Week 1 - @ Carolina Panthers: W
The most recent, significant news about QB Cam Newton came in late January when NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Newton could be throwing as early as May following surgery on his shoulder in January.
While that’s clearly the top storyline heading into this one, it’s not the only one. This will be the first game for the Rams’ O-line v1.2. It’s also a first legitimate look at S Eric Weddle and LB Clay Matthews in support of the 2019 defense now without DL Ndamukong Suh, LB Mark Barron and S Lamarcus Joyner. And it’s also the first go for whatever rookies come out of the 2019 NFL Draft and any promotions from within at a starting level.
And yes. It’s also our first look at RB Todd Gurley after the playoffs and whatever the hell we’re calling what happened.
I’m going with a road win here with QB Jared Goff coming out to a good start and the Panthers’ offense struggling with or without Cammy Cam.
Week 2 - v. New Orleans Saints: W
Rams by 20.
Week 3 - @ Cleveland Browns: L
So I’m gonna go with a nutty one here somewhat akin to the Rams’ historic 2018 Week 11 Monday Night Football win over the Kansas City Chiefs. I think this game could just go off the damn rails.
It’s the end of the 2019 season’s first chapter, and it comes on Sunday Night Football. It’s got Baker Mayfield and Goff and Odell Beckham, Jr., and Cooper Kupp and Myles Garrett and Aaron Donald and Freddie Kitchens and Sean McVay.
Rams 46, Browns 47. Hell yes.
Week 4 - v. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: W
Sean McVay MAD.
Not only do the Rams win. Not only do the Rams blow the Bucs out. McVay keeps the starters in just to make a point and Gurley gets his first 20-carry game of the year.
Week 5 - @ Seattle Seahawks: L
I could go 1,000 words on this one. There’s just so much.
Russell Wilson, the corniest dude in the sporting world, is now set to earn much money. The rest of the offensive roster is a not good though it does have a weird set of smaller wideouts that match Wilson’s futureO build. The defense now moves forward without CB Richard Sherman, S Earl Thomas or ? Kam Chancellor.
Under McVay, the Rams lost a five-turnover crumshow in 2017 followed by a beatdown late that year and two close wins last season.
I’ll go with a Seattle win here powered mostly by Wilson and crowd noise, but also the nature of the rivalry. When Seattle was good and going to Super Bowls, we were always a thorn in their side. I can see a 2021 season in which the Rams go to the Super Bowl and the Seahawks go 5-11 and somehow sweep us because of course.
Week 6 - v. San Francisco 49ers: W
What are the 2019 49ers? I have 0 clue.
They have QB Jury Courtisstillout coming back. That’s a thing. They also have a starting running back coming back which is much less of a thing. They also have had four head coaches in the last five years averaging 5 wins per year.
Reminder of the most infuriating game of all time: The 2016 Los Angeles Rams started their fifth year under Head Coach Jeff Fisher in Week 1 by losing 0-28 to the San Francisco 49ers with just 120 passing yards and 65 rushing yards against the defense that at season’s end ranked 32nd out of 32 teams in yards allowed and 32nd out of 32 teams in points allowed who won only one other game that year which was also against the Los Angeles Rams.
Week 7 - @ Atlanta Falcons: W
This one could be fascinating.
Atlanta bested us in the Wild Card Round of the 2018 NFL Playoffs two years ago but came up short thereafter. Last year, they struggled through two down periods: a 1-4 start to the year and a five-game losing stretch alongside Thanksgiving.
We’re only a couple of seasons removed from the Falcons repping the NFC in the Super Bowl and following that up with another playoff run that saw them beat us at home in the Wild Card Round. So it’s not as if this is a team with a recent history of systemic inability.
The big issue for them is that the defense fell off a cliff last year. The Falcons ranked 31st in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA. If they can’t get significantly better on that side of the ball this year, they could well squander another strong offensive showing.
Week 8 - v.* Cincinnati Bengals: W
* - Game to be played in London, England
The Rams have played one game abroad under McVay: a Week 7 33-0 clobbering of the Arizona Cardinals in 2017. They were scheduled to play in Mexico City last year before photos of the field conditions scared officials and players enough to bring the game back to LA. The Rams won that historic game on Monday night topping the Kansas City Chiefs, 54-51.
I point those out only to note that McVay’s Rams clearly aren’t suffering from some kind of international malaise. I don’t see this one changing that narrative.
Week 9 - Bye week
Week 10 - @ Pittsburgh Steelers: L
Along with the opening three games of the season, there’s a three-game stretch starting in Week 10 that will be severely challenging.
The Steelers have had a disreputable offseason moving on from RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown while the latter engaged in a feckless and self-defeating feud with Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster. Knowing that QB Ben Roethlisberger and HC Mike Tomlin are under more pressure than perhaps any point in their careers and having missed out on the playoffs by the slimmest of margins, they’ll have all the motivation they need to get back to the postseason this year.
