Sam Bradford hopes to rebound from an awful 2011 season.
The St. Louis Rams have been the worst team in the universe over the last five seasons. Jeff Fisher was hired as the new head coach to change the culture at Rams Park, and the Rams have made a flurry of moves to add talent to their roster.
Call me crazy, but I actually think the Rams have a shot to make the playoffs this season.
In 2010, the Rams were 7-9 and had a great shot at the playoffs with rookie QB Sam Bradford calling the shots. As Bradford enters his third season, he is a better player, and the talent around him is unquestionably better.
If it all comes together, and the Rams are going to make the playoffs, they are going to have to beat a couple of teams that nobody expects them to. The Rams are going to have to steal some wins.
So today, we're breaking down the Rams' schedule. Here we go...
I'm not saying the Rams will win all of these games, but they definitely can win all of them, and probably should win several of them. The fact that they are "winnable games" means that we can't put them on our list of games the Rams have to steal to make the playoffs.
The Rams could definitely beat Washington (home), Seattle (home), Arizona (home), Miami (away), Arizona (away), Minnesota (home) and Tampa Bay (away). It's not likely the Rams will go 7-0 in these games, but they are all winnable.
If the Rams can go 5-2 in winnable games, then that sets them up to make the playoffs if they can steal five wins out of their remaining schedule.
The Bears are going to be a really good football team. When you're in a division with Detroit and Green Bay, you need every win out of the division you can get. So you can bet the Bears will be playing with a sense of desperation against the lowly Rams.
However, the Bears once vaunted defense is getting older, and this Rams football team is built for cold weather—power running and good defense. I think this is a game the Rams can steal if Bradford plays well and the defense gets after Cutler.
The Rams should have a terrific pass rush. It will be interesting to see how the Bears protect Cutler, who has taken a beating in recent years.
I think the Jets are a very overrated football team. I don't think they'll make the playoffs, and I think Rex Ryan will get fired. However, because they play in New York and because Ryan has a big mouth, a lot of people will probably expect the Jets to rebound to the form that saw them make back-to-back AFC Championship games.
I think this game, in Week 11, will feature two football teams that are both in the hunt for a playoff spot. This is the part of the season where we start to separate the pretenders from the contenders. Simply put, if the Rams hope to make the playoffs, they have to win this game.
You can't lose a home game to a mediocre football team at this point in the season. If the Rams lose this game, they don't deserve to make the playoffs. I think they can steal this win.
If you want to make the playoffs, first and foremost, you have to take care of business in your own division. Part of that means protecting home field against the teams in your division. The Niners, who are the class of the NFC West, didn't go undefeated in the division last year, and they won't again this year.
If somebody is going to beat the Niners, and we're all hoping the Rams can sneak into the playoffs, then the Rams have to win this game. At home, Week 13, with a potential playoff spot on the line means you have to protect this house!
If the Rams can steal this one, then they would put themselves, for the first time all season, in the driver's seat for a playoff spot.
I think Buffalo, not the Jets, will be the second best team in the AFC East. The Bills had a great season a year ago before injuries set in. A year later, with several young players having another year under their belt and those injured players finally getting healthy, this team looks really good on paper.
Throw in the fact that the game is being played on December 9th, in Buffalo, New York, and this becomes a very tough game to win. It's going to be cold and miserable. That's hard enough, but when you're a dome team, and when the team you're playing is really good, it makes it even harder.
The Rams are coming off of a huge home win against the Niners, where they put themselves in position to make the playoffs. One week later, if they lose this game, they're right back to fighting for their playoff life every week. They have to steal this game to make the playoffs.
The Seahawks are a good football team, and I'm sure their fans are drawing up similar scenarios where their team could make the playoffs. After all, they won the division in 2010, finishing 7-9, and then they followed that up with a surprise 7-9 finish last season.
I say it was a "surprise" because they had Tavaris Jackson as their starting QB. The Seahawks brought in Matt Flynn, who should be a major upgrade at the position. The Seahawks have a terrific secondary, a bruising ground game and in Year 3 of the Pete Carrol era, they might just have a deeper, more talented roster than the Rams.
Let's cut through all the crap, though—this game is in Seattle.
The Rams never play well in Seattle. As a matter of fact, in 2010, these two teams played this exact same game—Week 17 in Seattle. The winner of that game would make the playoffs, and the loser would go home. The Rams lost, and the Seahawks ended up making it to the second round of the playoffs.
We might be looking at a rematch of that exact same game. I think the Rams will go into this game controlling their own fate. If they win, they're in the playoffs with a 10-6 record. If they lose, they go home with a 9-7 record and nothing to show for it but a pat on the back.
If the Rams want to make the playoffs, they have to steal this game.