The 2015 rendition of the Rams are one of the most divisive squads in recent memory. We all know the story by now... the Rams running game and defense could dominate in route to 10+ wins. OR, the OL could fail to mesh and the team could struggle to meet last year's 6-10 record.
Kickoff is this week and the fine crew at TST take their best shot at predicting how the 2015 season will play out.
I am going to do my very best not to overreact to what I’ve seen this preseason. With that being said, the Rams look pretty damn bad. The o-line has looked questionable at best. Nick Foles has gotten pressured off of his spot way too often. And the running game has been getting stuffed, at least when it comes to the starters.
Outside of the first two plays of the preseason, the offense has looked…let’s say sluggish. And as usual with a Jeff Fisher team, they have hemorrhaged 299 penalty yards in 4 games. All of these issues, along with one of the toughest schedules in the league, lead me to be less optimistic than what I should be at this point in time. Long story short, I see us going 7-9, finishing under .500 again.
The Rams season is a tough one to predict for so many reasons. The offensive line is clearly a work in progress, Nick Foles is still somewhat of an unknown, the defense still lacks the consistency required to reach "top 5" status, and Todd Gurley is the ultimate unknown at this point.
The folks in Vegas seem to have this pegged just about right with an 8 win over/under. I will take the over because I am an eternal optimist. In order to have the first winning season since 2003 (it pains me to write that), the team will have to catch a few lucky breaks. They will need to stay healthy, they need the defense to reach its potential, and they need the offensive line to develop for the power running offense to take off. The odds of all 3 of those things happening are fairly slim I know.
I can easily see this team at 6-10 or 10-6. Like I said earlier, I will take the over on Vegas' 8 wins, and I am placing all my hopes and dreams on the shoulders of this defense. If the defense reaches its potential, the Rams could squeak into the playoffs. If they continue to make silly mistakes and give up the big play, well it could be another long season.
Mike Dietrich [@dvond]
I am looking at 6-10. The OL could not be more of a mess with Fisher shuffling the group 2 weeks before season leading to no continuity...spelling disaster. The defense looks confused at times again, and seems to read their press clippings - even though over a full season this group has proven to be nothing but middle of the pack. This looks to be a building block year toward 2016 while getting a ton of young guys some game experience.
This is not the year of the Ram. Even though the record may not indicate a good season, the positive will be that the Rams will certainly add experience to their young talent. The start of the season is just too brutal and the OL is just a bloody mess (that doesn't appear to be fixed anytime soon) to have any chance at a winning record.
Even though the Rams defense could be in the top 10, they will be on the field way too much and could burn out as the season progresses. That said, this will be a year where the Rams will add experience, and then look to the draft and offseason to plug the few remaining holes this team will have, particularly on the OL.
This is tough to predict. The team has enough talent to go 14-2. However, the coaching doesn't allow that record to be there. Penalties have been a major issue for the Rams, especially since Fisher took over. No discipline. Now it seems that the refs are specifically looking for penalties, and throwing flags when they wouldn't for another team. A couple of games will be lost because of that.
The O-Line is a mess. Sure they drafted 27 guys to fix the position, but last I checked only 5 guys are typically needed to play those positions. I was hoping that they could take like 5 of those guys and make one super OT or OG - like the Power Rangers. I've been told that's not a possibility.
Defense is all hype this preseason - #SackCity is MIA again. I think they haven't been playing at full opacity, except on the series where AD99 stuffed the run 3 times in a row. Fisher's teams almost always (they beat Cards in 2013...then lost 3 straight) get off to a slow start, so you can pretty much bet a 2-2 start at best, 1-3 wouldn't be a surprise either.
Time for some predictions. Optimistic: 9-7; realistic 7-9. The question then becomes: does Fisher get to keep his job after yet another sub-.500 season?
I’m doing an about-face on my earlier thoughts. I think this team is capable of an 11-5 year. I’m not naturally optimistic, but there are reasons why it could happen.
