The highly anticipated 2012 NFL schedule has been released via NFL.com and shows the St. Louis Rams opening on the road on September 9, as seen here. The Rams' individual slate can be found at stlouisrams.com via this link.
Although we are still looking ahead to the 2012 NFL draft and the June cuts portion of NFL free agency, it is time to make some initial predictions and share some brief analysis and background information on the schedule and how many wins St. Louis looks to be capable of accumulating in the coming campaign.
With that said, let us jump right into the first look, insight and preview of the entire 2012 St. Louis Rams slate. It looks to be a very interesting year approaching in the Gateway City for the Rams.
On September 9, St. Louis travels to Motown to face Ndamukong Suh and the Detroit Lions.
The Lions look to be an up and coming team with a strong defense led by the aforementioned Suh. Surprisingly, Detroit was only No. 23 in rushing defense.
The Lions came out on fire last season starting the season 5-0 before finishing 10-6 and earning a playoff birth. On the other hand, St. Louis started 0-6.
The matchup will feature the No. 1 and No. 2 picks from the 2010 NFL Draft, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford (No. 1) and Suh (No. 2.)
Detroit returns an offense that scored 29.6 points per game (fourth in NFL) and should be boosted by the return of running back Jahvid Best, who was out last season due to injury. St. Louis, though, was last in points per game, averaging just 12.1 points per contest.
This matchup will test new Rams corner Cortland Finnegan as he does battle with an exemplary Lions receiving corps led by none other than Calvin Johnson.
For St. Louis to be in this game in the fourth quarter, they must avoid penalties and turnovers and put up some points.
Bradford will have to bring it and the Rams need to run the ball well on the road to aid the defense and passing game.
Rams compete better than many expect before coming up short in Detroit, falling 24-17.
The Rams fail to shutdown the Detroit passing game in the fourth quarter as Calvin Johnson catches a late touchdown to seal the victory for the Lions.
It seems that the Rams and Redskins have played each other for the last 450 consecutive years. It has not been quite that long, but the Redskins will again face the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome in 2012.
The St. Louis Rams home opener should be an extremely excited one as most expect that former Heisman Trophy winner and electric quarterback Robert Griffin III will be under center for the Redskins at the EJD in Week 2.
Last season, Washington traveled to St. Louis and came away with a 17-10 win and ended the season at 5-11.
This year, things will not go as well for head coach Mike Shanahan and his Redskins when they travel to the STL to face the Rams.
With a rookie quarterback under center facing his first hostile NFL road crowd, look for the Rams to get after the young QB and cause him problems all day long.
It will be interesting to see how RG3 reacts, assuming he goes to the Redskins in the draft. Washington went all out to add weapons in free agency for the passing game with the signings of Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan and Eddie Royal.
St. Louis will come out playing tough in Jeff Fisher's home debut. The dome will be rocking and the Rams will be rough on RGIII and via the ground game.
Look for the Rams to get the run and pass game going and pull away late for a 27-13 win in Week 2.
In Week 3, Fisher and the Rams will travel to the Windy City to face Lovie Smith's Chicago Bears.
Chicago will open the season without former offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who has retired. It is hard to say exactly how that will impact the Bears offense (if it all) in 2012.
With Martz out of the picture, it is possible to see the Bears move back towards more of a run-focused offense even though they did trade for wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who hauled in 81 catches last season.
With St. Louis being on the road, I look for the Rams to come out and feed Steven Jackson and use the play action pass to get the air game going.
Chicago finished 28th against the pass last season. Bradford and the Rams will get it going enough via the pass to put up some points in northeastern Illinois.
In a rough and rugged battle led by two defensive minded coaches, St. Louis falls short and loses a bloodbath in Chicago who hits a field goal and earns a 16-13 win at Soldier Field.
In 2012, the Rams will become much more competitive within the NFC West and look to start on the right foot as they open the divisional slate against the Seattle Seahawks, who finished 7-9 last season.
Pete Carroll will lead Seattle on the road to face the Rams in Week 4. Last season, Seattle swept St. Louis 24-7 and 30-13.
Although the Seahawks' offense fared well against the Rams last year, they were 23rd in points per game overall.
Seattle is still trying to figure out the quarterback position so I expect St. Louis to key their focus on stopping running back Marshawn Lynch. In that effort, the Rams will succeed while keeping the Seahawks from getting it going via the air.
