It's finally over. The preseason is done. (Holds you tighter).....it can't hurt us anymore.
The regular season of the NFL is almost upon us, with only eight more days until the Rams will face the Arizona Cardinals in the first game of the year.
Many are predicting this to be the year the Rams finally return to the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Others think the NFC West is too strong for such a young team to emerge.
What do our writers think?
Honestly, I think the Rams will go 9-7, and barely miss the playoffs. However, I can see them going 11-5, making a wild card birth. A lot of analysts have the Rams at 8-8...too bad that they have them 0-8 on the road and 8-0 at home; these aren't the Seahawks we're talking about (except GB, cause I will forever think of that as a complete BS call, mainly cause I was at the game).
Injuries and the running game control the outcome of the season. Rams have avoided bad injuries so far, 2 seasons in a row though?! The DBs HAVE to stay healthy, as does the OLine. On the running game, Daryl Richardson can't run the ball 95% of the game, can some rookies fill in though? (I pretty much wrote Isaiah Pead off at this point.)
Last note, this is a young team (youngest for 2 seasons now), which makes it my last concern. However, I think the strengths of the young guys will offset their brain lapses in the big picture.
So I'll split the difference, 10-6 is my final prediction. Playoffs? Well, I guess they'll have to "Ram" their way into the picture.
I am going with 8-8. With the schedule this team has and the incredible youth, I an see a very slow start and ending the season, well just like last year. There are way too many unknowns all over the offense. Sam, needs a huge step up to elevate all the young unproven talent while having the OL stay healthy with their lack of depth. The defense will have a hard time replicating last year's sack total, over 20% worth built up in 2 games against the Cards. Safety is another huge unknown. 2014 should be the year they make a playoff run or there may need to be some major decisions made at the important positions.
Ryan Van Bibber
8-8 From here, .500 feels like a disappointment. The Rams receivers have less than 1,400 career receiving yards between them. Their running backs have amassed a grand total of 529 career rushing yards. Only four teams since 1990 have fielded a group with so little experience at both positions, and none of those teams had as little as the Rams. Another thing to note about those four teams, according to Football Outsiders, all of them had a losing record that year. The Rams defense will be fine, even with question marks at safety. Where St. Louis needs to improve most is on offense. They haven't averaged more than 19 points per game since 2006. Nevertheless, the Rams offense should improve this year. Jared Cook and Chris Givens are playing like legitimate receiving threats and have already formed a psychic connection with Sam Bradford, who has a real left tackle for the first time in his career. Jeff Fisher's team still has a year to go before they can stand on equal footing with the 49ers and the Seahawks in a tough NFC West.
I agree with everything Ryan said, and I also think the Rams will end up 8-8. Too young and too many new pieces. This isn't a playoff team, yet. But look at the young talent on the roster. Just look at it. Need I remind you that the Rams have two first round picks in the next draft?
It takes at least 3 seasons for a team to finally come together under a new coach. Jeff Fisher is only entering his second season. Expectations have to be tempered. Even if the Rams go 8-8 again, I see this as a success. The Rams weren't able to sustain mediocrity after the 2010 season. If they are able to do so in 2013, it would be a positive sign they are finally on the right track.
I really hope that's the last time I will have to utter that phrase.
Winning against the odds - and losing a few they shouldn't - the Rams become the "X Factor" poster child for the NFL in 2013. Their "X" will be all over the league map as they stun Atlanta, lose to New Orleans, rabbit punch Indianapolis for a win, then squeak by Carolina. Their NFC West backyard is filled with snarling dogs, who never learned the word "Stay!"... The fighting will be fierce along the left coast. Home field advantage will rule the day, and only Arizona is swept by a single NFC West opponent - The St. Louis Rams.
Injuries trends of the past for the Rams take a season off, as does Rodger Saffold by week #3. Offensive line depth - and miracle working once again by OL coach Paul Boudreau - feeds one of the most exciting teams in the league onward. Tavon Austin isn't the only secret head coach Jeff Fisher is hiding as the regular season approaches. A ramblin', gamblin' atmosphere erupts to new heights, with OC Brian Schottenheimer shedding his predictable play-calling past. The NFL welcomes a quiet new running back into the discussion of top performers, as Daryl Richardson cracks the 1,500 all-purpose yard mark. Media members who decried the hefty price of free agent acquisition Jared Cook, cough and look away when he becomes the ONLY Rams receiver to crack the 1,000 receiving yards barrier. Sam Bradford's agent breathes a sigh of relief, as his client blossoms for 4,300 passing yards and 31 touchdowns. As new offensive fortunes turn upward, the Rams' defense becomes the talk of the league as Michael Brockers and Robert Quinn are named to the Pro-Bowl along with new kid on the NFL block Alec Ogletree. As the season ends with a second round loss in the playoffs, the Rams' future opponents start to sweat when they remember St. Louis has TWO first round draft picks in April 2014...
