The opponents were already known, but the order in which the Los Angeles Rams would play them was revealed Thursday night. Coming off a disappointing 5-12 season, this offseason has been filled with many changes, none more critical than new coordinators as well as the losses of Jalen Ramsey, Leonard Floyd, and Bobby Wagner.
Despite a disappointing 2022, the Los Angeles Rams will still play two games in primetime and still hold one of the more difficult schedules in terms of winning percentage from last year. Let’s break down the schedule.
Must-See Game - Week 5 vs. Philadelphia Eagles
I think there are a lot of options here. The Rams have a very intriguing schedule with a lot of great matchups. However, one that everyone will have their eye on will be Week 5 against the Philadelphia Eagles. This will be a matchup between the 2021 NFC Champions and 2022 NFC Champions.
The Eagles should be considered the favorites going in, but don’t be surprised if this one ends up a lot closer. The Eagles will be coming off of the dreaded Super Bowl hangover and could be susceptible to a slow start.
Most Intriguing Re-Match - Week 3 @ Cincinnati Bengals
The Green Bay Packers in Week 9 also make for a good answer here as this will be the first time the Rams would be going up against Jordan Love. With that said, it doesn’t get much better than a re-match of Super Bowl LVI.
These two teams are in very different spots just two years later. The Rams are in a transition here while the Bengals are considered one of the top teams in the AFC. This game will be played on Monday Night Football and is in Cincinnati. There’s a good chance the Bengals win this game, but this is certainly a re-match everyone will be watching.
Stretch That Will Decide The Season - Weeks 1-5
It would have been nice for the Rams to begin the season with some games that their young players could grow into. Instead, they will be tested right out of the gates. Within the first five weeks, the Rams play three of the four teams that participated in the conference championship games last season.
During this five game stretch, the Rams open at Seattle before playing their biggest division rival in the San Francisco 49ers at SoFi. They then head on the road to play the Bengals on Monday Night Football. There’s a very good chance that the Rams are 0-3 after those first three games.
The Rams go on the road to play the Indianapolis Colts who look like the most winnable game during in these five weeks. They finish the five game stretch against the Eagles who are the early favorites in the NFC.
Some games early to help give the Rams young players some confidence would have been nice. Instead, if they start 0-3, it could start a snowball effect.
If the Rams can sneak out a win at Seattle in Week 1, beat the Colts in Week 4 and finish this stretch 2-3, that would be considered a win. That’s going to be a tall task and 1-4 seems much more likely and difficult to overcome.
Sneaky key game - Week 7 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Let’s assume that the Rams do start the season 1-4. In Week 6 the Rams play the Arizona Cardinals which is a very winnable game. The Rams have the Steelers in Week 7 followed by the Dallas Cowboys and Packers in Weeks 8 and 9.
That Week 7 games is an opportunity for the Rams to start stringing some wins together and build some confidence. Assuming a 1-4 start, wins against the Cardinals and Steelers puts the Rams at 3-4 instead of 2-5. The Steelers game won’t have any playoff implications with the teams being in separate conferences. However, it will be a key game in the middle of the season that could end up being a turning point.
You never know what you’re going to get out of the Cowboys and Jordan Love is a complete unknown with the Packers. A win against the Steelers could begin a stretch of fourth consecutive wins heading into the Week 10 bye.
Game Nobody Wants to See - Week 13 vs. Cleveland Browns
This is an AFC-NFC matchup. The Browns do have DeShaun Watson, but this game doesn’t have any must-see matchup or big storylines. The Rams could get a win here, but if you were to rank the 17 games on the Rams schedule, the Browns might end up near the bottom of the list.
Trap Game - Week 15 vs. Washington Commanders
It’s hard to pick a “trap” game on the Rams schedule as most of it is really difficult. The Rams could also be in a position where “trap games” don’t necessarily exist. However, if there is a trap game, it’s probably going to come late in the season against the Washington Commanders.
The Rams will be coming off of a road game against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 14 and then have a short week following the Commanders game as they play the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football.
The game against the Saints being on a short week doesn’t help matters. If the Rams are in the playoff hunt, the Saints game could be doubly important. The Commanders don’t appear like a great team on paper, but Ron Rivera always has his teams playing hard. It’s very possible that they sneak out a win.
On the flip side, if both teams are bad, this could be a game with significant draft pick implications. A win from the Rams could hurt in the long run.
Revenge Game - Week 1 @ Seattle Seahawks
Everybody should remember the season finale last year against the Seahawks in Seattle. The Rams got called for roughing the kicker after being blocked into punter Michael Dickson. DK Metcalf wasn’t called for unsportsmanlike conduct after sticking his fingers through Jalen Ramsey’s facemask. Geno Smith wasn’t called for intentional grounding late in the game and that doesn’t mention a missed taunting on Quandre Diggs.
While the Rams were 5-11 and the game didn't mean much, it still left a dirty taste in your mouth. There’s no doubt that the Rams will have that game in mind when they head to Seattle to play the Seahawks in Week 1. The Seahawks have high hopes for the season and the Rams could play spoiler.
Game That’s Gotten Easier - Week 6 vs. Arizona Cardinals
Kyler Murray is coming off of a torn ACL and could miss a good chunk of the beginning of the season. If he starts the year on the PUP list, that would put him in line to return around Week 5. However, it’s all going to depend on how Murray feels.
Week 6 is right around the timeline that Murray could return and it wouldn’t seem advisable for his first game back to come against Aaron Donald. Either the Rams are going to get a team with a backup quarterback or they’ll get a rusty Murray as he works his way back from injury.
Game That’s Gotten Tougher - Week 14 @ Baltimore Ravens
There was a time this offseason in which there were serious questions on whether or not Lamar Jackson would return to Baltimore. The Ravens quarterback demanded a trade during the contract negotiation process. At the end of the day, the two sides were able to come away with a deal.
The Ravens added Odell Beckham Jr. and drafted Zay Flowers. This team looks ready to be one of the top contenders in the AFC once again. If Jackson can stay healthy, this could be a very difficult game at the end of the season.
Bye Week Breakdown
The Rams bye week comes in Week 10 which seems like a great spot for the bye week in the new 18 Week season. This doesn’t come too late in the season, but not too early either. The Rams will have a ‘mini-bye’ after Week 16 against the Saints as well. If the Rams can stay healthy early in the season, they should be able to stay relatively fresh in the final weeks.
Aside from the Rams’ bye, they’ll also be affected by their opponents’ bye weeks the season. The Rams are one of two teams to play four teams coming off of their bye week. In Weeks 7 and 8, the Rams will play the Steelers and Cowboys coming off of their bye weeks. Later on in the season, the Ravens and Commanders will be coming off their byes in Weeks 14 and 15. To add to that, the games against the Cowboys and Ravens are on the road.
While the opponents of schedule are known for months, it’s details like this that can make a schedule that much more difficult.
Season Prediction and Expectation
It’s hard to have high expectations for the Rams heading into the 2023 season, but you could definitely argue that expectations might be too low. The Rams have set their eyes on 2024, but I wouldn’t expect the Rams and McVay to just roll over and not be competitive, especially if their core can stay healthy.
If the Rams can survive the brutal early-season stretch, that should keep them alive to possibly make a late-season run and grab the final wild card spot. Still, that early stretch is going to be extremely difficult.
Anywhere between seven and 10 wins is possible and I’ll say the Rams finish the 2023 season 8-9. With a young group, it might be a slow start, but as they grow into the season, they’ll finish strong and give reason for optimism heading into a crucial 2024.