For one, the offensive line looks shaky right now, but unlike past years in which we were dependent on creaky old guys who were one block away from the trainers table, there is upside here. Having settled on starters and positions, this young line will gain the continuity that they currently lack as the season goes on.
For another, the offensive play-calling shows signs of a return to sanity. There are still more checkdown passes than I’d like, but Frank Cignetti is making common-sense accommodations to his inexperienced OL with lots of play-action and RB screens that Brian Schottenheimer was so allergic to. Plus, he doesn’t seem afraid to make use of the deep third of the field, and Foles will happily make those throws.
Lastly, the schedule really helps. The offense won’t be good enough to win any shootouts, but they only face three teams in the top 25% in scoring – Pittsburgh, Green Bay, and Baltimore. The powers of the NFC West are more vulnerable than last year. Once you get past a tough start, I could easily see this team rip off a ton of wins against a very soft middle and back half of the slate.
The defense will be prone to one or two mental slips, but not many defenses can claim Pro Bowl caliber talent at all three levels. The Rams have that in Quinn & Donald on the DL, Ogletree at LB and TJ McDonald – who is really, really good and should have an emergent year this season.
Looming over all of this is the stadium relocation drama. There is a lot of antipathy toward this team in St Louis right now, and not a lot of motivation to buy tickets and line Stan Kroenke’s pockets. But everyone loves a winner, and if this team starts ripping off wins, the dome atmosphere could transform from a funeral to a New Orleans style wake.
Brandon Bate [@NoPlanB_]
I’m finding it difficult to not be swayed by what I’ve seen from the starting offense - specifically the offensive line - during the preseason, but unfortunately it’s getting the best of me and it’ll take a toll on my prediction as a result. Had you asked me 60 days ago, I would’ve pegged the Rams as a 9-7 team, with a 10th win coming as no major surprise. I’ll swap those numbers now as a result of what figures to be a sluggish start.
"Continuity," or lack thereof, is a word thrown around seemingly every Rams’ offseason. Fisher/Cignetti continue to rotate guys around the line, and I don’t think it’s doing much to help cohesion for the starting unit. At this juncture - with less than a week before the season kicks off - we don’t even know who the starting center will be. Rodger Saffold’s been out of the mix for over two weeks.
In time, assuming they can stay healthy, I think they gel and can prove to be a viable front five. In the process, I think it might cost them a game or two.
The defense is really good. They’ll keep them in games. Yada, yada, yada...still 7-9 for me.
Douglas M [@thenovelroad]
If you read my article posted on August 30th, then you know I'm thinking quite differently than most of the staff here at TST. This team is going to get going in Week #3, and rumble forward until - that's right - the Seattle game on December 27th. The Rams will be riding 8-6 record into Seattle, then...
Seriously, I think the Rams win against in San Francisco in the final game of the 2015 season, but it's the game the week before that'll play havoc with any postseason possibilities. A win in Seattle sets the Rams squarely at 10-6, but a loss against the Seahawks grinds them to a 9-7 halt for the season... I say "tosh" to offensive line worries, and full speed ahead with a true leader at quarterback for the first time in over a decade...
10 - 6, and I don't think I'm being overly optimistic. Doing a quick once over of the schedule, it's easy to pick out the likely losses like Green Bay and Pittsburgh. Within the division, I think we split the season series with the Seahawks and Cardinals and sweep the 49ers. I don't care if this preseason has been a mess, I just REALLY want to beat the Seahawks. Then there are the fringe games like Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore and Cincinatti. I see the Rams going 2-2 and I don't care what combination it comes in.
Please God, let it be the Year of the Ram. Finally.
8-8 and that's at best. Simply put I believe that the Rams are their own worst enemy. From coaching to inexperience to penalties there's always something standing in their way - and it's usually something that they control. However, this team is far better than they get credit for. There will be some wins viewed as upsets. They're only viewed as upsets because not everyone realizes how good this team is. The issue is the games lost that should be won. Those games will ultimately doom the Rams.