This one has a bit of an air of a trap game. The Rams return to LA after this one with two primetime games in the waiting. If they are indeed 6-2, they’d be among the be top teams in the league at this point. I could see this one being a close loss coming out of the bye.
Week 11 - v. Chicago Bears: W
You could make the case that the Rams’ 2018 season was a reflection of McVay’s response to losing to the Falcons in the playoffs the year prior. I wouldn’t push back on the idea that the 2019 season will be a reflection of his response to losing to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII. The Patriots’ defensive gameplan in that final game had its roots in the Rams’ loss to the Bears in Week 14.
It was a dominating performance by the Bears and a fair example of just how good their defense was last year. I mentioned above the Falcons’ dismal DVOA from FO above; the Bears finished with the best defensive DVOA in the NFL and by a wide margin.
But so is McVay.
I’m hedging on his ability to unlock enough on offense to get the better of the Bears this go round. And while the Bears absolutely slammed a lid on the Rams’ offense last year, it’s not as if they won the game going away. Much like the Super Bowl, it was a game in which the Rams’ defense played extremely well. So it’s not going to take much from the offense to get on the right side of things.
Week 12 - v. Baltimore Ravens: L
I’ve got this one as the funk game of the year. Two seasons ago, the Rams dropped clunky games to the Washington Rams Beaters and Seattle Seahawks. Last year, it was the Sunday Night Football showing against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 15.
Chalk this one up to a Lamar Jackson party and B’more’s impressive defense. They don’t have a ton of draft capital in the 2019 NFL Draft with just one pick in the first 84 selections thanks to the trade up to take Jackson in the 2018 NFL Draft. They confusingly plodded to their bye week putting up a 4-5 record before handing the reins to Jackson who led them to a 6-1 finish with the only loss being a three-point overtime loss to the Chiefs. And despite being down 23-3 with less than 10 minutes to go against the Los Angeles Chargers in the playoffs, Jackson nearly brought them all the way back.
I think the Ravens could be a sexy pick to take the AFC this year, so there’s no shame in coming up short in this one on Monday night.
Week 13 - @ Arizona Cardinals: W
We don’t have a strong sense of what the 2019 Cardinals will look like, but we know it probably won’t be great. Still, with the #1 overall pick in the draft they have a chance to change their trajectory. It likely will take more than a season, but at least it gives their fans an out.
The real key here is whether the Rams play down to the Cards’ level. The two-year history under McVay suggests they won’t.
Week 14 - v. Seattle Seahawks: W
A massive, massive, massive game.
Both games in this rivalry are national primetime broadcasts — the first on Thursday Night Football and this one on Sunday night. We know the Coliseum will be rocking. And if Seattle can stay in the playoff hunt, and they well might, this one has all the makings of just an incredibly important game.
Rams by 30.
Week 15 - @ Dallas Cowboys: W
Also a massive, massive, massive game.
A repeat of last year’s Divisional Round matchup, the Cowboys will be up for this one as long as their season hasn’t spiraled out of control. QB Dak Prescott is in a contract year. The Cowboys’ season could well hinge on his capability to earn a massive extension from Jerrah.
Cowboys fans are in the midst of a base-wide argument over whether or not Prescott deserves a Russell Wilson-level deal. His 2019 season will provide some clarity there one way or the other.
I remember the 2016 preseason when Prescott came to the Coliseum and impressed mightily while a rookie Goff flubbed his debut. Fast forward a couple of seasons, and the landscape looks quite different. More importantly, the teams around them look even moreso.
I see this one a bit like the Rams’ win in Dallas in 2017 more than the recent playoff win. The Cowboys held an 11-point lead twice in the second quarter, but Rams Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips’ halftime adjustments helped the Rams’ defense put the clamps on the Cowboys as K Greg Zuerlein kicked the Rams to the W with seven field goals. I don’t think the offensive line is going to be able to dominate the way they did in January (and boy, did they ever). It’s likely going to be a bit more of a comprehensive matchup that takes more from the Rams to get it done.
And I think they will.
Week 16 - @ San Francisco 49ers: W
Saturday? Sunday? Won’t matter as long as the Rams keep 49ers QB Gypsy Gohopalong bottled up.
Week 17 - v. Arizona Cardinals: W
The Rams could well be in the position they found themselves in two seasons ago where the Week 17 result matters little to their playoff seeding. Last year, the Rams needed to win to preserve a first-round bye. I’ll go with the same setup here to prevent us from having to decide whether or not to rest the starters again, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that ends up being the case by the time we get to late December.
Last year at this point, I had the Rams going 11-5. I ultimately flipped a Week 1 loss to the Oakland Raiders to a win once they traded EDGE Khalil Mack. So maybe after the draft and once we get to training camp and the preseason when we re-visit these, I’ll have a game or two changed.
Overall, the Rams remain one of the better teams in the NFL with a strong roster and perhaps a stronger coaching staff. There’s no reason to think the Rams won’t be set for a playoff push in December and have themselves back to the postseason in the 2020 NFL Playoffs.
It’s a good time to be a Rams fan.