The Los Angeles Rams head into the 2022 NFL season with a target on their back as they bid to defend the Super Bowl title.
While the Rams deserved their 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, repeating the trick could be extremely difficult this term.
With the latest NFL odds rating the Rams as fourth favourites to clinch the title for the second successive year, we assess their chances.
Key exits are a big blow
The Rams are attempting to be the first team to go back-to-back in the Super Bowl since the New England Patriots achieved the feat at the end of the 2004 season.
While they have retained most of the key components of last season’s success, the Rams have been be hit by a handful of unwelcome departures.
Von Miller’s decision to sign for the Buffalo Bills leaves a big hole in the Rams’ defensive unit and they will have a tough job filling it.
Offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell has also jumped ship to join the Minnesota Vikings and his know-how will be a big miss this season.
The Beckham conundrum
While the Rams have plenty of attacking talent at their disposal, re-signing Odell Beckham Jr would significantly strengthen their options.
After spells with the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns, the wide receiver signed a one-year deal with the Rams in November 2021.
He played an integral role in their run to the Super Bowl, but suffered a torn ACL against the Bengals has been out since then.
Beckham Jr has already teased that he is interested in returning to the Rams and he would be a major boost to their hopes of retaining the Super Bowl.
Stafford elbow issue could be problematic
Quarterback Matthew Stafford has repeatedly stressed that a niggling elbow injury will not be an issue during the upcoming campaign.
Stafford received an injection in his right elbow during the off-season and did not throw the ball during the team’s spring workouts.
He has since returned to full training, but doubts persist about his ability to cope with the demands of leading the Rams to another Super Bowl.
With opposing defensive units likely to target Stafford even more this season, he may struggle to get through the campaign unscathed.
Tough fixture list makes repeat unlikely
The Rams were quick out of the blocks last season, winning seven of their first eight games to romp clear at the top of NFC West.
They kick off their current campaign against the Bills in a game that fans can catch via live NFL streams. The Bills have been tipped by many respected pundits to win the Super Bowl this season, while the Rams have won just five of their previous 13 meetings with the Bills.
The Rams may find it difficult to get off to a winning start, and with statistics showing that the Rams’ overall schedule is the toughest in the league based on last season’s winning percentages, it would be a brave move to back them to defend the title.
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