Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Can The St Louis Rams Win The NFC West?


 

Remember the days of the NFC Worst? In recent years, the St Louis Rams’ division has represented the basement of the Conference – if not the League – and has featured some shockingly awful teams with rightfully dreadful records (and we are not just talking about the Rams!). Examples of this legacy of failure are the 2005 season, when three of the division’s four teams won just fifteen games between them, and perhaps reached a climax in 2010, when the Seattle Seahawks became the first team in NFL history to win a division with a losing record. On three occasions since the divisions re-aligned in 2002, the NFC West has been won by a team with just 9 wins and all four teams have had top five picks in the last ten drafts.

Despite this, however, the division has been represented in the Super Bowl four times since 2006, and the Seahawks’ triumph last February represents how far the NFC West has come since those days. The Arizona Cardinals’ 10-6 record only led to third place within the division, despite the fact that this would have been enough to win the NFC North by two clear games. For their part, the Rams’ 7-9 record, which would have been enough to win back in 2010, was the highest of any fourth-placed team in any division in the NFL, and would have allowed them to come joint second in the AFC South. With young, dynamic quarterbacks (Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick…dare I add Sam Bradford??), fearsome defensive players (Robert Quinn, Richard Sherman, Patrick Willis, Patrick Peterson) and smart coaches, the NFC West has gone from worst to best and, if the Rams are going to deliver on their lofty ambitions and their fans’ impatient expectations, they are going to have to hold their own in these toughest of environments.

And the Rams seem to be shaping up to address the challenge. The investments in the offensive and defensive trenches, and the focus on a running game, is a reflection of the team’s attempts to meet the demands imposed by their divisional opponents. Pressure on the opposing quarterback is key, particularly in containing slippery customers like Wilson and Kaepernick, while, with juggernauts like Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore in the backfields, closing running lanes with hefty bodies is a must. The opposite, however, is also true, as the Rams’ divisional opponents are doing exactly the same. Therefore, protecting Bradford is a priority, while a strong running game from Zac Stacy (and Tre Mason?) will prevent the need to throw to Sherman and Peterson. This is tough, hard-nosed football, and the Rams have accumulated the ingredients to fight this fight.

And fight it they will have to. In this competitive NFC West, the Rams should aim to win at least four divisional games if they have any chance of winning the division. This would involve a minimum of one away win in daunting environments. Both the Seahawks and the 49ers met this minimum last season and, unsurprisingly, they both qualified for the playoffs; the Rams’ dismal 1-5 divisional record was a huge factor in their eventual fate. These internal games represent some of the toughest on the Rams’ overall schedule, and, to realize any postseason hopes, they are going to have to pick up these key wins, beating at least one of their division rivals twice.

The good news is, of course, that the Rams have done this before. In 2012, the team won four of their divisional games and lost only one, with a hard-fought tie against San Francisco rounding off the record. And this was with a weaker incarnation than the 2014 version is likely to be. With the rival teams not having improved at the same rate (in my view, anyway), the Rams have a strong possibility of mounting a serious challenge for the NFC West crown and, should they fall short, possibly pick up a wild-card spot. It will be tough, and it will be challenging but, for Rams fans, that will be nothing new. At least this time, however, there is a sense of hope.

So let’s get ready to rumble.

Tags: Featured NFC West Popular San Francisco 49ers St. Louis Rams

  • trinity

    No they can’t win it, because all three other teams are better than them, and the 49ers and Seahawks are 2 of the top 3 teams in the league, but the rams have some nice pieces. I don’t trust Bradford, but I think they will be competitive.

    • pboi619

      Dont thrust Bradford health or ability cause hes been good against the NFC west…9-9-1 against the West since he was our QB with 2 seasons which we had a 4 wins in the division…we can most def win these games both times we faced Seahawks last year was with a back QB and still put up a fight…. people get high and mighty on the Niners but all of there Starting CBs are gone they are working with second and first year players Cardinals is the Team who actually scares me the most…but if Bradford can stay healthy i can say we can be 4-2 in the Division….

      • trinity

        I’m not sure why the cardinals would scare you the most since they are only the 3rd best team in the division. People don’t get high and mighty on the 49ers for nothing. Even despite the secondary they are a dominant defense, and a top 3 team in the whole league. The seahawks are the best team in football. The rams are in a situation where they are talented, but the jury is very much out on thier quarterback, and the division they are in just screws them. If the rams were in the NFC east, I think they would have a division title. But looking at the 3 teams in front of you in the west, your hands are just tied.

        • pboi619

          There Secondary was fine last year I’m saying they have no starters at the CB spot anyone who step in is going to be a first year starters i dont care how good a D is if you have first year starters and a missing pro bowl linebacker you are going to fall in production….I dont get worried about the Seahawks because we always played them close and they always have a problem blocking our D line when we play we just need more O to help our D….I dont feel like we are out from competing in our Division and i can see us getting in the playoffs…Most Def now since we wont be going threw a identity crisis like the beginning of last year..and i believe bradford will prove himself and we wont be playing 10 yards off D…so everybody can say what they want but this NFC West race isnt a 2 man race

  • GO HAWKS

    absolutely not your team doesn’t have the chemistry, just because you have solid line up of talent in a few key position, doesnt mean squat the jury is still out on bradford.0 productivity in wr core, your best option at rciever last year was the te Cook stedman baily out for 3 games for ped’s, probably there best wr option last year but your still terriible You are still the down the with jacksonville jaguars and houstons of the league UNTIL YOU PROVE OTHER WISE,dont compare yourself to the niners or hawks……..by the way arizona is still better than the rams and i hope sam breaks bolth hes legs…..bradford and michael

    • trinity

      Jeez, that’s a little harsh don’t you think? Personally, I don’t give a damn about either team, but wishing someone would break their legs?

