The St. Louis Rams have an extremely tough first half of the season, with the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers back-to-back heading into the Bye week. It will definitely come at a good time, especially considering three of the next four games will be within the division; a division that should be more wide open than mainstream NFL analysts would like everyone to think. If you didn’t get a chance to check out the predictions for Week 1 through Week 8, Ramblin’ Fan has the Rams headed into Week 9 with a 4-4 records, 2-0 in the conference…
Week 9: BYE week
Over the last 5 years, the bye has been one of the few weeks during the regular season that the Rams haven’t added a tally mark in the loss column. As previously mentioned, the bye will be coming after two hard games against the Packers and Patriots. Not so lucky, is that the Rams get the 49ers in Week 10, who will also be taking Week 9 off for their bye.
Week 10: @ San Francisco
It is always good to get some rest during the regular season, especially on an injury-prone team like the Rams. However, it is never a good thing when one of the best defenses in the NFL also has an extra week to heal and game plan against your offense. At this point in the season, the St. Louis Rams should have either built up chemistry on the offensive line or proven be another mixture-gone-wrong. The 49ers were the best team in the NFL last year in stopping the run, but were middle-of-the-field when it came to stopping the pass. It is hard to base this years game off of last season, when Bradford did not play in either game against the 49ers. The Rams got blanked in the first matchup, but put up 27 in the final game of the regular season, when the 9ers were still trying for the 2-seed in the NFC. In that game, Clemens threw for 226 and a touchdown, with Jackson running for 76 yards at 4.8 yards per carry. However, the depleted secondary had no answer for Vernon Davis who racked up 118 yards. I think this game will put a lot in perspective for the NFL and the NFC West, but the fact that the game is in San Francisco and that they have two weeks to prepare will make it an uphill battle.
Verdict: Loss, 4-5
Week 11: New York Jets
The Jets may be one of the most overrated teams in the NFL right now, which is saying a lot considering most have the team going 8-8 this season. They have no running or passing games, unless you count Tim Tebow running the ball as a passing game. The Rams were a Top 10 pass defense last year, believe it or not, which should spell trouble for the soon-to-be struggling Jets. With young, talented run-stuffers at both defensive tackle spots and an upgraded linebacking core, at least in terms of rushing defense, the Tim Tebow show (which it will undoubtedly be at this point in the season) won’t be able to get any points on the board. Steven Jackson and Greg Zuerlein should be able to put enough on the score board to win the game, even if the Jets can shut down Bradford.
Verdict: Win, 5-5
Week 12: @ Arizona Cardinals
By now, Skelton has likely lost his job to Kevin Kolb, or been injured. Either way, this should be similar to the Week 5 matchup with the exception that it will not be on Thursday Night Football. Given Beanie Wells’ injury history, he will likely be banged up as well, which will leave the Cardinals with no one to pass or run the ball on offense. After a morale boosting game against the Jets, the Rams should have the momentum coming into this game, especially since the Cardinals will be coming off a likely road trip loss to the pass-happy Atlanta Falcons.
Verdict: Win, 6-5
Week 13: San Francisco
The scheduling gods of the NFL did not seem to by paying too much attention to the NFC West, since the Rams will be playing the 9ers for the second time in four weeks. Like previously mentioned, the Rams seem to have better luck against divisional opponents the second time around, at least in terms of performance. Being at home will help Bradford and the speed pass rushers get the quarterback, which could make for an interesting final score. The Rams are also coming off, what should be, two bunny games against the Jets and Cardinals, while the 49ers will have just got done trying to contain Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. Still the San Francisco defense should make up nicely with the Rams receivers unless there is some solid progression from Quick, Givens, or Kendricks.
Verdict: Loss, 6-6
Week 14: @ Buffalo Bills
This will be the first matchup of Ryan Fitzpatrick versus his old team, the St. Louis Rams. The key to this game will be which Jackson can run their team to victory. Fred Jackson was an underrated all-star last season, leading the Bills to their surprising start in the 2011 season. The Bills, like the Rams, were pathetic against the run last season, but brought in Mario Williams and drafted Stephon Gilmore to bolster their defense. However, they did little to improve their shaky offensive line that fell apart at the end of last season, and have limited options outside of Stevie Johnson in the passing game. If the Rams can limit Fred Jackson on the ground, they should have no trouble with the pass rush or shutting down Fitzpatrick. The cold, lake front weather should also play in favor of the Rams’ run-first, short passing scheme.
Verdict: Win, 7-6
Week 15: Minnesota Vikings
Luckily the Rams won’t have to risk snow-related injury playing the the Metrodome during the winter, since the Vikings will be making the trip to St. Louis in Week 15. Adrian Peterson should just now be getting back into mid-season form coming off the torn ACL, but his lack of presence during the first half of the season will likely lead to trouble for the rest of the offense. Teams will be blitzing Christian Ponder from every direction without the fear of a screen or draw to Peterson, and he should be in “cabin fever” mode by this point in the season. The Rams will undoubtedly keep up this pressure and have no problem passing against the 26th ranked passing defense, one that the Vikings seemingly did nothing to improve during the offseason.
Verdict: Win, 8-6
Week 16: @ Tampa Bay
The Bucs were just plain bad last season, with a sub-25 offense (16th passing, 30th rushing) and defense (21st passing, 32nd rushing). If Steven Jackson has not hit the 1,000 yard mark for the season prior to this game, he will definitely cross the milestone in this contest. Tampa Bay has seemingly gave up on Blount after taking Doug Martin with their second, first-round pick, but did not do much to help Josh Freeman in the passing game, especially after cutting Kellen Winslow, who was their second leading receiver. Nor did they do anything to help their last-place ranking rush defense, unless you count S Mark Barron as a run stuffer (and I don’t). This game should bring the St. Louis Rams on the longest winning streak that any player on the Rams has ever experienced, with the exception of Steven Jackson.
Week 17: @ Seattle Seahawks
Quest is one of the most difficult arena for visiting teams in the NFL. The “12th man” will definitely play a part in the outcome of the game, which should be a tough challenge for the young secondary and green offensive line. Costly dropped passes and offsides penalties cost Bradford his first playoff appearance just two seasons ago in this same arena, at this same point in the season. Could this be Bradford’s revenge?
Verdict: Loss, 9-7
A 9-7 season could potentially put the Rams in the running for the division title, depending on how the 9ers, Cards, and Seahawks play this season. Even if it doesn’t lead to a playoff birth, Rams Nation would be overjoyed to end the said with 9 wins, especially after winning only 15 games over the past 5 seasons. This is definitely a realistic outcome for the Rams if they can stay healthy and progress as a team, primarily on the offensive side of the ball. Looking forward to seeing if these predictions can pan out!