For the Chiefs, the Rams are a cautionary tale

It may have been the greatest regular season game of all time.

Result in 105 total points. The 2018 Week 11 matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Rams could go down in history as one of the most thrilling games ever played. By the time the players walked off the field following the Rams’ 54-51 victory, the narratives had already begun: In the years to come, these two teams were set to battle it out for the Super Bowl titles.

Why not, right? Both had franchise quarterbacks, elite playmakers, and offensive gurus who acted as head coaches.

That analysis was not wrong. Since then, the two teams have combined for four Super Bowl appearances and each have also taken home a Lombardi Trophy. While they took very different paths to achieve their success, the talent we saw at the Los Angeles Colsieum on that foggy night was truly special.

But just four years later, as the teams prepare for their first game since that night, their futures couldn’t be more different.

L.A. way

For the past five seasons, the Rams have done it defined “all included.” Nearly every signing, trade, or draft pick they’ve made has focused on winning as soon as possible. No move predicted this approach better than the trade for quarterback Matt Stafford. After going to a Super Bowl with Jared Goff, Los Angeles tied it up harder to get over the hump.

Even though Stafford has accomplished by bringing another championship back to Los Angeles, the Rams are still paying a heavy price: The Detroit Lions have their 2023 first pick, which as of now will be the sixth pick overall.

Stafford’s trade was just one of many all included moves. Los Angeles continued to risk the health of its cap and future roster building by dealing with players like Jalen Ramsey, Von Miller, Brandin Cooks, Marcus Peters, Robert Quinn, Aquib Talib and Dante Fowler. All of these were good players, but other than Ramsey, none of them are currently on the team. There’s no doubt: without Miller and Odell Beckham Jr. in 2021, the Rams wouldn’t have won Super Bowl LVI. But now – with both gone – the team is 3-7.

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The Rams simply continued to float the bill for their roster. Their success now depends on the health and play of about five players: Aaron Donald, Cooper Kupp, Bobby Wagner, Ramsey and Stafford, all aged 28 or over. Los Angeles is on its way to the worst Super Bowl defense of all time for one simple reason: It has no fill-in level players to fill holes on the roster. Right now, Donald is the alone Ram started it they drafted in the first round. The rest of the roster is bolstered by trades, free agents, and Day 2 and Day 3 draft picks.

The Rams’ future is bleak. They have one of the worst offensive lines in football and future 30-year-old Kupp is essentially their only offensive weapon. Even Donald, though he’s still elitist, is getting old. Last year it was necessary to persuade him not to retire. Stafford has proven to be what he’s always been in Detroit: a winning player with a history of injuries.

Meanwhile, the team has just $5.9 million in cap space projected for 2023 and just six picks in the draft. Head coach Sean McVay has also reportedly considered retiring.

Los Angeles has many problems to solve and very few with which to solve them. As the saying goes, “flags fly forever”. But the new flag now flying in SoFo Stadium may have cost the Rams years or respectable football.

Kansas City way

Probably the first (and most important) point to consider when comparing the two franchises is the quarterbacks. Stafford and Goff combined I’m still no match for Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs have had this distinct lead ever since the two teams played in 2018.

Although Kansas City had a all included phase while Mahomes was on his rookie contract, the front office showed restraint as his cost rose. In 2019, many Chiefs fans were ready to hop in their cars and drive all the way to Jacksonville to acquire Ramsey. But the Chiefs saved their first-round picks — and still won the Superbowl.

The Chiefs have also made tough salary cap decisions. They let good players like Mitch Morse, Tyrann Mathieu and Charvarius Ward go into free agency. Instead of re-signing Tyreek Hill (as Los Angeles did Kupp), the Chiefs traded him for a crop of draft picks. Those became players who filled key roles as the team shut down the AFC West for the seventh consecutive season.

And the future of bosses remains bright. In 2023, they are expected to have a $28 million cap and have 11 draft picks and possess a roster full of young and up-and-comers.

The bottom line

When the teams played in 2018, they looked much the same. But when the Rams come to town on Sunday, the teams are unlikely to look any more different. While the two franchises have had similar results since they’ve suffered, their future looks nothing alike. The Rams will be underdogs by 14.5 points to the Chiefs on Sunday, and it looks like Kansas City will continue to hold the lead for years to come.

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