Bradford begins to develop some swagger after a good start to finish off the first quarter of the season as St. Louis shows it is coming to play in the NFC West this year and runs its' record to 2-2.
The Rams will come away with a win as newcomer Steve Smith pulls in some big catches and second year defensive end Robert Quinn and veteran Chris Long post a combined five sacks as St. Louis slugs Seattle 24-10 at the EJD.
Watch for some eye-popping hits from the Rams secondary today, including a ESPN top 10 hit from 2010 rookie Jerome Murphy, who continues to play well in 2012 after missing 2011 due to injury.
This year, the Cardinals face the Rams in a Thursday night NFL Network matchup in a prime time contest from the Edward Jones Dome.
It will be a short week for the Rams after facing the Seahawks just four days prior to this matchup.
However, both games are at home which is an ideal setup for St. Louis to bounce back as well as possible for a quick turnaround before hosting the Cardinals.
The Cardinals surprised many by finished at 8-8 last season.
However, Arizona openly targeted free agent quarterback Peyton Manning in the offseason and do not appear to be completely sold on Kevin Colb at QB.
The Cardinals were pretty average ranking both offensively and defensively overall, ranking in the middle of the pack in both categories.
St. Louis will start the NFC West with a 2-0 record as they start showing a nice home field advantage with a 23-14 win over the team that used to call the Gateway City home, the Cardinals.
This win sends St. Louis to 3-2 as the national buzz begins to heat up for Jeff Fisher's tough, gritty, youthful Rams.
The St. Louis Rams will hit the road and head to South Beach to face the Miami Dolphins in this Week 6 showdown.
The Rams and Dolphins already had a showdown of sorts in the offseason as both teams aggressively pursued free agent coach Jeff Fisher before the Rams win out.
Miami will look for some on-field revenge versus Fisher and the Rams in this contest.
Last year, Miami finished 6-10 but again struggled with inconsistent play.
Miami, though, was 11th in the NFL in rushing yards per game and will try and pound the rock against the Rams in this one after St. Louis finished at the bottom of the league in run D last year.
Miami could end up with a rookie QB, such as Ryan Tannehill of Texas A & M. If so, expect even more runs from Miami than one might already expect, especially after trading wideout Brandon Marshall to the Bears.
Rams free agent addition Kendall Langford will likely be eager to make an impact against his former team in this one.
Miami was third in the league in rushing yards allowed per game last season and 15th in passing yards allowed. It may be tough to run it on Miami so the passing game may have to do some damage if the Rams are going to win in Miami.
If the Rams can shutdown the Dolphins running game, they have a good show to win this one on the road.
Rams win a low scoring game at Miami 13-10 to start the season at a surprising 4-2 as the Dolphins struggle mightily in the passing game as Corland Finnegan gets his first pick for St. Louis.
St. Louis will host the Green Bay Packers and their prolific offense (led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers) in Week 7 and will have the opportunity to show the world that their 4-2 start signifies their arrival as a new power in the NFC.
Green Bay finished 15-1 last season averaging a greatest show on turf like 35 points per game.
They fell short of an expected Super Bowl run after losing to the New York Giants in the NFC Playoffs.
The Packers will come back hungry in 2012 after defeating St. Louis at Green Bay in a snoozer last year, 24-3.
That game was not nearly as close as the score would indicate as the Packers dominated the first half and appeared to put in on cruise control in the second half as the Rams offense was at its' abysmal worst that day.
The Green Bay defense, however, was vulnerable last season. They gave up the league's most passing yards last year. They were 14th in yards given up per rush as well.
In 2012, Rodgers and the Packers passing game continues to excel and put up points as their D, much maligned in 2011, bounces back to play better.
In a high scoring contest, the Packers run away with it late in a 38-21 victory on the road at the EJD as the Rams fall to 4-3.
The Patriots leaned heavily on Tom Brady and their highly productive tight end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
2011 Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels returns to his old stomping ground to run the offense of New England.
St. Louis' best bet may be to take advantage of a Patriots secondary that finished 31st in passing defense last year.
However, the Rams need to establish a strong running game and win the time of possession battle to hang close with the Patriots, who face a much shorter flight to London than the Rams do in this St. Louis "home" game.
