The Los Angeles Rams: Going all-in to win Super Bowl LVI

The Los Angeles Rams are favourites to claim Super Bowl LVI in their own stadium. Planet Sport's Paul Higham checks out the team and their chances.

Nobody does "all-in to win" quite like the Los Angeles Rams, who over the last couple of years have assembled a star-studded squad in a bold series of trades with just one aim in mind - win the Super Bowl.

It's not a build for the future plan, it's not a case of give it a couple of seasons and see how it works out. No, let's be clear on this, the Rams have rolled the dice to bring in the established star players they feel can win now.

Anything less than hoisting the Lombardi Trophy inside their wonderful new SoFi Stadium as the second straight home Super Bowl winners will be a failure. It's the only way their plan can be deemed a success.

That in itself will bring a huge amount of pressure for the Super Bowl favourites, taking on the most dangerous of underdogs in the Cincinnati Bengals who have won two huge games on the road to get here, and are playing with no fear.

Can aggressive trade strategy bring the ultimate prize?

This game could be much bigger than just the Rams winning the Super Bowl, as it could yield a raft of copycat behaviour around the league as a win would prove that the much-coveted high draft picks mightn't be the route of all success after all.

The perceived wisdom is that teams needing to rebuild need to draft well, got some stars in the first rounds for a couple of years and build their teams through bagging the top college talent. But the Rams have just blown that out of the water.

Perhaps having their fingers burnt in the past helped, as first overall pick Sam Bradford proved to be an expensive bust. While although Jared Goff got them to a Super Bowl just three years ago, he was always a limited QB who never had that magic arm to win the biggest of games by himself.

So what's the thinking? Put simply instead of taking something of a gamble that college players can make the transition to the NFL, Rams general manager Les Snead is happy to deal away their first-round picks to bring in tried and tested star names.

Goff was their last first-round draft pick in 2016 and they're not scheduled to have another one until 2024 - unless Snead again does his best Harry Redknapp impression with more wheeler dealer trade moves this summer.

Star names arrive after Hollywood move

Los Angeles Rams linebacker Von Miller

The well-traveled Rams started life based in Cleveland in 1936 before moving to Los Angeles a decade later and reached their first Super Bowl in 1980. A move to St Louis came in 1995 and it was there that they won their only Super Bowl as a brilliantly attacking team known as 'The Greatest show on turf'.

A middling decade without a playoff appearance followed, during which Stan Kroenke took over as sole owner and then saw them move back to LA for the 2016 season, and with that move came a big change in their identity and direction.

In what will no doubt anger some Arsenal fans, Kroenke went big, funding a $5 billion new stadium and authorising the new tactic of going all-out for a Super Bowl under coach Sean McVay and GM Snead. With big trades both in and out being commonplace since 2017.

They laid an almighty egg in the 2018 Super Bowl losing 13-3 to the Patriots, when it was clearly decided that a difference maker at quarterback was needed - and that man was to be Detroit gunslinger Matthew Stafford.

Not content with one of the biggest trades in NFL history, or the previous one to bring in one of the top defensive backs in the league in Jalen Ramsey, the Rams then moved into hyperdrive - trading for former Super Bowl MVP Von Miller and then picking up headline-making receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

They're star names befitting of a team that moved to Hollywood, looking to establish themselves as a star team in the NFL - but they need that Super Bowl trophy to prove that their massive gamble was worth it.

The Rams' road to the Super Bowl

Like a lot of teams in the NFL this season, the Rams went through a sticky patch despite looking pretty strong for the majority of the campaign, including a 7-1 start that served up a win over defending champions Tampa Bay.

Three straight losses followed, and all bad defeats too with Stafford throwing five interceptions and the team looking short of being contenders. That changed with five straight wins, including an epic in Baltimore, but a final game defeat by San Francisco raised questions.

Not being able to put away the Niners and end their season was a worry, especially with two more Stafford picks. But an opening playoff cruise against a worn-out Arizona restored confidence, which showed as they dominated in Tampa Bay.

They almost let Tom Brady and the Bucs back into that game, and then coming up against old foes San Francisco, who had beaten them six times in a row, in the NFC Championship game looked dangerous. Would they regret that final day defeat in the regular season?

This time, though, Stafford led the response from a 10-point deficit to steer the Rams to a home Super Bowl, and a step away from glory.

How the Rams play - Letting the big names dominate

The Rams strengths come in the areas where they have their star players, especially on their defensive front with Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd and more recently Von Miller forming a fearsome team that give opposing QBs nightmares.

They ranked third with 50 sacks this season and sixth in defending the run, and behind that they have Ramsey as one of the best in the league at handling the opposition's best receiver.

On the other side of the ball, they have the best receiver in the league this season with Cooper Kupp catching more passes for more yards and scoring more touchdowns than any other wideout. He's the first player ever to lead the NFL in those three metrics and make the Super Bowl.

He's Stafford's top target by a country mile. But Odell Beckham has just started warming up to life in LA and could well have his biggest game yet in the biggest game of all. A superstar for the New York Giants, Beckham's stock took a nosedive in Cleveland but he's out to prove he's still elite with a strong performance on Sunday.

Coach Sean McVay likes to play tough on defence and isn't afraid to let Stafford takes his shots - they have safe plays to go to for most of the game, but at some point Stafford will have to sling it to get the job done.

And it's having this many stars that makes them favourites, as a Stafford QB clinic, a huge catch-and-run display from Kupp, or a barnstorming backfield assault on Joe Burrow from Donald or Miller could all win this game by themselves.

They've broken the bank to become a box office side, now let's see if their investment is worth watching.

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