With the St. Louis Rams’ playoff hopes wiped away in the 2012 season, the preparation for speculation about the 2013 season is starting to heat up. Offseason acquisitions and drafting are important elements in projecting success in the future, but one of the most undervalued factors is a teams’ strength of schedule. Naturally, the “strength” of schedule is fairly subjective, changing over the course of a season depending on regression and progression of teams from season to season. However, aside from a couple of drastic changes (see: Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts), most teams shift only slightly over the course of an offseason.
The St. Louis Rams have played much better in the Edward Jones Dome than on the road this season. With that in mind, here are the home games that the Rams will have on their plate in 2013:
Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Minnesota Vikings (or Chicago Bears)
The home schedule seems pretty lax, assuming that none of these bottom-tier teams drafts an Andrew Luck to send them from worst to first in a single season. Naturally, the games against division rivals seem to be the most difficult, although without a change a safety, the Rams might have trouble handling a Dree Brees’ passing attack. The final game on the schedule will be determined next week, and will be against whoever finishes 3rd in the NFC North. With the Vikings taking on Green Bay and the Bears finishing against the Lions, the smart bet would be on Rams having a rematch with Minnesota and Adrian Peterson in 2013.
The St. Louis Rams are not as lucky on the road next season, taking on much tougher opponents in some of the most difficult arenas in the NFL. Here are the away games for the Rams:
Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, New York Giants (or Dallas Cowboys)
If the current standing are any indication, the St. Louis Rams will be playing the top team from both the AFC and NFC in 2013 on the road, with at least three other playoff teams to boot. The Rams have shown improvement on the road towards the end of the season, going 3-0-1 in the last four away from the Dome. Still, Atlanta and Houston are always tough to play in, and Indianapolis is nothing to shake your finger at. The last game on the schedule will be determined by whoever finishes the season in the 3rd slot in the NFC East. The Cowboys versus Redskins game in Week 17 will be huge for the St. Louis Rams for a number of reason. If the Cowboys win, they will likely hop the Redskins into the playoffs, moving the ‘Skins traded draft pick up the board and putting the New York Giants on the Rams 2013 schedule. If the Cowboys lose, the Rams will likely be playing in Dallas next season, unless the Giants somehow lose to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Just eyeballing the schedule, out of context and without knowing the exact layout, it looks as if the St. Louis Rams could see a sizable improvement in their record in 2013. It would not be out of the question for the Rams to reach double digit wins, especially with the seeming ease of the home games. Taking some mixture of six wins at home versus less talented teams is within reason, and St. Louis should be able to find a way to take home three to four wins on the road, especially with the Panthers and Cardinals locked on the schedule. All speculation at this point, but the Rams cannot complain about the draw this year…