvirate has combined for 19 sacks and 98 pressures. That’s more sacks than the total of 23 teams.
Good luck, NFC quarterbacks.
“They’re this year’s Tampa Bay,” a league source tells FanSided, following the Miller trade.
That might be true in many ways, especially considering the similarities defensively and the fact the Rams’ 7-1 start has been fueled by the addition of veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford getting off to an MVP start.
However, there is one vital difference: the playoff experience level at quarterback.
Make no mistake, Stafford has been terrific. Only Tom Brady has passed for more than Stafford’s 2,477 yards. Only Brady has thrown for more touchdowns, 27, than Stafford’s 24. And among Week 1 starting quarterbacks, only Russell Wilson (who has only played five games), has a higher passer rating than Stafford’s 118.
But, Brady arrived in Tampa Bay last offseason with six Super Bowl rings on his fingers. Stafford, meanwhile, has never won a playoff game.
Still, the similarities between last year’s Super Bowl champion Buccaneers and this year’s Rams are vast. Both boast star-power on defense; while the Rams have a dominant front seven and a secondary that includes All-Pro Jalen Ramsey, Jordan Fuller, and Taylor Rapp, capable of stifling a passing game.
Los Angeles has as strong a case as any contender at the top of the NFC; alongside the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, and Brady’s Buccaneers, as the favorite to represent the conference in the Super Bowl. If the season ended today, the Rams would be the No. 5 seed.
What if Stafford and the Rams have to go through Lambeau Field, with Aaron Rodgers and his Super Bowl ring on the opposite sideline?
Or if Brady and Stafford meet in the postseason? Will experience matter? If it does, Los Angeles has a problem.
Can the Rams’ defense, currently allowing 21 points per game, make up for any lack of postseason experience at the quarterback position? Snead and the Rams are certainly going all out.
Los Angeles is also making a run at replicating the Buccaneers’ success hosting the Super Bowl and hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy in their home stadium.
Whether the Rams can attain their goal remains to be seen, but Snead is also fortifying a young core with the veterans added in recent years (Stafford, Ramsey, Miller, Floyd) who can potentially sustain long-term success in the NFC West’s crucible.
Miller, center Brian Allen, kicker Matt Gay, and defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day are the only starters set to become free agents next March.
Additionally, the Rams’ draft cupboard is nearly barren. After trading for Stafford and Miller, Los Angeles now has only a fifth-round and two seventh-round picks in next spring’s draft.
Also, the Rams are projected to have less than $8 million in cap space next winter. But, Snead has the flexibility of signing Stafford to a long-term extension to dramatically lower his $23 million cap hit in 2022, to continue building a championship-caliber roster.
Whatever happens in January, Snead has put the NFC on notice. The Rams are all in.
Has Aaron Rodgers’ Packers future changed as Green Bay vaults to top of NFC?
Aaron Rodgers has followed up an offseason of discontent with the Green Bay Packers’ front office with an all-out assault on the NFC.
The Packers’ fast start continued last Thursday night, by dispatching the NFL’s last unbeaten, the Arizona Cardinals, in convincing fashion in Glendale.
Green Bay held on 24-21, but it felt like Rodgers and Green Bay’s offense could do what it wanted against Arizona’s vaunted defense.
Rodgers didn’t exactly fill up the stat sheet, passing for only 184 yards, but he did toss a pair of touchdowns. When the pressure was highest, and the lights the brightest, Rodgers orchestrated a 12-play, 91-yard drive the culminated with a touchdown pass to Aaron Jones, to extend the Packers’ lead to 24-14.
Nearly seven minutes later, cornerback Rasul Douglas pulled down an interception in the end zone off Kyler Murray, sending the Cardinals home with their first loss and sending the Packers to the top of the NFC standings.
But, has anything between Rodgers and the Packers really changed? Especially with Green Bay sitting at 7-1, and poised to host the NFC Championship Game if the season ended today.
Might the tundra be thawing?
“I feel Aaron will finish his career in Green Bay,” a league executive familiar with the Packers’ thinking tells FanSided. “The only place that makes more sense for Rodgers is the 49ers, and that’s not happening now. Aaron is getting what he wants from the front office, from the organization, and that’s all that matters to him.”
That view is in stark contrast to how many have viewed Rodgers’ and the Packers’ marriage since Green Bay agreed to revisit the possibility of trading him at the end of this season.
It also isn’t a unanimously held opinion.
“They’re copesetic right now,” former Green Bay Packers vice president Andrew Brandt told me, during a recent appearance on FanSided’s The Matt Lombardo Show podcast. “My head says it’s still going to be the business decision … the business decision from the Packers side to move to Love after two years, I still think it’s their plan.
“But, more importantly, the business side for Aaron Rodgers; I don’t think he’s feeling like all that his problems with this front office are solved. The same people are there, the lack of warmth is there, maybe they listened to him on Randall Cobb … but, I always had this feeling that this is the last dance.”
Rodgers’ run through the NFL, completing 67 percent of his passes for 1,894 yards with 17 touchdowns to just three interceptions, comes on the heels of an acrimonious offseason centered around his emotions over the Packers choosing quarterback Jordan Love in the first-round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
“It’s sort of like when we took Rodgers, with a Hall of Fame quarterback on the roster,” Brandt says. “We wanted three years for Aaron. It has seemed like this is a two-year timeline for the Packers and Love.”
