Like every team in the NFL, the St. Louis Rams are hoping that this is their year. Well maybe not the year they will win a Super Bowl, but at least the year that they can pull themselves out of mediocrity and backing into the playoff hunt. As much as we all like the extra coverage during April for the NFL Draft, I think is it safe to say that the Rams would much rather swap that coverage for some air time in late January. Last year the St. Louis Rams played a monster of a schedule, playing 8 games against playoff teams, including the Super Bowl winning New York Giants, and not including the opener against the fully healthy, “Dream Team” Philadelphia Eagles. This year we should see a markedly easier schedule, which, with sustained health and continued progression among the wide receivers, could lead to a drastic turnover in term of wins and losses at the end of the season.
Week 1: @Detroit Lions
I don’t expect another 44-3 blowout like last season! I think the Lions defense will have trouble stopping Jackson out of the backfield and, consequently, have trouble handling the play action attack from Bradford. However, the interior of the Rams offensive line is pretty green in terms of the amount of time they have spent together and the secondary will likely feature two rookie cornerbacks and Craig Dahl at safety. It will likely be a shoot out and the Rams don’t quite have the machinery that Detroit has…
Verdict: Loss, 0-1
Week 2: Washington Redskins
This is potentially the biggest game for the Rams, because a win not only counts towards our season, but every Redskins loss knocks their 2013 draft spot higher and higher.The Redskins offensive line looked real shaky during the preseason, with RGIII taking some big shots against the Bears and the Colts. If Long and Quinn can be disruptive in the backfield, than this is definitely a winnable game for the Rams.
Verdict: Win, 1-1
Week 3: @Chicago Bears
Like Baltimore, it seems as though the Bears defense never gets any older. However, the Bears were one of the worst teams in the NFL against the pass last season, and with questions surrounding Brian Urlacher’s knee, there do seem to be some signs of aging. The Bears went all out this offseason, ensuring that Jay Cutler would have more targets than Devin Hester to target. Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall will arguably be as tough of a matchup for the secondary as Titus Young and Calvin Johnson during week one. Depending on how fast the secondary can grow as a unit, this could very well be a winnable game against a questionable defense. However, Lovie Smith is still one of the greatest defensive minds in the NFL, and will likely enhance the performance of whoever he puts on the field.
Verdict: Loss, 1-2
Week 4: Seattle Seahawks
I absolutely cannot wait for this matchup against Russell Wilson and the new-look Seattle wide receiving core. Seattle has received a ton of coverage this offseason because of the quarterback “battle” between Flynn and Wilson and the drafting antics of Pete Carroll. Wilson has looked spectacular in the preseason, but until recently had been splitting a majority of the first team reps with Tarvaris Jackson and Matt Flynn. His progression will be key if the Seahawks plan on turning their 22nd ranked passing offense around. Seattle will be coming off back to back games against the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, both of which are yearly leaders in pass rushing. Look for Wilson to be rattled coming into St. Louis following the short week after the Monday night matchup with the Packers.
Verdict: Win, 2-2
Week 5: Arizona Cardinals
Last season, the Rams played a historic games against the Cardinals, becoming the first team to score 4 points in a quarter after Skelton was first sacked in the end zone and then got an intentional ground call in the end zone, resulting in two safeties. However, that game ended with a Patrick Peterson punt return for a touchdown at the start of overtime, handing the Rams their 7th loss of the season. Jackson ran all over the field for 130 yards, and Skelton never had time in the pocket to even glance towards Larry Fitzgerald. I suspect a similar result in this game, but with a different outcome on the scoreboard resulting from our vast improvement in special teams coverage.
Verdict: Win, 3-2
Week 6: @Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins of 2011 followed their 23rd ranked offensive performance with overdrafting the WR-turned-QB Ryan Tannehill. I have a strong feeling the “trial by flames” mentality of the ‘Fins is going to burn the offensive production of the team. Not only is Miami starting an inexperienced rookie quarterback, but they cut Ochocinco/Johnson and let Marshall hop ship to Chicago. That means Tannehill and Reggie Bush are the only thing stopping the St. Louis Rams from doubling up in the wins column, after facing a similarly pathetic team in the Arizona Cardinals in Week 5.
Verdict: Win, 4-2
Week 7: Green Bay Packers
The storyline of this game may be the first matchup for Scott Wells against his old team. Last season, Aaron Rodgers tore up the ailing secondary for 316 yards and 3 touchdowns. However, the reality is that the St. Louis Rams lost this game because of their inability to score against one of the worst defenses in the NFL last year. Bradford threw for 328 yards and Jackson ran for 96 yards, and yet the Rams failed to score a single touchdown. If the Rams can shut down the running game and “hold” Rodgers to another sub-350 yard passing game, then we may have a chance to pull off the upset. However, that is a lot of if’s and there is no telling if the new offensive personnel will be able to handle the red zone pressure any better in the coming season. The one positive is that this year the game isn’t in Green Bay and Bradford loves playing the dome.
Verdict: Loss, 4-3
Week 8: New England Patroits
The St. Louis Rams will have the luxury of knowing a majority of the receivers first hand, given the Patriots’ acquisition of Brandon Lloyd and Greg Salas. However, it is doubtful that this familiarity will help in stopping Brady and the similar dink-and-dunk passing style that New England has used so effectively in the past. New England was pathetic on defense last year, but used their first 6 picks in the 2012 draft on defensive players, including Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower. This is arguably the best all-around team that the St. Louis Rams will face up until this point in the season. They will need to play mistake-free football, plus get a couple of turnovers if they want the “W” in this game.
Verdict: Loss, 4-4
If they St. Louis Rams are sitting at .500 heading into the Bye week, they should be ecstatic. The second half of the schedule includes games against the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Bucs, and Minnesota Vikings, as well as winnable games against divisional rivals Seattle and Arizona. Tune into Ramblin’ Fan to see how we predict the Rams will finish out the 2012 season.