The NFL released the 2018 schedule on Thursday evening, and along with that came win-loss predictions from just about every major media outlet. For the Los Angeles Rams, the immediate future looks bright.
Alden Gonzalez - who covers the Rams for ESPN - has the team finishing up the season slightly better than last year’s 11-5 final record, but handing them enough wins (12) to secure the division.
But Alden wasn’t the only ESPN staffer to make game-by-game predictions for the respective teams they cover. So how exactly do the ESPN staff writers for the Rams’ opponents see each game shaking out?
Simply put, better than any other team in the NFL. (h/t reddit/r/NFL)
Week 1: at Raiders (Paul Gutierrez)
Welcome back to the NFL, Jon Gruden, and on ESPN’s Monday Night Football no less. Gruden’s first game on the Raiders sideline since the 2001 season is a monster test, against the likes of the Rams defense with Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib.
Week 2: vs. Cardinals (Josh Weinfuss)
It won’t take long for the Cardinals to get a taste of the Rams’ improved defense. Seeing L.A. this early will be a good measuring stick for the Cardinals, who can gauge their progress under a new coaching staff rather early.
Week 3: vs. Chargers (Eric D. Williams)
The Chargers get an up-close look at their crosstown-rival Rams and the dream team they constructed during the offseason. Should be a tough game for the Bolts after traveling across the country a week earlier to face a physical Buffalo squad.
Week 4: vs. Vikings (Courtney Cronin)
On a short week, Minnesota travels to La-La Land to face Jared Goff and the Rams’ dynamic offense while getting a taste of Arnold Donald, Ndamukong Suh and an equally flashy secondary. The Vikings won’t have as easy of a time dismantling the Rams as they did last season.
Week 5: at Seahawks (Brady Henderson)
The last time the Rams came to Seattle, they whupped the Seahawks by 35 points in what marked the most lopsided loss of the Carroll era. You can bet the Seahawks will be as motivated as ever in this game, but that won’t be enough to overcome the gap in talent between the two teams that was exposed in December and only widened this offseason.
Week 6: at Broncos (Jeff Legwold)
Just start with former Broncos head coach/assistant Wade Phillips calling the defensive plays for the Rams to go with former Broncos captain Aqib Talib at one of the starting cornerback spots after being traded last month. The Rams were the big-splash team this offseason, having added Talib, Ndamukong Suh and Brandin Cooks in recent weeks.
Week 7: at 49ers (Nick Wagoner)
A year ago, these two teams played one of the most entertaining prime-time games of the 2017 season on a Thursday night. All you need to know about how far both franchises have come in a year is that this matchup is being featured on a Sunday night. The Rams escaped with a win last year in prime time, but the Niners were without Garoppolo. This atmosphere should be tough to beat as the once-fierce rivalry regains its mojo.
Week 8: vs. Packers (Rob Demovsky)
Were the Rams for real last year? It sure seems that way.
Week 9: at Saints (Mike Triplett)
Speaking of top NFC title contenders, here comes another one into the Superdome a week later. The Rams also loaded up this offseason, acquiring defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, former Saints receiver Brandin Cooks and cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, among others. The Rams’ defensive line, which already features all-world DT Aaron Donald, is downright frightening now. If any team can handle that front, it’s Payton, Brees and the Saints’ loaded offensive line. But I’ll give New Orleans the loss here, since they’re bound to face a little adversity at some point.
Week 10: vs. Seahawks (Brady Henderson)
It took five takeaways and a pass that went off of Cooper Kupp’s fingertips in the end zone for the Seahawks to escape Los Angeles with a six-point win early last season. Don’t expect that to happen again.
Week 11: vs. Chiefs (Adam Teicher)
Marcus Peters will be motivated to beat the team that traded him. He might even attempt to make a tackle or two.
Week 13: at Lions (Michael Rothstein)
This is the nightmare game for Detroit -- seeing what could have been with Aaron Donald and Suh lined up next to each other in the middle of the Rams defense. Add to that question marks on the Detroit offensive line (particularly on the interior) and Stafford could be scrambling a lot in this one.
Week 14: at Bears (Jeff Dickerson)
Sean McVay, Jared Goff and the Rams’ star-studded defense prove too much to handle.
Week 15: vs. Eagles (Tim McManus)
Could be the game of the year. Wentz returns to the Coliseum, where his season ended, to bring the comeback story full circle. Not a bad setting for Wentz-Goff, Part II. The Rams went a bit crazy importing big-named talent this offseason in hopes of toppling the Eagles in the NFC, but Wentz is going to be a motivated soul.
Week 16: at Cardinals (Josh Weinfuss)
Sunday, Dec. 23, vs. Los Angeles Rams, 4:05 p.m. ET
By this point in the year, the Cardinals will likely be counting the days until their offseason begins and they won’t be looking forward to facing a Rams team that’s expected to compete for a Super Bowl title. This one could get ugly.
Week 17: vs. 49ers (Nick Wagoner)
Could the NFC West be on the line in this game? It’s possible. If it is, this should be the best atmosphere yet for a Rams game since their return to the City of Angels. The Niners are improved, but the Rams are positioned to make a deep postseason run. In this burgeoning rivalry, it only seems right the Rams and Niners split the season series.
A few things to note from the work compiled by Chasefortheelliott on reddit:
- The Rams, at 14-2, would have the NFL’s best record in 2018, followed by the Jacksonville Jaguars who finish their season 13-3.
- In the NFC, the Vikings (who Courtney Cronin predicts will lose to the Rams in Week 4) finish with the second best record (12-4).
- In the NFC West, it’s the Seahawks - not the 49ers - who finish in second place, with a 10-6 record. The 49ers place 3rd (7-9), and the Cardinals round out the bottom of the division with a very respectable 0-16 record (they weren’t alone...the Bears, Colts, and Browns also laid goose eggs).
- Division winners around the league (ranked by final wins/losses) are as follows: Rams (14-2), Jaguars (13-3), Vikings (12-4), Patriots (12-4), Steelers (12-4), Eagles (11-5), Falcons (11-5), and Chargers (9-7)
- Wild card teams for the NFC are the Packers and Saints, both of whom finish with an 11-5 record. In the AFC, the Titans and Texans both sneak in with an 8-8 record.