Considering the travel, the opponent and it being a somewhat late bye week for the Rams, look for a tired Rams team to let this one get away against the disliked Patriots.
Unfortunately, New England comes out hot as the Rams struggle in many facets all day long falling 35-13 to the Patriots. That leaves the Rams, however, at a solid 4-4 as they enter their bye week.
Prior to the 2011 season, many had felt that the Rams could be a breakout team after finishing 7-9 in 2010.
However, that clearly did not come to pass as the San Francisco 49ers become the NFL's breakout squad last year, going 13-3 and earning a trip to the NFC Championship game.
San Francisco will return an imposing defense led by the NFL's best middle linebacker (Patrick Willis) and arguably the league's best all-around defensive end (Missouri's Justin Smith.)
Look for the 49ers to dominate their home field in 2012 as their defenses shuts down opposing offenses, especially at home.
St. Louis comes out and fights hard and tries valiantly to establish the running game to no avail. The offense struggles and the defense springs a few leaks, especially in regard to the aforementioned Davis, who gets deep for two touchdowns.
San Francisco wins going away 24-10 as St. Louis falls to 4-5 on the year.
This contest could prove pivotal for St. Louis in 2012.
The Rams enter this one at 4-5 (if my predictions hold true) and this game offers the chance to enter the home stretch at .500 and in contention for a NFC wild card birth.
This game could be interesting, regardless of the Rams record, due to the potential quarterback controversy that could well develop for the New York Jets.
Considering that Jets head coach loves to run the ball and play sound defense, it would not surprise me to see the polarizing Tebow under center in the Edward Jones Dome as the starting QB as the Jets face the Rams beneath the Gateway Arch.
Last season, the Jets finished at a disappointing 8-8 as they dropped their last three games.
Former Jets offensive coordinator will attempt to orchestrate a great game plan to help St. Louis defeat the Jets in his new St. Louis home.
The Jets were fifth in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game last year so Darrelle Revis and the Jets secondary figures to pose a stern challenge for Schottenheimer and Bradford's passing attack.
That said, look for St. Louis to work hard to get the ground game going and to use the play action pass to open up things in the passing game for tight end Lance Kendricks and slot receivers Danny Amendola and Greg Salas.
Prediction: The Rams run their record to 5-5 with an impressive performance against the New York Jets.
The Rams post a 21-10 win over the Jets as the Rams force a fumble, intercept two balls and tally four team sacks on the day, including the tenth on the year for Chris Long, the seventh for Robert Quinn and the third for Kendall Langford.
The Cardinals will look for revenge as the Rams travel to Arizona looking to sweep their NFC West rival.
St. Louis lost in the desert last season but look get a win in 2012.
Steven Jackson and Sam Bradford both come out hot on the road as Rams rookie wide receiver (to be named later) has a breakout game and Steven Jackson runs for 135 yards and a touchdown in a 28-17 win over the Cardinals.
Bradford throws for three touchdowns and over 300 yards in this contest as the Rams go to 3-1 in the NFC West and go to 6-5 on the year as they solidify their position as an NFC wild card contender.
After falling to San Francisco in Week 10, the Rams look to go to 4-1 against the rough and rugged 49ers at home before a raucous and expectant crowd in St. Louis.
The 49ers will likely be tough for anyone, even at home, as they will likely be a premiere team in 2012.
This contest gets ugly early as several skirmishes break out and Jeff Fisher and Chuck Cecil show visible intensity and passion on the sidelines.
This game becomes a classic battle as both teams fight tooth and nail for every yard as each team blitzes heavily on passing downs and centers their offensive attack around the ground game.
In this game, the starving Rams fans, who have waited for a late season showdown of this magnitude for years (following a historically poor 15-65 stretch) truly become a 12th man for the Rams as the crowd noise helps elicit several false starts from the 49ers offense.
St. Louis hits 49ers quarterback Alex Smith in the mouth all day long posting seven sacks on the day with one each from middle linebacker James Laurinaitis, outside linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar, cornerback Jerome Murphy and cornerback Cortland Finnegan as the Rams post an impressive 14-13 win over San Francisco to go to 7-5 on the year.
The Rams travel to Buffalo to face the Bills and former Rams quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The Bills finished 6-10 last season after a surprising 4-1 start in 2011.