A stretch? Hyperbole? Could be... But five cups of coffee, and a "I'll win the lottery someday" attitude have inspired me. How about you?
I can comfortably say that I think the Rams will go 9-6-1 in the upcoming season. The Rams do have the third toughest schedule in 2013, and it's in large part to playing playoff teams [from 2012] in seven of their 16 games.
Simply put, Sam Bradford will quickly "make" the Rams an offense to fear, and "break" the trend of doubt and dead-horse-beating euphemisms. The Rams defense was already scary, and with a few nice offseason acquisitions, and a year of experience for a very young squad, look to comfortably place themselves in "Top 10" territory.
In terms of the West, I see the Rams securing their second consecutive season sweep of the Cardinals, splitting with the 49ers, beating the Seahawks at home...and then they tie in Week 16 in Seattle to conclude their season. I know, I know....it'd be much more satisfying to beat them on their own turf, but there's a silver lining here. Several bubble teams [Giants, Vikings, Bears] will fall to 9-7 in the final week of the regular season, earning the Rams a final wild card spot.
It is not an over-achievement for the Rams to be a 10-6 team this year. The Rams are a team loaded with young explosive talent. Jeff Fisher and Les Snead started a project last year that brought aboard a bigger, stronger, and faster personnel group. Since then, the Rams have acquired premium speed and playmaking ability on offense, and have added depth and power to an already established pass-rush on defense.
The Rams defense has the players and coaches available to become a top NFL defense. In fact, if you break down the defense position by position you can could easily find yourself making cases for many of the players to have a Pro-Bowl year. Safety may be one of the only question marks, but the recent play of Rodney McLeod should have fans enamored with his potential. However, it is the Rams offense that is the ticket to a successful season.
The Rams improved on offense last year, but still lacked any real weaponry. When you think back, the Rams offense really only had Brandon Gibson, a young Chris Givens, and Steven Jackson as semi-dynamic offensive players last year. The depth behind those players included the likes of Steve Smith. This year, the Rams have developed Chris Givens (who was the most explosive of all the weapons last year), promoted Daryl Richardson, drafted Tavon Austin, acquired Jared Cook, and have the added bonus of Brian Quick, Stedman Baily, and Austin Pettis to support the backend. If that's not enough, the Rams moved Saffold to the right side and brought on one of the best left tackles in the NFL to protect Sam's blindside. Put your concerns about the offensive line aside. The OL is much better than last year already. This team has improved around Sam Bradford significantly in the last 8 months. How could you convince anyone that this offense won't be leaps and bounds better than last year?
The additions on offense and the further developments on defense have the Rams arrow pointing straight up. 10-6 is a modest prediction. I expect them to struggle as young teams do early in the season, but to finish on a hot streak and contend for the playoffs.
It's tough to gauge the Rams this season. They set the floor high last year, but the nice (in our terms, at least) record blurs the fact that the Rams could have easily gone to the playoffs- if they eliminated mistakes. The problem is we've seen the same mistakes being made in the preseason. They are still in the rebuilding stage, but are nearly out of the tunnel (and we saw plenty of light last year with the 4-1-1 division record). They are a young team and are bound to go through growing pains. Give Jeff Fisher and Les Snead credit; they've done what Steve Spagnuolo and Billy Devaney couldn't do in a third of the time.
But standing behind a record prediction? In this division? You're crazy. So am I, it seems, so I'm rolling with 10-6. I always rock my Rams gear in January and this time, it's going to count for something!
The St. Louis Rams will finish with a 9-7 record in 2013, a respectable total for a team which has avoided winning seasons for nearly a decade. Although their rivals will do them no favors, the Rams should go at least .500 in an increasingly strong NFC West. Save for the Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons, both the AFC and NFC South divisions should offer many winnable match-ups. Weeks nine and ten will be pivotal as Jeff Fisher aims to take two redeeming victories into the bye week: hosting his long-time Tennessee Titans and traveling to former No. 1 foe, Indianapolis Colts.