    • Rakeem Kresh

      How can you say we belong with the likes of the Jaguars when we almost beat the Hawks with a backup QB TWICE!? It took Pete carol 3 years to turn things around in Seattle. Jeff and Snead cane in and we went 4-1-1 in the division. I’d definitely say that we have already proven that we can compete with the best.

    • UhhDuhh

      I hope you break your really bad grammar and spelling. Go back to school. It will help you to get a good job like the drive-thru at McDonald’s.

      • Ron Baker

        I wouldn’t trust Go Hawks on the drive-thru because they handle money.

    • Rick Talley

      Can’t WAIT for the Rams to smash your dreams, butthesd

    • seann

      Get off of here .

    • Adam Smith

      As a Hawks fan, I’m offended by this post. It’s a poor reflection on the rest of us.

      Rams have some great defensive players. But I still think the Hawks are the favorites to take not just the NFC West, but the Super Bowl (according to Las Vegas bookies).

      I’m excited about the coming season games, especially against all the NFC West. As the writer points out, the team last in the NFC West could still give almost any other division a run for their money.

      • Ryan Knight

        Agreed. Honestly, I think any team in the NFC West would’ve beaten Denver in that Super Bowl. After watching the AFC Championship Game last year, I don’t know why anyone thought that Denver would even be competitive, let alone win. Denver’s players seemed to come in knowing the truth, at least.

  • kyle

    Lol just a reminder until Bradford got injured he was doing a hell of a lot better then Wilson. And don’t forget we played over half a season with a backup QB. I can’t wait to prove that we r the better team this season

  • kyle

    And of anyone is gonna break their legs it’s gonna be Russell Wilson at the hands of our front 7 …

  • Ron Grummer

    I’ve always considered the Rams to be the Seahawks’ primary division rival in the NFC west. I appreciate their toughness which has proven the hone to our blade. I look forward to their re-emergence as our primary competitor in the NFC West. Good Team, Good luck, we’ll see you on the field!
    Go ‘Hawks!

    • ricdram

      Ron Grummer you are a CLASSY Hawks fan.
      Unfortunately ” GO HAWKS ” (below) is NOT !
      The term ” ILLITERATE TROLL ” is applicable.
      Good luck this year sir.

  • Nathan Kearns

    Love the trash talk up in here…

  • DJS425

    Seahawks are only 16-2 against the Rams since 2005. Can they win the division? It’s plausible. Can I win the lottery? It’s plausible.

  • Rick Talley

    All the Seahawks are oh-so cocky; which is why it is so very hard to repeat. My money is on them NOT repeating as NFC West champs. I’m not saying the Rams will prevail, but I’d say, as a bettor, you’re much more likely to win betting on the Rams. At any rate, ricdram is right about HAWK, except not nearly strong enough in his condemnation. That guy is a knuckle-dragger; the kind of fan that passes out at games because he’s drank too much. The last thing anyone should be talking about gleefully, is someone (in this case, Bradford) getting hurt. My hope is for everyone to stays healthy, so there are no excuses when the Rams beat the likes of chickenshit HAWK fans like the one in this post.

    • Adam Smith

      “but I’d say, as a bettor, you’re much more likely to win betting on the Rams. ”

      I’ll take the other side of that bet.

  • roger paul

    IMO…The ‘Niners will self-destruct this year because of the Harbaugh situation and the SeaHawks will be overconfident and not play nearly as well as last year….so saying that the Cards are easily the 3rd best team in the division and that the Rams are “terrible” is just the kind of know-nothing-about-football crap that cretins tend to spout about when they actually do “know nothing”…..BREAK A LEG!!!!

  • roger paul

    Oh and yes , very classy Ron Grummer….you obviously DO “know something” about football…

  • Gary Stewart

    guys the question posed was can they win the west the answer is of course they can!! will they ?? probably not the hawks and niners are a year or so ahead of the rams in the building of the team. 2014 should prove the rams capable and then when sea and sf begin to have to pay their players cap space problems and trying to replace key pieces lost to free agency and cap casualties will surely put the hawks and niners in jeopardy by the 2015 season. can they win this year?? sure, will they?? not ready to go that far yet ask me after game 3 if we start 3-0 maybe momentum will join our side GO RAMS!!

  • Ryan Knight

    Seahawks fan here. Please believe that we take the Rams seriously. I am not looking forward to subjecting Wilson to your front seven this next season…BUT it would be nice for the NFC West to get back to where it should be, with the Seahawks and Rams being the powerhouses duking it out every year.