Los Angeles Rams fans, we made it.
With that first resounding thud off of Greg Zuerlein’s foot against the Baltimore Ravens almost two weeks ago, the Rams’ rollercoaster offseason had officially transitioned into the preseason. Loose ends aside (some guy named Aaron Donald), yeah.
We’re ready for some football.
It’s far too early to make any sweeping pigskin proclamations here – but I’m going to. For a team with such high aspirations, much remains uncertain. We lack of experience at the edge. Depth along the OL and at QB remain grave concerns. Yes, they did actually call him Heismannion for a short time...
So, too, lies the question of the evolution of our young starting QB. Will he go from a nice 2017 story to a guy who can put the team on his back in the fourth quarter on the road and win? Or is he a ‘system guy,’ comforted by the dulcet tones of wunderkind HC Sean McVay’s voice in his headset?
I did this exercise last year after the Rams surprising 5-2 start. I correctly predicted that we’d finish 11-5, though I notched a win against the Minnesota Vikings and a loss on the road against the Tennessee Titans. I also predicted that we’d beat the Arizona Cardinals 61-3 (we won 32-16). I’m no Jimmy the Greek, bookie, or handicapper, so if you take out a third mortgage on your house to bet these picks, don’t come looking for me, because unlike EDGE Justin Lawler, my grandfather was a pro wrestler. This is for entertainment (and complaining) purposes only.
Week 1: Rams @ Raiders
A quick trip up North, for a nationally televised Monday night game to take on Jon Gruden’s Oakland Raiders. You might even go so far as to call this the “Chucky Bowl,” because if Gruden was a human nesting doll, safe bet Sean McVay would be found hiding under there somewhere. Contrary to popular belief, Gruden’s career record is just 95-81, and he inherits a 6-win team that looked lost at times last season. Offseason additions include aging WR Jordy Nelson, inconsistent/volatile WR Martavis Bryant and has-been/never-was RB Doug Martin. All eyes will be on Chucky’s return, but the scoreboard will suggest he’s got a long way to go to regain NFL relevance. Big games for all of the Rams offensive weapons against this atrocious defense, as Goff to Cooks registers a promising week one TD.
Rams 37, Raiders 17
Week 2: Cardinals @ Rams
The Rams home opener against QB Sam Bradford’s Arizona Cardinals is less than a month away. This week, DT Ndamakong Suh said that he loves playing against Bradford, and still holds a chip on his shoulder for being passed over by St. Louis in the 2010 NFL draft for the injury-prone Oklahoma Sooner. First-ballot HOF WR Larry Fitzgerald is tops in the NFL the last two seasons in total catches, and versatile RB David Johnson returns from injury. When he has some time, Bradford can shred you if you don’t shred him first. Guess what? We will. Look for Suh to put Sammy on his ass a few times in this one, while Goff, Woods, and Kupp have a heyday against the Cardinals porous pass D.
Rams 31, Cardinals 20
Week 3: Chargers @ Rams
Super Bowl preview? The Battle Of Los Angeles (cue the Rage Against the Machine here) brings us a pretty high-octane early season AFC/NFC tilt. Bragging rights. Renters versus owners. Say what you will, but QB Philip Rivers can still sling it, WR Keenan Allen is for real, and RB Melvin Gordon is a tough physical runner who, by the way, can’t hold Todd Gurley’s jockstrap. The Chargers’ secondary is elite, and pass rushers DE Melvin Ingram and DE Joey Bosa are a handful on the edge. Let’s face it, the Rams’ “home field advantage” hasn’t exactly been a deciding factor, as we were just 4-4 there last year (though the final game against SF doesn’t count). Rams stumble here. A late, bad Goff INT dooms us, as LA ponders, for a split second, if the Chargers are the team to rally behind.
LAC 24, Rams 21
Week 4: Vikings @ Rams
Coming off a tough home loss, the Rams need to forget quickly with a Thursday night tilt against a team that handled them soundly last year, the Minnesota Vikings. The Shurmur Murmur has moved on to New York, and McVay protégé QB Kirk Cousins steps in for QB Case Keenum under center for the Vikings. RB Dalvin Cook returns after flashing early as a rookie last year. Rams rally here. McVay pulls his Cousins voodoo doll out of its burlap sack, sticks a few Aaron Donald pins in it, and the Rams secondary holds in a squeaker, riding the lower body heroics of Legatron. Rams reinstated as early NFC favorites.