Coach Fisher, quarterback Sam Bradford and all of St. Louis need a high win column in 2013 to quiet critics. As he did to close out his rookie campaign, Bradford will lead the team to Seattle in week 17 for what could become another highly meaningful showdown with playoff implications. That final contest may well be the Rams' most crucial outing.
I see 9 winnable games and 2 toss up games. I don't think that the Rams will improve on their division record. There's a good chance they will sweep a team in the division, but 4 wins in a division is pretty damn good anyway. The Rams have a few tricks up their sleeve. Personally I think the Rams are saving the hurry up for in game situations. That's their ace in the whole. My biggest concern is will the other receivers besides Chris Givens and Jared Cook get open?
I have the Rams sitting at 9-7. I love what I'm seeing so far from Bradford and the retooled receiving corps. The running game is my biggest concern on offense, but things will surely improve if Daryl Richardson remembers that he is most successful running downhill instead of making cuts. The offensive line seems to be clicking well enough, but as the season goes on, I'm worried about depth. Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey seem like they will meet or exceed all the hype, especially in the return game for Austin, Mr. Human Joystick v2.0. Jared Cook showed in game three that he is the red zone threat the Rams have not had in many years. The Rams have the talent to compete against the lower tier teams like the Cowboys, Buccaneers, and Titans, but so far in the preseason they haven't had the flash necessary to knock out the big boys like Seattle, San Francisco, or Atlanta.
The Rams start out strong with seven wins before the week 11 Bye Week, however things get tougher for the Rams for the final six, with games against the Chicago Bears and Saints at home, and road trips to San Francisco and Seattle. If the team can remain healthy down the stretch, they may be able to eek out a win or two against two teams in relative flux, the Bears and the Saints. If so, they may be able to hang around for a Wild Card berth.
Entering the 2013 season, the Rams will likely be the youngest team in the NFL. The defense could develop into a top ten unit by seasons end, the only question marks are both safety positions. Offensively, the Rams have added many new weapons, and the line (if healthy) will be much improved. The offense now has the potential to move into the top half of the league this season. The Rams are a promising team on the rise. This may not be reflected in their record this season, given the youth and inexperience on the team. The Rams will be in the hunt for a playoff spot right up until the end of the season, and could surprise, if the ever-increasing talent level can overcome the inconsistencies inherent in young, inexperienced football teams. The Rams have the potential to finish with a 10-6 record.
And finally, 3k
I'm so torn between my dedication to being realistic and my hope that the Rams break out for double digit wins and a playoff berth. I guess I'd mark us down for 5 or 6 wins at home and 3 or 4 on the road, so I'll take the midpoint of that and take 9-7. The biggest factor could be the unpredictability of injuries. An injury to Sam or Jake Long or Tavon Austin or Janoris Jenkins would be horrible. And for a young team, impeding the progress of guys like Brian Quick, Chris Givens, any of the RBs or whomever shakes out among the safeties would be an unfortunate set of circumstances to deal with.
I think the key for the Rams is to weather the road to the bye week and make a late push. The three-game winless streak into the mid-season bye last year made the run-in an uphill climb. And while a three-game win streak put them in position to sneak into the back end of the playoffs last year, they couldn't pull off the flawless finish the Redskins did. I don't think the final six games set up all that well with all three divisional road games and Chicago, New Orleans and Tampa Bay all coming to St. Louis. So it will be key for the Rams to stock up on W's to a degree before that week 11 break.
In all, I'm positive. I think we could turn a big corner this year in terms of seeing actual talent flash. Sam, Tavon, Jake Long, Jared Cook - those are players who can perform to a high, high degree. I'm eager to see it all in motion.
The lowest prediction is at 8 wins, while the highest was at 11-5. A difference of 3 games shows we have a pretty solid consensus.
Take all the numbers, do a bit of math and you will see that the average number of wins predicted is 9.15. Nine wins is not an unreasonable expectation for the Rams, though they will have to overcome many hurdles to capture this first winning record since 2003.
2003? Wow, such a very long time ago. Too long. Let's see if the Rams can finally return to winning football in 2013.