The St. Louis Rams have stumbled out to a 1-2 start to the 2012 season. Sandwiched between two close losses, the Rams managed to get a big win over the much-hyped Washington Redskins. In their two losses, the Rams had plenty of opportunities to win both games.
The Lions overcame three Matthew Stafford interceptions and had to drive 80 yards in 1:45 to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in Week 1. This past Sunday, the Bears won the game by 17 points, but they didn't look great doing it. Both teams were very sloppy, but the Rams managed just two Greg Zuerlein field goals.
All the frustrations aside, this may not be the same Rams squad that has managed to win a total of 10 games in the last three seasons.
This article will focus on the next three opponents for the Rams and how they can win those games.
The Seahawks will present a tough matchup for the Rams, as they are sure to be on an emotional high after defeating (even though they shouldn't have) the Green Bay Packers during Monday Night Football.
The Seahawks are earning a reputation for becoming one of the league's most physical teams, and the way they pushed around the high-powered Packers offense in Seattle on Monday night was proof of that.
As a team, the Seahawks sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers eight times and didn't give up a touchdown until midway through the fourth quarter.
Russell Wilson has shown why he won the quarterback position in the offseason, as he has led the Seahawks to a 2-1 start while throwing for 434 yards and four touchdowns so far.
For the Rams to have a chance, they need to push back against the Seahawks defense and not have a game full of three-and-out possessions.
They still have Steven Jackson at running back and seem to have found a nice spark plug off the bench in rookie Daryl Richardson. But the Rams need to produce through the air.
The Seahawks have some very physical corners in Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner to go along with a couple of ball-hawking safeties, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.
The Rams need to stretch the field and use Danny Amendola to batter them over the middle. After using him on crossing route after crossing route, they can take a few shots down the field to Brandon Gibson.
On defense, they need to keep Wilson in the pocket and force him to make tough throws. If Wilson escapes the pocket and is allowed to make throws on the run and plays with his feet, it will be a long day for the Rams.
Perhaps the biggest surprise to the early part of this NFL season is the fact that the Arizona Cardinals are 3-0. They've beaten the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles in that span. Are they really that good or is it just a fluke?
This will be a good chance for the Rams to show that the Cardinals are not that good of a team, and they can do so in front of a nationally-televised audience, as this game will be part of the NFL Network's Thursday Night lineup.
The Rams have lost five of the last six games against the Cardinals. Despite being undefeated, the Cardinals have been outgained on offense in all three games of this season.
The Rams will need to focus on the fact that the Cards have a less-than-stellar running game and swarm around quarterback Kevin Kolb, who is prone to mistakes.
Larry Fitzgerald had a great game against the Eagles with nine receptions for 114 yards, but there aren't many other guys on offense that should scare teams.
The Rams also need to take advantage of the fact that this is a divisional game that they have at home. Oh, and maybe kick the ball away from Patrick Peterson.
The Cardinals will come into this game with a record of 3-1, and maybe even 4-0, but it will be a winnable game for the Rams.
The Rams will have to travel to Miami to play this game, but they should not be intimidated because the Dolphins just aren't a good football team.
They feature a rookie quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, who is going through a bit of a learning curve and could be lured into mistakes with players like Courtland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins hanging around on the outside. Linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar has been a great find as well and could give Tannehill fits.
The Rams will need to be ready for a high dosage of Reggie Bush, as he accounts for what seems like nearly all of the Dolphins' offense. There is no major threat at wide receiver, so Finnegan and Jenkins should be able to come up and get involved in the running game.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Rams will again need to take it to the air, as the Dolphins are actually ranked third against the run through three games.
Danny Amendola will get his targets, but Sam Bradford will need someone else to step up and emerge as a receiving threat inside this game and going forward. Maybe he needs to look for Lance Kendricks more or throw the ball Steve Smith's way. Perhaps this is the game where a rookie like Chris Givens begins to get noticed?
If the Rams can give Bradford good passing lanes to throw through in this game, they should have no problems knocking the Dolphins off at Sun Life Stadium.
These three games will determine just what kind of season the Rams are going to have this year. Why? Because after these three, they get the Packers, Patriots and 49ers—in that order.
The Rams should be able to go 2-1 in these games if they can steal one from either the Seahawks or Cardinals (both are home games) and then finish with a good win over the Dolphins.
They will need it, as the NFC West is quickly becoming one of the better divisions in football, and the Rams don't want to get lost in the shuffle.