In this post I'll be taking a look at the teams that the Rams will be playing in the 2012 season and analyzing how the Rams stack up to them. Before I get started this may seem somewhat pessimistic, but given how poorly the team performed this season it's hard not to be.
As was mentioned in Random Ramsdom today, the Rams will be playing the AFC East, NFC North, NFC West (twice), the Redskins, and the Buccaneers. The 13 teams that they play have a combined 2011 record with the NFC West teams' records doubled is 141-112. 4/13 teams are in the playoffs. 7/13 have records that are at .500 or better.
Taking a look at these general numbers suggests that the Rams are in line for a pretty tough year. A more in depth look after the jump...
Let's start out with the four playoff teams: New England, Green Bay, Detroit, San Francisco.
Playing 4 playoff teams isn't really that big of a number. For instance if the Rams had to play the AFC North again in addition to either the NFC North or NFC South the rams would play6 or more if the two random teams were different. However we did get some of the strongest playoff teams this year with New England and Green Bay occupying the No. 1 seeds in their respective conferences and San Francisco having the No. 2. I would not be surprised if the Super Bowl came down to New England and Green Bay. That would make it the second year in a row that the Rams would face both Super Bowl Teams. Having to play San Francisco twice also creates problems for the Rams. Given their young talent and will be 2nd year coach its hard to imagine them not being good next year. It is also my opinion that Detroit will continue to improve. The Rams will be very lucky to come away from those games 1-4, while most likely dropping them all.
I've already discussed San Francisco, but the other divisional teams Seattle and Arizona will be very important.
One of the big reasons why the Rams struggled this season is the better than expected performances of the rest of the NFC West. Like San Francisco, Seattle also has lots of young talent, so I expect them to finish around .500 again. Arizona on the other hand, I believe will not be as good, most likely finishing in the bottom third of the league. Unless the Rams make big changes, I really cant see them doing much better than 2-4 against the division.
Other teams that will give the Rams trouble: NY Jets, Buffalo, Chicago.
Even though they missed the playoffs, the Jets will be good next year. Their defense has the potential to shut down the Rams' often lack luster offense. A win against them, especially if it is in New Jersey, will be hard to come by. While I can see the Rams winning match ups against the Bills and the Bears, these teams will be around .500 or better talents that will be hard fought. A 1-2 or 2-1 record against these teams are the most likely scenarios.
Teams that the Rams should have a good chance of beating: Miami, Minnesota, Redskins, Buccaneers.
Most of these teams are drafting high in the draft and have major questions at Quarterback. With a lot of them having coaching questions like the Rams it isn't clear how good they will be. If they stay at the same level of competitiveness or worse and the Rams improve, I can see the Rams doing well against these teams with around a 3-1 record.
Taking all of this into consideration the Rams will finish with a record of 6-10. While this would be an improvement over last season, mostly because the Rams have more easy games than this year, this isn't what fans have in mind. The problem with the schedule is that around 5 or so games will be close to sure losses for the Rams no matter what changes are made over the off season. Of course the Rams can move in the right direction and some of the moderate match up teams can do nothing or go in the wrong direction, which would result in a closer to .500 record for the Rams. In 2010 this was competitive in the once terrible NFC West. However, given the strength of San Francisco, .500 football won't cut it.