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Rams must win these 5 games if they want to prove that they’ve improved

Win these games and L.A. will be close to the playoffs

Los Angeles Rams v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Mike Christy/Getty Images

It’s always too soon to count a team’s wins and losses on the upcoming schedule. When the schedule comes out, it can be enticing to start imagining which games your team should win, could win, or must win, but the truth is that by the end of the year, every franchise has games that they should have won that they lost.

And games that people predicted they would lose that they would end up winning.

The Los Angeles Rams schedule does not appear to be that easy in 2023, especially if they aren’t a healthier and better version of themselves from 2022. So what I am attempting to do with this article is not tell you games that the Rams will win or should win. What I am doing is telling you five games on the schedule that the L.A. Rams will want to win if they want to be better than they were last season.

It’s hard to be better if you’re losing games to the Arizona Cardinals. That’s an empirical fact.

So these are five games on the Rams 2023 schedule that I think the team should win if they want to prove that they are improved. Win these five games and not only will L.A. match their win total from last season, they need only go 4-8 in the other 12 games to finish 2023 with a winning record.

Week 6 - Arizona Cardinals, October 15

Week 12 - at Arizona Cardinals, November 26

By the power vested in me: If you can’t beat the Cardinals, what are you good for?

The Cardinals went 4-13 last season, the final year under Kliff Kingsbury, and they’re starting over for the 105th time in 105 years of existence. Arizona hired Eagles 2022 defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon as their next head coach and they do not expect to have quarterback Kyler Murray for at least the first part of the season. That should rule out Murray for Week 6, though he could return by Week 12.

The Cards drafted offensive lineman Paris Johnson with their first pick and defensive end B.J. Ojulari in round two. They also cut DeAndre Hopkins and saw the retirement of J.J. Watt, who led the team with 12.5 sacks last year. The second-best defensive end on the team, Zach Allen, signed with the Broncos in the offseason. And even the team’s own website has acknowledged that safety Budda Baker wants to be traded.

There are a lot of bets on the Cardinals picking first overall in 2024 and given that they also hold the first round pick of the Houston Texans, Arizona might have two of the top-five picks, if not the first two picks overall. With or without Kyler Murray, any half-decent team should be able to beat the Cardinals.

Week 4 - at Indianapolis Colts, October 1

Another team that only won four games in 2022, the Colts had the number four pick and though quarterback Anthony Richardson could be a savior in the future, even his most ardent supporters feel that he won’t help Indianapolis win games any time soon. The extremely raw prospect not only has just one year of experience above the high school level, Richardson was also plain bad for the Florida Gators in 2022.

The other Eagles coordinator last year, Shane Steichen, will be responsible for leading Indy and getting Richardson into shape as a franchise QB. In the meantime, it could be Gardner Minshew starting against the Rams in Week 4.

With expected starters on offense like Minshew, left tackle Bernhard Raimann, right guard Will Fries, tight end Jelani Woods, and inexperienced receivers after Michael Pittman, if you can’t stop the Colts, who can you stop? Defensively, coordinator Gus Bradley has a little more to work with but still a long ways to climb.

Week 15 - Washington Commanders, December 17

It’s probably do or die time for head coach Ron Rivera, entering his fourth season with Washington and yet to finish a season above .500. Rivera will have to do so with Sam Howell, a 2022 fifth round pick, as his probable starting quarterback over Jacoby Brissett.

Playing in a division in which all three other teams in the NFC East made the playoffs, the Commanders have even more work to do than most basement teams in order to reach the postseason. So by Week 15, it could be offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy or veteran Jack Del Rio leading the team with an interim tag. It could be any number of people playing quarterback. Unless Washington gets off to a good start and is much better than people expect, the Commanders might have gone into the tank by December so it’s a game L.A. must win if they haven’t gone into the tank themselves.

Week 16 - New Orleans Saints, December 21 (TNF)

It was either this game or a Week 13 contests at home against the Cleveland Browns, but the Browns do have a lot of talent on the roster finally. It’s just that they’re...the Cleveland Browns.

New Orleans Saints Introduce Quarterback Derek Carr Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The Saints added Derek Carr over the offseason, an expected upgrade over Andy Dalton and Jameis Winston, but there were no upgrades made at head coach over Dennis Allen, who gets a second season.

The team reportedly expects to finally have receiver Michael Thomas again and they seem healthier, maybe still having a top-5 offensive line and the defense added first round pick Bryan Bresee and second rounder Isaiah Foskey to the defensive line. There’s talent all over the Saints, but it won’t matter unless Allen and Carr are the best versions of themselves that they’ve ever been.

A home game on Thursday night? The Rams better win opportunities like that, or they’ll have to make up for it by winning games that will be even harder.