If there actually is football next year, fans and pundits alike expect the St. Louis Rams to be a much better team. However, that might not automatically translate into a big difference in the Rams' final record when the season ends next January.
The schedule gods are using 2011 to make up for the free pass they gave the Rams in 2010. Rather than the AFC West, they get the AFC North. Rather than the NFC South, they get the NFC East. Throw into the mix games against the Super Bowl champs from the last two years, and the year ahead offers an challenging, but very exciting ride. The Rams will top last year's 7-9 record, but they'll have to fight to do so.
The good news here is that the other teams in the NFC West also play those two power house divisions. As you know, the other teams in the division enter the season on far shakier footing than Steve Spagnuolo's Rams. Steve Wyche points out in this piece on the Rams that an 8-8 record might easily win the NFC West. At least it means that the division will be sending its winner to the playoffs with something better than a 7-9 record.