It might have been the greatest regular-season game of all time.
This results in 105 total points. The Week 11 matchup of 2018 between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Rams could go down in history as one of the most thrilling games of all time. By the time the players left the field after the Rams’ 54-51 win, the narratives had already begun: In the years to come, these two teams were destined to battle it out for the Super Bowl title.
Why not, right? Both had franchise quarterbacks, elite playmakers, and offensive gurus serving as head coaches.
This analysis was not wrong. Since then, the two teams have worked together for four Super Bowl appearances — and each also brought home a Lombardi Trophy. Though they took very different paths to achieve their success, the talent we saw that hazy night at the Los Angeles Colsieum was truly special.
But just four years later – as the teams prepare for the first game between them since that night – their futures couldn’t be more different.
The Los Angeles Way
In the last five seasons, the Rams have Are defined “everything in it”. Almost every signing, trade, or draft selection they’ve made has focused on winning as quickly as possible. No move characterized this approach better than the trade for quarterback Matt Stafford. After going to a Super Bowl with Jared Goff, Los Angeles equalized heavier to get over the hump.
Detroit is giving QB Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for two future first-round picks, a third-round pick and QB Jared Goff, sources say. Two former No. 1 overall picks trade venues in first blockbuster NFL trade of 2021.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 31, 2021
Though Stafford has delivered by bringing another championship back to Los Angeles, the Rams still pay a heavy price: The Detroit Lions have their first-round pick in 2023 — which will be their sixth overall pick at that point.
The Stafford trade was just one of many all in emotional. Los Angeles continued to risk its Cap health 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 apart from Ramsey, none of them are currently on the team. There is no doubt: without Miller and Odell Beckham Jr. in 2021, the Rams would not have won Super Bowl LVI. But now – with both gone – the team is 3-7.
The Rams just kept circulating 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 track for the worst Super Bowl defense ever for one simple reason: There are no reserve-level players to fill the roster holes. Right now Donald is the one only Rams starter that you drafted in the first round. The rest of the roster is stocked with Day 2 and Day 3 trades, free agents, and draft picks.
The future of the Rams is bleak. They have one of the worst offensive lines in football – and the soon-to-be 30-year-old Kupp is essentially their only offensive weapon. Donald – while still elite – is also aging. Last year he had to be persuaded not to retire. Stafford has proven to be what he always was in Detroit: a patchy player with an injury history.
Meanwhile, the team has forecast just $5.9 million in cap space in 2023 — and just six picks in the draft. Head coach Sean McVay has also reportedly contemplated stepping down.
Los Angeles has many problems to solve – and very little with which to solve them. As the saying goes, “flags fly forever”. But the new flag now flying at SoFo Stadium may have cost the Rams Years of respectable football.
The Kansas City Way
Probably the first (and most important) point to consider when comparing the two franchises is the quarterbacks. Stafford and Goff combined still not up to par with Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs have had this clear advantage since the two teams played in 2018.
Although Kansas City had one all in Phase while Mahomes was on his rookie deal, the front office has shown restraint as his costs have risen. In 2019, many Chiefs fans were ready to get in their cars and head to Jacksonville to acquire Ramsey. But the Chiefs saved their first-round picks — and quiet won the Super Bowl.
The Chiefs have also made difficult salary cap decisions. They gave free rein to good players like Mitch Morse, Tyrann Mathieu and Charvarius Ward. Instead of re-signing Tyreek Hill (like Los Angeles did with Kupp), the Chiefs traded him for a crop of draft picks. These became players who played key roles as the team locked down the AFC West for the seventh straight season.
And the future of the Chiefs remains bright. By 2023, they’re projected to have $28 million in cap space and have 11 draft picks — and a roster full of youth and promise.
The final result
When the teams played in 2018, they looked pretty much the same. But when the Rams come to town on Sunday, the teams will hardly look more different. While the two franchises have enjoyed similar results since they last met, their future looks bright Nothing how. On Sunday, the Rams will be 14.5-point underdogs for the Chiefs — and it looks like Kansas City will continue to hold the advantage for years to come.