The long NFL offseason is finally over. The NFL draft and free agency period are in the books, training camps and preseason games are finished. The real season is just around the corner and every football fan believes this is their teams year. Their teams year to win it all, or turn it around, or even their chance to do what few teams have done in recent history and repeat as Super Bowl champions. Of course the Rams would fall into the second category following one of the best offseason’s in Rams history. The hiring of Jeff Fisher, the trade of the second overall pick and the slew talented players taken in the draft. There is a lot of excitement surrounding the 2012 St. Louis Rams, so how does this incredible offseason translate to the regular season and the win column?
Overall Record. The Rams will be a whole lot better than they were last year, but they still have plenty left to work on and are going to rely heavily on rookies. There will be several ups and downs on the way to a 5 or 6 win season. Certainly as a Rams fan I believe that they are capable of winning 8 or 9 games this season, but in order for that to happen they have to go virtually injury free and the rookies have to develop very quickly. So lets look at the schedule, first the home games and then the away games.
Home Games. The Rams will host the Seahawks, Redskins, Cardinals, Packers, Jets, 49ers and Minnesota Vikings. Technically the game in London against the Patriots is a Rams home game but it would be ridiculous to recognize that as a home game. Of these 7 games I believe the Rams can win four of them. The teams I believe the Rams could beat in the dome are the Redskins, Cardinals, Jets and Vikings. The Seahawks game is a potential win given they are playing a rookie quarterback but they have a very stout defense that should include a fierce pass rush so until the Rams prove they can protect Bradford I will expect them to lose that game.
Away Games. The Rams will travel to play the Lions, Bears, Dolphins, Bills, 49ers, Cardinals, Seahawks, and Buccaneers. Of these 8 games I see 4 potentially winnable games against the Dolphins, Bills, Buccaneers, and Cardinals. Of all the away games perhaps the toughest task comes in week one against the up and coming Detroit Lions. Yes I never thought I would see the day when the Lions were one of the more talented teams in the NFL but it is here. This team is loaded with young talented players and they seem to have found a good coach in Jim Schwartz, a former Jeff Fisher assistant. The Rams face the tough NFC North opponents and AFC East this year which would make an 8-8 or 9-7 season very impressive.
3 Critical Elements. It is an exciting time to be a Rams fan with the arrow pointing straight up for the future, however I for one don’t want to just look forward to next year or the year after that to see the Rams rack up some wins. #1 Injuries. If the Rams can avoid the injury bug that plagued them last year they should be vastly improved. With better talent and depth at almost every position the Rams should be more competitive in games that they aren’t expected to win as well. #2 Bradford. Can the Rams protect Sam Bradford well enough for him to play up to his potential? We have all seen the former Heisman trophy winner look like the quarterback we all expected when he was taken #1 overall by the Rams. The problem is that it hasn’t been consistent enough, largely because of a lack of protection and weapons on the outside. Have the Rams done enough to help Bradford turn the corner? #3 Rookie Development. I’ve already mentioned how the Rams will rely heavily on rookies this season. The Rams will be starting Brockers and Jenkins for sure but Trumaine Johnson appears to have the nickel corner spot locked up which is essentially a starting role in today’s NFL. Rok Watkins just might end up as the starting guard by the time the bye week rolls around. Brian Quick and Chris Givens wont be starting but will play important roles in this years offensive game plan. Greg “The Leg” is going to be relied upon very heavily in close games, and if the Rams are going to win 6-8 games this year you can bet “The Leg” will factor heavily into 3 or 4 of them. Then there is Pead and Richardson, the two guys who are going to be giving Steven Jackson a rest and replacing him in the event of an injury. Almost every player drafted by the St. Louis Rams this year will either be a starter or a primary backup.
There is an awful lot resting on the shoulders of some very young and very talented football players. It is hard to imagine that these rookies will play great every week, and yet most weeks that is what the Rams will need to come out with a win. This team may go 4-12 or 10-6 for all I know, but one thing I know for sure is this should be a fun team watch. Go Rams!!!