Buffalo was nearly as anemic against the run as the Rams last season, sharing very bad company in that regard, finishing 28th in yards relinquished per game.
This game will be played on December 9 in upstate New York. That means that the weather could be a major factor as the snow could indeed be flying and the temperatures could be quite cold for a dome based team.
The Rams look to take advantage of the Buffalo run defense as Steven Jackson goes over the 1,000 yard mark for the 8th time in his career.
The Rams, however, come out a big sluggish after the upset win at home versus the 49ers and fall on the road in horrid weather conditions 17-14 to drop to 7-6 on the year in a game they certainly could have won.
The Minnesota Vikings enter the Edward Jones Dome against the surprising Rams who are still fighting for a playoff spot as the Vikings enter St. Louis at 5-8 with the again healthy Adrian Peterson leading the way in the backfield.
One interesting side note to this game is the defensive end watch. By this point, Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen has 13 sacks, Chris Long has 12 and Robert Quinn has eight for the year.
Last season, Minnesota was second to last in the NFL in points allowed at 28.1 points per game, worse than St. Louis who surrendered 25.4 points per game.
If the Rams are to win this game, they will have to slow down the ground duo of Peterson and Toby Gerhart.
St. Louis comes out and gets the passing game going against a still inconsistent 2012 Minnesota defense.
The Rams come out and win impressively 23-7 over the Vikings and take their record to 8-6 on the season.
St. Louis travels to Florida to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a Week 16 battle as both teams hold playoff hopes one week before the season finale.
The Bucs enter the game at 7-7 while the Rams come in at 8-6.
Last season, Tampa Bay finished at a very disappointing 4-12 record after being expected by many to contend for a playoff birth after finishing 10-6 in 2010 with rookie Josh Freeman.
One interesting side note will be the battle between 2010 first round picks Sam Bradford and the above-mentioned Freeman, both of whom coming out of the Big 12.
In 2010, Tampa Bay beat the Rams in Freeman and Bradford's first NFL dual 18-17 in a crushing defeat that St. Louis had all but wrapped up.
In the offseason, Tampa Bay added big time free agents Vincent Jackson (wide receiver) and Carl Nicks (offensive guard.)
Just like 2010, St. Louis loses an overtime heart-breaker in Tampa Bay 20-17, falling in overtime after giving up a 17-10 fourth quarter lead.
With the defeat, the Rams fall to 8-7 and cling to diminishing playoff hopes as they prepare for a Week 17 trip to Seattle.
With playoff hopes on the line, the Rams travel to Seattle on December 30 to face the Seahawks in the regular season finale.
With a win, the Rams have at least some hopes for a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
The Seahawks are always tough at home, however, and this game will present a tough challenge, just as it did in 2010 when St. Louis and Seattle did battle in Washington State for a playoff birth.
In this matchup, the Seahawks come in at 6-9 hoping to play spoiler against the Rams. However, Steven Jackson takes this game on his shoulders as he runs for over 100 yards and displays memorable passion throughout the game both on the field and on the sidelines.
Bradford manages the game well and does enough to help secure a 10-9 victory on the road as the Rams D holds the Seahawks to four field goal attempts (missing a 50 yard attempt in the fourth quarter that would have given the Seahawks the lead and perhaps the win.)
St. Louis finishes 9-7 on the year but ends up missing out on the final wild card birth (which ends up going to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who beat the Rams in Week 16 after finishing 9--7 as well but winning the tie-breaker.)
How do I have the Rams going from two wins (in 2011) to nine (in 2012?)
One, Jeff Fisher is at the helm. Two, I like the offseason additions thus far with high hope in the draft. And three, I like this schedule better than last seasons.
The first six games of the season as well as the final four contests (even though three of those four are on the road) present an opportunity for St. Louis to post a strong season under first year Rams head coach Jeff Fisher.
I also like the fact that the St. Louis bye week comes after the trip to London, giving the Rams a chance to rest up and catch its' breath following the first half of the schedule.
I feel that a six to nine win campaign appears likely for the Rams although those projections will be fine tuned following the draft, the remainder of free agency, training camp and the preseason.
Shane Gray covers the St. Louis Rams daily as a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. You are encouraged to check out the rest of his work here. Gray also owns and operates stlramscentral.com.