Tomorrow night, the NFL will officially break ground on the 2014 regular season, when the Green Bay Packers take on the defending Super Bowl champions, the Seattle Seahawks. With that kickoff date in mind, most have unveiled their “final” thoughts, predictions, and season outcomes for the upcoming season, giving their NFL-hungry consumers one last, teasing taste of the offseason before the madness begins. Included in those releases are the Power Rankings, where groups of analysts band together to compile a subjectively-ranked hierarchy of all 32 teams in the NFL.
While the pre-regular season Power Rankings rarely mirror the ones posted by mid-December, they do typically reveal how the member of the NFL national media perceive any given team heading into the year. In the wake of the devastating Sam Bradford injury, how will the St. Louis Rams fare as they prepare to take on the Minnesota Vikings in Week 1?
Sports Illustrated: 19th (Previous: N/A)
This is akin to scoring tickets to a Broadway show, only to discover an understudy in the lead role. Shaun Hill, a very competent backup, might thrive as Sam Bradford’s replacement at quarterback — there is loads of ability around him on both sides of the ball. But he also might be in over his head.
Bleacher Report: 24th (Previous: 18th)
There is no denying that Jeff Fisher’s St. Louis Rams have talent, but they also play in the NFL’s toughest division and face a brutal schedule in 2014. That, plus questions in the secondary and still at quarterback, makes it easy to see the Rams taking a step back in wins this season.
Playing six games against the NFC West is bad enough, but the Rams must also play expected playoff teams Tampa Bay, the Philadelphia Eagles, Denver and the San Diego Chargers. They also see the Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants along the way. Even with a few lucky breaks and bounces, that’s a murderers’ row of a schedule.
One of the best front fours in football will carry this team, but the loss of Cortland Finnegan at cornerback could be big for this team, as could the inexperience at safety. The hope is that coordinator Gregg Williams will get the back end of his defense going while a healthy Sam Bradford lives up to expectations at quarterback behind a very good offensive line.
The Rams may be a surprise pick for some as a playoff team this year, but I can’t see them getting past this schedule.
ESPN: 24th (Previous: 18th)
Before Sam Bradford’s Week 7 injury last year, only Peyton Manning and Matthew Stafford had better TD-Int differentials than Bradford (plus-10). Now, it’s Shaun Hill’s show in St. Louis.
CBS Sports: 20th (Previous: 19th)
Losing Sam Bradford is a big blow. But I think with the way Jeff Fisher wants to play, Shaun Hill will do OK.
Overall, it seems as though the media is split 50/50 on the impact that the Sam Bradford injury will have on the St. Louis Rams this upcoming season. Those on the Bradford wagon point to his statistical dominance in the early half of the 2013 season, and conclude the Shaun Hill simply cannot replicate those numbers. Others will look at the Rams record from Week 8 through Week 17, seeing that Kellen Clemens was able to manage a respectable 4-5 record in St. Louis’ run-centric offense, with four of those losses coming to teams with 10+ wins by the end of last year. Somewhere in the 18th to 21st range seems fair for a team starting the season without their “franchise” quarterback. We’ll see how that looks after Week 1…
Tags: St. Louis Rams