Fans of "60 Minutes" and the Rams got good news last night. Upon seeing the Rams' 2009 schedule, you won't have to choose between watching the Rams or Andy Rooney since the Rams don't play on Sunday evening...or Monday evening for that matter. Oh well. It's tough to make the case for two-win teams NOT playing in a top five media market to get a prime time game...especially a team that found itself perpetually blacked out in the home market.
A couple more thoughts on the schedule:
- Opening on the road against a bitter division rival is a tall order for a team in rebuilding mode. Fortunately, the Seahawks are doing a little rebuilding of their own. The season opener should give us some insight into the effect the new coaches are having on this team, and it gives them a chance to immediately show us a renewed passion for football.
- Not only do the Rams start with three of four on the road, after opening in Seattle they travel to the other side of the country to play at Washington. Hello, jet lag.
- Right now, it looks like the roughest part of the schedule are weeks 13-16 when the Rams play at Chicago, at Tennessee, vs Houston, and at Arizona. Houston has made big strides and right now, on paper, they look like a decent team. If Seattle has a good team, that rough stretch could get even longer as the Rams play Arizona and the Seahawks in St. Louis in weeks 11 and 12.
I can't look at the schedule right now and try to predict what's a win and what's not, and the first half doesn't really seem to be much easier than the second half.
The Rams matchups against the AFC South are split between the two halves of the season: Indy and Jacksonville in the first half and Tennessee and Houston in the second. That may not seem as rough as drawing the NFC East last season, but only one team in the AFC South, Jacksonville, finished below .500 and two teams, Indy and Tennessee made the playoffs. Chris Long, Ron Bartell and the Rams pass defense will be tested against the Colts and Texans, who had the 2nd and 10th best passing offenses.
The NFC North is only a slightly better matchup. Obviously, Chicago has made some big improvements during the offseason, but will Pace be healthy when the Rams face the Bears in week 13? The Rams offensive line will get a big test against the Vikings, who had a top five defense against both the pass and the run (accoridng to DVOA) and the second best sack rate of any team in the league.
The Rams reached historic lows for their run defense last season. How much improvement they've made will get a real test against Washington, New Orleans and Tennessee, each among the top ten rushing offenses last season.
The pass defense really has its work cut out for it. Besides the previously mentioned games with Indianapolis and Houston, they'll face Arizona and New Orleans' top ten passing attacks.
On the other side of the ball, the Rams don't get many breaks either. On top of Minnesota's run defense, Tennessee and Chicago ranked 5th and 6th against the run last year and Washington, who ranked 11th and held the Rams to 82 yards and no TDs on the ground, has upgraded significantly with the addition of Albert Haynesworth...which also means a very slight break against the Titans...maybe. Green Bay, Minnesota and Tennessee also feature top ten pass defenses from last year and Chicago, Indy and Washington ranked among the league top half in that category.
Road trips and games against two tough divisions aside, the schedule's not all bad, and certainly offers a better-led Rams team the chance to top their two-win season from 2008.