Here are the five things I’m mulling over as I look at it.
1.) Best coast
In the first half of the season, the furthest the Rams will have to travel from LA is to Denver to play the Denver Broncos in Week 6.
We’ve read many times over the arguments that heavy travel logs and 10am games for West Coast-based teams put those teams at a disadvantage. That’s a disadvantage the Rams won’t have to deal with much this season largely because of the locality of their first eight games.
2.) The home games sandwich the season
Three of the first four games of the season and two of the final three are at home. That sets up a dynamic to play an away-heavy stretch from Week 5 to Week 14. Really, it creates two heavy bands in the schedule that will require strong away form. The first follows a three-game homestand early from Week 5 to Week 9 in which the Rams have just one home game and that will be against a Green Bay Packers team looking to make up for having been without QB Aaron Rodgers for much of last year. The other perhaps wraps around that Week 9 game against the New Orleans Saints to stretch from Week 9 to Week 14. That’s five games with just one at home, a huge NFC West showdown between the Rams and the Seattle Seahawks.
So if you’re just leaning into homefield advantage, the Rams need to make the most out of their early West Coast slate and then find good form down the stretch (much like last year’s big wins over the Seahawks and Tennessee Titans in Weeks 15 & 16 to ensure their playoff berth) while surviving the travel-heavy middle.
Need a random guide to how crucial this gauntlet is? Look at Rams Owner Stan Kroenke’s team in the English Premier League: Arsenal. This season, Arsenal have been the second-best team in the league at home. Their away form? One of the worst in the league and the worst in the Premier League and three top minor leagues since January 1, 2018. That’s combined to deliver the worst season for Arsenal fans in 23 years.
Suffice to say, it’s not enough to hold at home. You have to get results on the road.
From September 28 to December 15, a nearly three-month span, the Rams will play nine games and just two of them will take place at the Coliseum. Game on.
3.) Who’s House?! Well, USC’s house too.
Yet again, the Rams are sharing the Coliseum with the USC Trojans this season. It was set to be the last such arrangement until we learned in May of last year the opening would be delayed to coincide with the 2020 season.
There aren’t many clashpoints on the radar. USC hosts Washington State just two days before the Rams take on the crosstown #FightForLA opponent Los Angeles Chargers. But the other two are back-to-back games that will yet again challenge the Coliseum field crew. Arizona St. will come to town one day prior to the Rams playing the Packers in Week 8 and the Week 10 game two weeks later against the Seahawks will follow a USC-Cal rivalry matchup that could take place less than 24 hours apart.
There is no stretch like last year’s early season action that saw four games in nine days including a USC-Texas game that finished in double overtime and culminated in a Rams loss to the Washington Game Winners.
4.) Primed for primetime
The Rams have long been scarce on the national stage and for good reason. A 13-year streak without winning football that included a 12-year streak without playoff football was never going to invite a ton of national attention. But an 11-win, NFC West champion with the Coach of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year from 2017 coupled with the offseason the Rams have had?
That gets you on the stage.
The Rams have five national games this year starting with a marquee California (for now...) matchup with the Oakland Raiders on Monday Night Football in Week 1. There’s a short turnaround after that Week 3 game against the Chargers as the Rams will then take on the Minnesota Vikings just four days later on Thursday Night Football. Three weeks later, it’s Sunday Night Football against the San Francisco 49ers and QB Jiiiiiiy Grrrrrrrrrrlo. The Rams will reload the Governor’s Cup matchup of old with the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football in Mexico City in Week 11 with the bye coming thereafter. And in Week 15, it’s the powerhouse rematch between the Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles, between QB Jared Goff and QB Carson Wentz on Sunday Night Football in Week 15.
The Rams arrived last year, and it has earned them some time in the spotlight.
The Rams end that three-game road run near the midpoint of the season on Sunday Night Football against San Fran. They end the season in the Coliseum against the Niners in a rematch of last season’s insurance game in which the Rams rested their starters in advance of a playoff game. We can leave that storyline alone for a bit (though it will certainly make for an interesting decision if the Rams have secured a home playoff game again by Week 16’s end...), but what’s clear is that the NFL wants to showcase this rivalry this season.
And for good reason.
2018 Los Angeles Rams Regular Season Schedule
|1||Mon., Sep 10||@||Oakland Raiders||10:20/7:20pm||ESPN||W, 33-13|
|2||Sun., Sep 16||v.||Arizona Cardinals||4:05/1:05pm||Fox||W, 34-0|
|3||Sun., Sep 23||v.||Los Angeles Chargers||4:05/1:05pm||CBS||W, 35-23|
|4||Thurs., Sep 27||v.||Minnesota Vikings||8:20/5:20pm||Fox|
|5||Sun., Oct 7||@||Seattle Seahawks||4:25/1:25pm||Fox|
|6||Sun., Oct 14||@||Denver Broncos||4:05/1:05pm||Fox|
|7||Sun., Oct. 21||@||San Francisco 49ers||8:20/5:20pm||NBC|
|8||Sun., Oct. 28||v.||Green Bay Packers||4:25/1:25pm||Fox|
|9||Sun., Nov 4||@||New Orleans Saints||4:25/1:05pm||Fox|
|10||Sun., Nov 11||v.||Seattle Seahawks||4:25/1:25pm||CBS|
|11||Mon., Nov. 19||v.*||Kansas City Chiefs||8:15/5:15pm||ESPN|
|13||Sun., Dec 2||@||Detroit Lions||1:00pm/10:00am||Fox|
|14||Sun., Dec 9||@||Chicago Bears||1:00pm/10:00am||Fox|
|15||Sun., Dec 16||v.||Philadelphia Eagles||8:20/5:20pm||NBC|
|16||Sun., Dec 23||@||Arizona Cardinals||4:25/1:25pm||Fox|
|17||Sun., Dec. 30||v.||San Francisco 49ers||4:25/1:25pm||Fox|