Rams 26, Vikings 20
Week 5: Rams @ Seahawks
We all saw what happened last year, as the Rams all but clinched the NFC West at the Clink in Seattle by a count of 42-7. It was as one-sided a game as the Rams played all year. In fact, if it weren’t for Russell Wilson, I’d venture to say Seattle’s a lock for the #1 pick in next year’s draft. Legion of Boom studs CB Richard Sherman and S Kam Chancellor are gone, leaving behind the Legion of Who? Seattle did little to bolster a brutal offensive line, and reached for RB Rashaad Penny in the draft. New OC Brian Schottenheimer is one of the more predictable, conservative, archaic and unimaginative minds in the game, but he sure is boring. It’s too early in the season for Seattle’s spirit to be entirely broken, and it’s a road game in a historically tough building, but LA once again silences the 12th man with a first half sleeper hold as Gurley goes berserk with 200 total yards and 3 TDs.
Rams 38, Seattle 17
Week 6: Rams @ Broncos
I have to admit, Case Keenum surprised me last year in Minnesota. His gritty, scrappy play was a big reason for the Vikings’ breakout season. That said, he’s a player with limitations, or they wouldn’t have let him walk. Can the Rams solve the Keenum riddle and render the Case closed? Yeah, I think so. Keenum will be better than the cast of characters the Donks ran out there last year, and they made a few decent offseason moves and had an excellent draft. However, after starting 3-1 Denver dropped 10 of their last 12, often in ugly fashion. Rams outclass them as Talib registers 2 INTs in his return to Mile High.
Rams 24, Denver 9
Week 7: Rams @ 49ers
Here we go! Are the Niners trending up? Absolutely. Did they add a few pieces for Kyle Shanahan’s offensive scheme? Yes, they did, signing RB Jerick McKinnon (to a ridiculous deal), and drafting WR Dante Pettis. Is QB Jiminy Gripaloaf the second coming? Well, to be fair, he looked pretty good (except when CB Kevin Peterson lined up against him), but a porn-star dating, better-looking Brady/Montana hybrid? Wait a minute. The good news: the rivalry is renewed. Whiner fans are easily some of the most annoying on Earth (next to Kansas City Chiefs fans), and their glee for taking shots at Rams Nation knows no bounds. Truth: we barely eked one out against them early last year, and they did improve as the year went on. Still, there’s simply no way the Rams go into Santa Clara and bring anything but A-game. Jeremiah Garroffapop throws a tipped pass pick-6 to Peters early, Cooks smokes Sherman, and SF never recovers.
Rams 30, SF 17
Week 8: Packers @ Rams
Huge game. The Packers are a bit of a mystery heading into 2018, but should arrive in LA with a strong record as their early season schedule is forgiving. HC Mike McCarthy’s shortcomings aside, a healthy Aaron Rodgers is of course all they really need to be competitive, and in his absence last year, they appeared to develop a bit of a ground game. WR Jordy Nelson departs, TE Jimmy Graham arrives, and Green Bay added two nice CBs in the draft along with monster DT Muhammad Wilkerson. This feels like a tight game. I can see the Rams falling behind early, giving Goff a chance to earn that ever-elusive 4th quarter comeback. Which he delivers, with a skinny post to one WR Cooper Kupp, who bobbles the ball 17 times, but hangs on, to sink the Packers.
Rams 24, Green Bay 23
Week 9: Rams @ Saints
Tough schedule, right? In the second half of what figures to be a defining 2-game stretch in the Rams’ playoff seeding shuffle, we head to the Big Easy to take on Drew Brees and the Saints. Last year’s matchup was one of the more entertaining games of the season, as the Rams took advantage of the Saints’ injuries at CB and held on for a 26-20 win in LA. On the road, after an emotional win against Green Bay? The Rams fall flat here. Gurley can’t get on track, RBs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram both can, and the Rams lay their first (and only) egg of the 2018 season.
Saints 30, Rams 13
Week 10: Seahawks @ Rams
By my calculations, Seattle comes into LA with a 2-6 record. Rashaad Penny’s been placed on IR (because all Seahawks RBs get annihilated behind that swiss cheese curtain they call a line), Russell Wilson’s marriage is on the ropes, Pete Carroll’s Benjamin Button machine’s broken, and Earl Thomas is giving his own team bulletin board material by openly lobbying for LaMarcus Joyner’s job in 2019. The Rams are pissed off after soiling the sheets in NOLA, and come out swinging. Gurley and Goff watch Allen and Kelly lead one last insult-to-injury TD drive in the 4th quarter, as the Seahawks finally admit that they should have admitted that they’re rebuilding instead of hanging on to their last remaining shreds of dignity. Samson Ebukam gets to Wilson twice in a laugher.