But, what happens if Rodgers and the Packers win the Super Bowl this year? Would that alter the roadmap of this season that seems destined for a split at its end, amicable or otherwise?
To be determined.
But, how the Packers handle another star on offense just might dictate Rodgers’ future in Titletown.
“I think [Devante Adams returning to the Packers] could make a difference,” Brandt says. “But, I just don’t know if they’ve had serious negotiations since Devante cut them off. That tells me, he wants to be free.
“Now, again, it’s all related … If Aaron says ‘hey, I’m back,’ I’m sure Devante Adams will put the Packers at the top of his free-agent list. But, if Aaron’s up in the air, Devante’s certainly going to look around. And he should. I think he’s the best receiver in the league.”
Multiple reports say the Packers and Adams haven’t discussed a contract extension since talks broke off back in August. Adams has since caught 52 passes for 744 yards and three touchdowns in seven games, as Rodgers’ favorite target.
Adams’ uncertain future seemingly makes it less likely the Packers and Rodgers continue their run of success together beyond whenever this season ends, at least according to Brandt.
“Especially with this being Devante Adams’ last year, and I guess gun to my head, it still is Rodgers’ last year,” Brandt says. “My head says separation, even though my heart would like it to continue.”
“We’ll go day-to-day, but anything’s possible, right? Anything’s possible. The difference between Player A and Player Z is an opportunity in reps. That’s what this league is — that’s professional sports.
“That’s why they come out of nowhere, someone gets an opportunity. What Mike does with his opportunity is — he’s got the world in front of him. Just have to make the most of it.”
– Jets head coach Robert Saleh on the possibility Mike White becomes the Jets’ long-term starter, after his heroics against the Bengals, in relief of Zach Wilson.
Robert Saleh needs to be careful here.
The Jets absolutely need Zach Wilson, chosen with the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft, to succeed in bringing the quarterback carousel installed outside MetLife Stadium to a screeching halt.
But, Wilson has struggled mightily in his audition to be New York’s Great White (and green) hope.
Prior to suffering a PCL injury that put Wilson in a position to be Wally Pipp’d by Mike White, chosen by the Cowboys in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Wilson completed just 57.5 percent of his passes for 1,168 yards with only four touchdowns to nine interceptions.
With Wilson, the Jets’ offense continued to be, as it seemingly perpetually has been, stuck in the mud, averaging 13.3 points en route to a 1-5 start. Meanwhile, White went off for 405 yards with three touchdowns to two interceptions in an improbable upset win over the Bengals.
It seems unlikely that White is the next Tom Brady, and Wilson Drew Bledsoe.
But, Saleh now must figure out how to balance putting his team and his locker room in the best possible position to win this season and catering to Wilson’s development. The two might prove mutually exclusive.
Wilson’s struggles, and his injury ignite new debate over when to play rookie quarterbacks and how long to keep them on the sideline in a baseball cap and headset holding a clipboard.
White’s impressive debut raise questions over Wilson is or can be the Jets’ answer. But, his emergence certainly feels like the kind of conundrum the Jets have found themselves in for decades.
How Saleh navigates the next few weeks could prove monumental to his and the Jets’ future … and Frankly, Wilson’s, too.
Whatever the opposite of Separation Sunday would be, is exactly what happened in the NFL last Sunday.
Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals entered as double-digit favorites over the New York Jets, led by Mike White, and departed the Swamps of Jersey with their third loss of the season.
In Cleveland, any allure that the Browns can compete for a playoff spot, let alone a Super Bowl, went up in smoke when Ben Roethlisberger found rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth in the back of the end zone to lift the Steelers to a 15-10 division win that all but torpedoes the Browns.
Meanwhile, on the NFC side of the bracket, Tom Brady uncharacteristically tossed an interception that sent the SuperDome into ecstasy and pulled the Saints to within a half-game of the NFC South lead.
Sure, the Dallas Cowboys escaped Minnesota with a win led by Cooper Rush and the Packers knocked off Arizona, perhaps emerging as the two NFC favorites in the process, but the pack has caught the leaders.
Now eight games into the NFL season, with the calendar turning to November, it’s time to start thinking seriously about the NFL Playoffs. Much is yet to be decided in an AFC that is more wide open than quite some time, while whichever team takes the field on the second Sunday in February representing the NFC in February will have survived a proverbial trial by fire.
The objective for the Packers, Cowboys, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Rams, and now the Saints, beyond making it to January, is avoiding Wild Card Weekend at all costs.
Entering this week, the top five seeds (Green Bay, Arizona, Dallas, Tampa Bay, and L.A.) have a combined six losses.
Do you want your playoff hopes resting on beating Prescott, Brady, Stafford, or Murray?
Whichever team earns homefield in the NFC will certainly have earned it, with the Buccaneers and Cardinals (the 28th and 24th ranked remaining strength of schedules) now perhaps with the inside track.
But, in a year where the NFC side of the bracket has the potential to be a war of attrition, eliminating an extra postseason game may prove critical.