Los Angeles Rams: Path to playoffs unlikely, but not impossible

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 12: Jared Goff (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 12: Jared Goff (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

The Los Angeles Rams playoff hopes for 2017 hinge on the emergence of quarterback Jared Goff and Aaron Donald — each in different ways

It’s safe to call the Los Angeles Rams playoff hopes for 2017 a longshot at best. The Rams will be hard-pressed to make a postseason run if they have the three-win season ESPN.com is projecting. And that would be the case even if their best player was scheduled to start the season opener. Which he is not.

The Rams ruled out Aaron Donald for the Sunday’s opener against the Indianapolis Colts. With quarterback Andrew Luck sitting out the game for Indy, Donald’s presence would’ve been more reassuring.

Still, Los Angeles’ early portion of the schedule is not insurmountable. If Donald returns to the Rams, and coach Sean McVay transforms quarterback Jared Goff, who knows what can happen? The Rams made several offseason moves to support their No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft.

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McVay’s hire was the first move in Goff’s reformation. The Rams then signed left tackle Andrew Whitworth and wide receiver Robert Woods. They added a trio of pass-catchers in the draft; third-round pick Cooper Kupp could provide the most immediate help.

Then came the trade for wideout Sammy Watkins. Add running back Todd Gurley and WR Tavon Austin, and the Rams’ skill cupboard doesn’t look so bare.

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips figures to improve a defense that already had a strong reputation. Even without Donald, the Rams’ ability to turn up the pressure could help them during the season. With Donald, the Rams could be dominant — especially if the offense improves upon its 14 points-per-game average from last season.

The Rams’ first six games are: at Luck-less Indianapolis, home vs. the Washington Redskins, at the San Francisco 49ers, at the Dallas Cowboys, at home against the Seattle Seahawks (where the Rams already have had mysterious success in the rivalry) and at the Jacksonville Jaguars.

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Some early success can give the young Rams a lot of confidence. Riding momentum behind a possible Donald return and a reinvented Goff could make the Rams playoff hopes a lot more realistic.

A lot of ifs serve as road blocks. The Rams playoff hopes at this point seem far-fetched. But impossible? Hardly.