Rams 49, Seahawks 10
Week 11: Chiefs @ Rams (in Mexico City)
This one has all the makings of a classic. The former battle of Missouri on Monday Night Football in Mexico City. Does anyone else feel like Andy Reid is a rich man’s Jeff Fisher, only he goes 9-7 every year instead of 7-9? KC comes in with a loaded offense featuring RB Kareem Hunt, WR Tyreek Hill, TE Travis Kelce, and some overpaid, oft-injured WR named Sammy Watkins. Really, KC’s entire season hinges on the emergence of QB Pat “Broken” Mahomes II, who will show the world that he loves throwing INTs to Marcus Peters. Bold prediction: Mahomes beats up on bad teams, and sucks against good ones a la Andy Dalton, and doesn’t live up to the hype. Rams D feasts on KC like a carnitas platter (via a LB Corey Littleton strip sack) and LA keeps on rolling towards a top-2 seed in the NFC.
Rams 38, Chiefs 31
Week 12: BYE
Week 13: Rams @ Lions
Maybe the Lions will be better under Matt Patricia? Ex-Pat HCs from the Belichick fam are a mixed bag, and though he’ll attempt to bring stingy defense and discipline to the underachieving franchise. Detroit wasn’t terrible last year, finishing a respectable Andy Reid-like 9-7, but missed the playoffs. By week 13, we’ll know if the offseason additions of LeGarrette Blount and Auburn RB Kerryon “A Wayward Son” Johnson can keep defenses honest. Rams keep rolling, as Goff throws for a career high 432 yards and 4 TDs and outduels Stafford in a shootout.
Rams 42, Lions 38
Week 14: Rams @ Bears
The Rams continue their tour of the NFC North with another road matchup at Chicago. Much has been said about the Bears modeling their roster after the Rams, building around young QB Mitchell Trubisky. Former Chiefs OC and new Bears HC Matt Nagy should be able to develop him, and with the addition of TE Trey Burton and WR Allen Robinson, they’ve given him some serviceable weapons. Alas, feels like the Bears are a year away, and while I think this feels like a classic trap game for the road-weary Rams, LA finds a way. Look for Gurley to grind out some tough yards in a snowy affair in Chicago.
Rams 20, Bears 10
Week 15: Eagles @ Rams
Do the Eagles have the Rams to thank for their Lombardi trophy? QB Carson Wentz’ late-game rushing TD cost him the rest of his season when Mark Barron turned his knee into Jell-O. In a preview of things to come, QB Nick Foles would play well enough to hang on for a hard-fought victory in LA. The Eagles would go on to catch lightning in a bottle and stun the Pats for the title. Who’s to say Wentz doesn’t choke in the big game? He’ll do so in this one, as the Rams handle the Eagles at home this year. Wentz looks out of synch from the jump as Donald, Suh and Brockers are in his business all afternoon. QB Jared Goff overcomes 2 first-half INTs to find his rhythm in the second half and a Pharoh Cooper punt return TD seals it.
Rams 35, Eagles 23
Week 16: Rams @ Cardinals
By now, former UCLA QB Josh Rosen has taken over for Sammy B, as the 4-10 Cardinals host the Rams, who can clinch the #1 overall seed with a win. Rosen performs admirably, but there’s just too much at stake for the Rams, who cruise to an easy victory in the desert. Gerald Everett goes Nelson Spruce, nabbing 16 balls for 217 and 3 TDs.
Rams 70, Cardinals 2
Week 17: 49ers @ Rams
Once again, LA has nothing to play for in the final game of the season. San Francisco’s wild card hopes are dashed in an embarrassing home loss to the upstart Bears the week prior, but they want to finish strong and prove that they’re all-world in meaningless games. QB Jimbo Goropeaload is exquisite, throwing 2 INTs to Troy Hill, en route to a 300-yard 3 TD performance against the Rams 2s and 3s. After the game, he says: “We really find a way to step up when it doesn’t count. That’s a testament to the guys in this locker room. Also, follow my Instagram for a chance to win a free 3-day trial to Brazzers, bruh.”
49ers 34, Rams 13
In It To Win It!
So, there you have it.
I’ve got the Rams finishing 13-3, and taking home the #1 seed in the NFC. Writing this, it sure seems like a lot of winning against a daunting gauntlet of a schedule. While I can find a few games where the Rams might stumble, I do believe this team and this coaching staff have everything it takes to make a deep playoff run.
You can’t ever predict injuries, sophomore slumps, or a bad break here and there, and inevitably a few teams that look like easy marks will be playoff-caliber when all is said and done. Sure, it was less stressful being the “underdogs” for the last decade plus, but let’s dare to be great this year, Rams Nation.
You can’t sell out if you never buy in.