The NFL is set to announce the 2023 schedule on May 11th and this year is almost certain to be different for the Los Angeles Rams than 2022. Coming off of a Super Bowl win, the Rams were scheduled for five primetime games, plus a Christmas Day matchup with the Denver Broncos.
That, of course, included Thursday night’s season opener against the Bills because the Rams were the Super Bowl champions, and two Monday Night Football games.
However, coming off of a 5-12 season and stripping the roster of many recognizable names with no notable additions, L.A. could be hard-pressed to do more than two primetime games in 2023. Who could those be against and when?
L.A. Rams opponents
We already know their opponents and home/road games. Besides six games against the NFC West, the Rams will play the NFC East (Eagles, Commanders at home, Giants, Cowboys on the road), the AFC North (Browns, Steelers at home, Bengals, Ravens on the road), plus the Saints at home, and the Packers, Colts on the road.
Not long ago, the Rams and Bengals played in the Super Bowl against each other. The Rams and Eagles would have seemed like a premier NFC matchup, if not an NFC Championship game preview, and the Cowboys and Packers are always a big draw.
Could any of these games be worthy of Sunday or Monday night?
The Rams should be guaranteed one primetime game, but unfortunately as with any other team that will come on Thursday Night Football. These are usually matchups against other divisional opponents, although last season it was L.A. hosting the Las Vegas Raiders in what turned out to be Baker Mayfield’s debut with the Rams.
Still, when a team isn’t as strong, the NFL tends to pit them against a divisional opponent as that tends to drive up a little more interest in the game. This can either be trying to sneak the two weakest teams into a Thursday night game (which would mean Rams-Cardinals) or a bitter rivalry (which would mean Rams-49ers, most likely).
There’s always interest in Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan, so I would be surprised if the NFL doesn’t do its due diligence by putting Rams-49ers on the Thursday Night Football schedule. Last year, Rams-49ers was a Monday night draw in Week 4, but the 49ers won that game 24-9 with little action worth remembering.
If the NFL schedules Rams-49ers on Monday or Sunday primetime, they risk having a game between Sam Darnold and someone other than Matthew Stafford. The NFL had to flex Rams-Chargers out of Sunday Night Football in Week 17 of last season.
I would say that San Francisco at SoFi Stadium—itself a storyline every season now—is a matchup ripe for Thursday Night Football somewhere in the first half of the schedule.
Will the Rams be on Monday Night Football?
There is one thing going for the L.A. Rams that the NFL can’t ignore, and that’s the $5 billion invested into SoFi Stadium. Yes, the Chargers also play at SoFi and they have become the Los Angeles team most likely to have success in 2023, but the Chargers are a long ways off from being the Rams. No matter how good LAC looks on paper, their playoff appearances since 2010 include a 2013 team that went 9-7, a 2018 team that went 12-4 and lost in the divisional round, and a 2022 team that lost in the wild card round.
The Chargers haven’t been to the AFC Championship since 2007.
I would expect the Chargers to have more presence on TV this year than the Rams because of how things have turned lately, but I still think that despite it all that the L.A. Rams will be a better draw to primetime at home against a great opponent than the L.A. Chargers at home against a great opponent. There’s just something more intriguing about Rams-Eagles than Chargers-Chiefs.
Plus, the AFC is overrun with intriguing AFC matchups because most of the good quarterbacks are in that conference. If the Rams have Matthew Stafford, then Stafford vs. Jalen Hurts or Stafford vs. Dak Prescott is one of the few premier QB matchups that the NFC has to offer. But if that’s not good enough, then Stafford vs. Joe Burrow or Lamar Jackson should suffice.
The Rams had two Monday Night Football games in 2022. The NFL could feel like, “Oh no, there aren’t many great games in the NFC” and put Rams-Eagles on Monday Night Football at some point in the year. But this is a game that can’t be flexed if the L.A. Rams lose steam early and there’s a chance that Philly’s Super Bowl offense against L.A.’s current crop of defensive starters would be a dangerous matchup for ratings in the second half of the game.
Perhaps a more intriguing game for MNF, against an opponent guaranteed to draw ratings but who may not be vastly superior to the Rams, would be the Pittsburgh Steelers at SoFi Stadium. I could see Rams-Steelers, a Super Bowl XIV rematch, as a potential Monday Night Football option. And please put them in throwback uniforms if you do that. Maybe in Week 2, when it’s a MNF doubleheader?
Will Rams be on Sunday Night Football?
While Thursday night is guaranteed and Monday night is iffy, I think seeing the Rams on Sunday Night Football is closer to a sure thing. This is one where I think Rams-Bengals is a recent enough Super Bowl with enough intrigue surrounding the players and coaches that the NFL will justify it as a November Sunday Night Football draw. Maybe late enough in the year to flex, but it may not have to come to that. Joe Burrow against the Rams, McVay vs. Zac Taylor, a recent Super Bowl game.
This would be my guess.
Final Rams primetime guesses
Despite going 5-12 last season and having to be flexed out of primetime last season, I think the Rams at home is still an important draw for the league. They can’t let people forget, “Hey, there’s football in Los Angeles! Go fly out to Los Angeles to see your favorite team play football!” They will put the Chargers on primetime several times and I think they will put the Rams on primetime at least twice, but likely three times.
My guess: Rams-49ers on Thursday Night Football, Rams-Bengals on Sunday Night Football, and Rams-Steelers on Monday Night Football. Getting them in early makes more sense than getting them in late, but Rams-Bengals in November or December could be a possibility.