9-7 or 10-6 is possible, but the far more likely outcome is a 8-8 split.
I can see this team going 10-6 if all the cards fall right, but we all know luck doesn't always favor us. The teams' O-Line is a mess, and you can't run a power run offense without a solid line. The offense won't go anywhere. Foles is solid under center, but just like the running game, he won't have much help from the O-Line either. So go ahead and flip that 10-6 to 6-10.
The St. Louis Rams return most of their 2014 defense (Ayers replaces JLD and Gaines to IR), and the addition of a healthy Foles is on paper an upgrade over a combination of Hill and Davis. However, the Rams have new faces and inexperience all over the OL and another slow start can be expected.
I predict something like a 3-5 start and an 8-8 finish. The only way Rams can make the playoffs is if Foles routinely converts on 3rd downs and hits big on play actions, and the ground game is dominant all season. I am not worried about the defense.
I want to be optimistic but expecting anything different from a Fisher-led offense at this point is insanity.
Tevin Broner [@T_Bron]
9-7. There are a lot of ifs with this team. However, no matter how you cut it, this team is as good or better than last year's squad. Plus, the Rams finally have a quarterback. A lot is being made about Nick Foles being average and the Rams offensive line being horrible, but if the offense can score 21 points a game, the defense should be able to do the rest. Less three and outs equal better defense.
This team undeniably has talent. But they've had talent before, too. The defense is loaded and will perform, but how much improved can we expect them to be? They were good last year; they're good this year. Hopefully McDonald can take strides forward and improve our secondary, and maybe Janoris Jenkins will play extra hard in a contract year. But still, at the end of the day, the defense is much the same.
If the defense is similar, we'll need to improve on offense to help our win total because our schedule is no easier than last year. On offense, we bring in a much-needed switch to Cignetti, and for the first time since three seasons ago, the best QB on our roster will (hopefully, fingers crossed) play more than half our games. Additionally, Brian Quick is back, and he had quite a year last year pre-injury. Todd Gurley is new on the scene too, and his playmaking ability should help out.
On the flip side, our offensive line might be gross. I have little faith in this group. Honestly, how can we have a run-based offense without a proper offensive line? A lot hinges on an unproven, albeit potential-filled, Greg Robinson, and we haven't even a starting center. All this detracts greatly from any other offensive progress above.
And this is why we're 8-8. We're better, but we're not BETTER. In my opinion, we won't take massive strides until Fisher is gone. We always seem to have a hole or twelve, and Fisher seems to patch one thing as something else falls apart.
So, 8-8. We're an okay team; nothing less, nothing more.
Sean Wilkinson [@Papa_Lurch]
The 2015 Rams are a tough nut to crack. I can't remember a team that is so divisive for so many reason among it's fans. On top of the OL, penalty, and consistency issues that plague this team, you have the StL vs L.A. drama hanging overhead as well. Jeff Fisher is saying all the right things in regards to the relocation situation, but I'd be lying if I said that I didn't consider that in my prediction.
Ultimately, I believe that this is the year that the Rams transition from 'tough out' to a wild card contender.
My gut tells me to be weary of an optimistic prediction, but I can't help myself. I really believe that this team can go 10-6 - and that largely comes down to the Offense not letting the team down. Swapping out Bradford/Schotty for Foles/Cignetti could net the Rams 3-4 more wins this season - although the OL could cost them one of those games.
While I believe that they can go 10-6, the combination of youth and relocation is going to hurt this team. The veterans know how to separate the on field and off field stuff. I'm not sold that players like Janoris Jenkins and Tavon Austin know that difference yet. It could ultimately effect their play in a negative way. My final prediction is 9-7, with the Rams narrowly missing out on a Wild Card berth.
It won't be pretty. They will win some games they should lose and lose some games that they should win, but I see this team trending upward as the season progresses. Give the OL some time to gel, let Gurley get to 100%, and sit back and watch some smash-mouth football.