Some say that winning is a habit. Obviously it's one that we lack, with only three wins in the past two seasons, so that's not looking too good for us. Despite our trend of losing, let's look on the bright side: we probably are going to win a game in 2010, regardless of how awful or outmatched we may look on paper. Some team is going to overlook the lowly Rams, the matchups may be just right, perhaps the cosmos will align in the perfect manner, or maybe we will actually just dominate the field from start to finish, but in all likelihood (knock on wood!) we will win a game in 2010.
Maybe it's too much Turf Show Times Kool-Aid, but in recent weeks I have gained a lot of optimism about the Rams, relative to how I felt in prior weeks. Despite a boring free agency, a good but not spectacular draft, and a potentially chronic injury to the one true playmaker on the team, I've gone from thinking the Rams were making the sensible if unsexy moves towards slowly building a respectable team to now believing that the Rams will certainly play the underdog in every game of the season, but that if the football gods bless us with good health and some luck, they will also suprise a team or two along the way.
So if the Rams are going to win a game, the real question is: when?
I believe we will probably win our first game of the season.
If you forget what the Rams schedule looks like, feel free to check it out in the poll at the bottom. Otherwise, I'll try to give a good explanation of why the Rams will [perhaps] start off 1 for 1 on the season.
Week 1 vs. Arizona Cardinals
The Rams are currently about 3-4 point underdogs on this game. I think that the lossess of Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle would take a defense that wasn't that great anyway, and turn it into the sieve that has historically been associated with the Cardinals, if it weren't for some decent pickups of young guys and veterans. These include Darryl Washington, Kerry Rhodes, Joey Porter, and Dan Williams. Their defense will be improved over last year's, that is almost certain. Yet the questions of the team chemistry, the effectiveness of their nose tackle, the wear and tear on some of their acquisitions and the offseason development of their young players, who will be forced to fill substantial roles in the defense, are notable. On the other hand, I believe our defense will make huge strides this year if the defensive line can step up big time. I would give the Cardinals an edge defensively against our team.
The key to our victory lies in the fact that the Cardinals' offense has lost two of its three most important players. With the departures of Kurt Warner and Anquan Boldin, the only quality pickup for the Cardinals offense as Alan Fanica. I'm fairly positive that Doucet and Steve Breaston will have solid seasons in Boldin's spot, but the multitude of threats and different offensive packages that the Cardinals possessed was built around the Boldin/Fitzgerald tandem of playmakers. I think our secondary will be able to keep Fitzgerald relatively contained, while getting the plays necessary to disrupt the rest of the passing game as Leinart will face immense pressure throughout the game. The key to this game will be to force the Cardinals into a passing oriented approach, and play physical up front. Wells and Hightower aren't terrible, but the Cardinals simply aren't going to be commanding as much respect in the passing game now that they no longer possess one of the best receiver tandems in the league and a living legend in Warner. Their offensive line screams a new run-oriented approach to the game, but I simply don't think they have the talent to win games on the ground.
Well, we see how the Cardinals can lose the game, but how can the Rams win the game? First and foremost, getting in Leinart's face. The Cardinals' skill players are all relatively dynamic, with most everyone capable of catching a well thrown football and gaining some yardage. If we can shut down Fitzgerald, the game will be in Leinart's hands. The offense simply won't run well unless Leinart can distribute the ball to the other players. We must stop that from happening. The Cardinals' run game is of slight concern, but if we can get in Leinart's head, then we will be able to control their playbook from the field and adapt accordingly.
The Rams will also have to use Steven Jackson to test the younger Cardinals. This is obvious, but more than anything, run blocking will be vital. Our passing game will face pressure, and the plays (in the form of yards after the catch) will be mostly left to the wide receivers, not Feeley or Bradford (whoever ends up starting). We will need to try lots of quick passes, ala West Coast offense. This will prove helpful as our young line will likely not be in sync yet, and the less time we depend on the line, the better. I really think that Daniel Fells could prove the difference maker. If the Rams can make it to the end zone, we need him to step up, as the guy has the potential and physical tool to be a solid end-zone machine.
If the Rams can keep the Cardinals from moving the ball on offense, I think our own offense (provided Steven Jackson and the offensive line are relatively healthy) would be capable of putting just enough points up on the board to win a low-scoring, close game, even without Bradford. This game will prove very physical, and I believe the Cardinals will embrace a more physical game throughout the season. I don't doubt that our offense will (once again, provided health) be able to grind out enough yards to win a low scoring game, but the key will be to limit the Cardinals on offense so as not to fall behind early.
My other contenders for our first win:
Week 4 vs. Seattle
Week 7 @ Tampa Bay
Tell me when you think we'll win!
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