On Thursday, the NFL released the schedule for all 32 teams, officially starting the countdown to kick-off in September and the L.A. Rams have their slate set for the 2023 campaign.
With a new schedule comes new predictions/projections, as fans across the nation try and figure out how the league will shake out this season. Rams fans are no different and, while the expectations are the lowest they’ve been under Sean McVay, there is some hope that the team can surprise the so-called experts and produce a winning season.
On the flip side, this is a very young team (particularly on defense), so it is assumed that there will be some serious growing pains during the 17-game marathon. The NFL did this young team no favors, handing the Rams an absolute gauntlet to begin their 2023 campaign. L.A. will start the year out with two divisional opponents, as they will face the Seahawks on the road before hosting the 49ers in week two, both teams that many are predicting will be in the two top spots in the NFC West.
After two grueling divisional battles, the Rams will hit the road for a primetime showdown against the Cincinnati Bengals, a team that has looked like one of the top teams in the league over the past couple of seasons. If you’re keeping track, the Rams first three opponents all made the postseason last year, posting a combined win percentage of 68.1% between the three of them. Even if you are an optimistic fan, it is hard to believe the Rams could come out of that 2-1 or 3-0, and there is a real possibility they drop all three of those contests.
Following that thee game ringer, the Rams will battle a team with similar expectations as themselves, as the squad will fly out to Indianapolis to take on the Colts in what will be a very winnable contest. After that, however, the gauntlet comes right back, as the defending NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles come to L.A. to take on the Rams. That is now four out of the Rams’ first five games consisting of postseason teams from last season, three of which made it all the way to championship weekend.
Realistically, given the Rams roster and some of the inexperience defensively, the best case scenario in that stretch is 2-3, which I’m sure fans would be happy with. Anything above 2-3 in those five games would raise talks of a shot of playing postseason football, proving they can compete with the cream of the cop of the NFL.
What about the other side of that coin? What if L.A. starts 1-4 or even 0-5? The chances of making the playoffs with that poor of a start decrease dramatically, which will raise questions as to if the Rams should consider “tanking” in order to maximize their first 1st round selection in the McVay era.
The fact of the matter is, football is a sport that is very tough to tank in, so losing on purpose is basically out of the question. One major factor, however, is momentum and overall morale of a team, which is often shaped by wins and losses. If the Rams start 1-4 or 0-5, it is extremely likely that the mood in the locker room and the coaching staff will be gloomy, which could lead to an avalanche of losses stemming from a poor start to the year.
All things considered, the first five games of the year will dictate what the 2023 season looks like one way or another, either this team will be in the playoff hunt or they will be in the #1 overall pick hunt, with really no in between.