Rams' Super Bowl chances could hinge on defense, not offense

Here's a look at the Super Bowl prospects of the Los Angeles Rams, who finished the season 11-5. The tiers consist of: Realistic Super Bowl expectations; Should contend, but there are question marks; Middle of the pack; Lots of work to do; and Nowhere close.

Westgate odds to win Super Bowl LIII: 25-1.

Should contend, but there are question marks: Expectations have risen dramatically for the Rams, enough so that a large segment of the fan base will no doubt be disappointed with the team's latest Super Bowl odds. The Rams led the NFL in points this past season and should only be better on offense in their second year under coach and playcaller Sean McVay. Jared Goff, established as the team's franchise quarterback, will be entering his third season, and there's at least a decent chance the entire starting offense will return intact around him.

But the same can't be said on defense, with safety Lamarcus Joyner, cornerback Trumaine Johnson and outside linebacker Connor Barwin all slated for unrestricted free agency. The Rams could also have some tough contractual decisions to make with edge rusher Robert Quinn and inside linebacker Mark Barron. Les Snead, entering his seventh offseason as the general manager, will focus on scheme fits for defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, which should be a lot easier to identify now that an entire season has been played.

History, however, is not on the Rams' side. From the start of 1990 to the end of 2016, 23 teams did what the 2017 Rams just pulled off and improved by seven or more victories from one season to the next. But those teams averaged 3.8 fewer wins the following season, which is why McVay knows nothing is promised.

"Everything is earned in this league," McVay said after winning the Associated Press Coach of the Year Award at NFL Honors on Saturday, which came after Todd Gurley was named AP Offensive Player of the Year and Aaron Donald was named AP Defensive Player of the Year. "Just because we won the division this year doesn't mean anything going into next year. You feel really good about the players we have in place, but you have to earn it every single day. It's a very humbling league."