St. Louis Rams: Updated 2012 Game-by-Game Outlook
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Still, they took down the undefeated Cardinals last week in primetime and are now 2-0 in the division. So whether you like it or not, the Rams are the only team in the NFC with a 2-0 record in their division through five games.
The NFC West has rapidly transformed into what might be the closest divisional race in football between all four teams in the division. Still, there's 11 games left in the 2012 regular season, and St. Louis has some very tough games left on the schedule.
So, without further interruption, let's take a look at that schedule and how things could play out for the Rams in 2012.
Week 6: Rams @ Dolphins, 1 PM
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Miami shocked the Bengals on the road this past week, but the Rams shouldn't feel too threatened by first year head coach Joe Philbin's 2-3 squad.
In the last two weeks, Miami has had comfortable leads on both the Bengals and the Cardinals. Arizona was able to come back late and win in OT, and Cincinnati made it close at the end.
Week 6 will feature a matchup of middle-tier defenses and offenses that don't have a lot of big-play capabilities. To me, that equals a low-scoring game hinging on the play of the men up front.
Miami boasts the league's top rush defense, something Steven Jackson certainly isn't looking forward to. Also, Sam Bradford looked lost without Danny Amendola, who will miss about six weeks according to Adam Schefter (h/t Mike Sando).
Rams placekicker Greg Zuerlein, "Young G.Z.", will come through for the Rams in this dogfight at South Beach.
Prediction: Rams 16, Dolphins 13
Week 7: Packers @ Rams, 1 PM
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Week 7 begins a stretch of very difficult games for St. Louis.
The Packers have underperformed this year and will be coming off a Sunday night game against Houston. This is the exact game they need. They're in a dome against a considerably weaker opponent. Remember the last time they were in that situation? (Hint: It wasn't too long ago.)
St. Louis could have Rodger Saffold back by Week 7, and if they do, it would restore some sort of depth to the offensive line.
Still, Green Bay will come out swinging, and the passing attack of Aaron Rodgers and his many go-to receivers should wear out the Rams defense, one that has only allowed one touchdown to a wide receiver so far. If that doesn't change against Miami, it will most certainly change in Week 7 against the Pack.
Prediction: Packers 28, Rams 14
Week 8: Patriots @ Rams (Wembley Stadium in London), 1 PM
Bradford plays in a 2011 preseason game in New England.
This is another very difficult game, but at least it's not in Foxboro. The neutral site will be interesting for St. Louis, who had plans to play internationally in 2013 and '14 but wisely cancelled those plans during the preseason.
Getting to the game itself, the last time these two teams played each other in the regular season was Week 8 of the 2008 season. The Rams put up a good fight, ultimately losing 23-16. St. Louis didn't have Steven Jackson, and New England played that game without Tom Brady.
Barring injury, both of those guys will be in London in a few weeks. Expect the Patriots offense to have a good game, but the Rams will certainly step it up after my predicted loss at home to Green Bay. I believe this will be closer than one might think, only because the Rams defense will force a turnover.
Prediction: Patriots 34, Rams 20
Week 10: Rams @ 49ers, 4:25PM
Frank Gore has dominated opposing defenses in 2012.
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Off the bye week, the Rams will play their third divisional game of the year and their first against the 49ers.
The Rams should be hungry off my predicted two-straight losses and a 4-4 record. Meanwhile, San Francisco will be playing the third of three-straight divisional games.
If Frank Gore keeps up what he's doing, he'll be the hardest test for the Rams' rush defense so far. The man is silly good right now, averaging a whopping 6.5 yards per carry. I don't expect him to keep that up against defenses like the Cardinals and Seahawks. Still, the Rams' rush defense is probably the worst in the division.
Offensively, Danny Amendola won't be close to being back at this point. Hopefully, someone steps up to help out Sam Bradford. Personally, I hope it's Steve Smith. He was a lot of trouble for opposing defenses when he was healthy with the Giants a few years ago.
It will be a very hard game for the Rams offense. Expect at least one turnover.
Prediction: 49ers 23, Rams 6
Week 11: Jets @ Rams, 1 PM
Sanchez has been wildly inconsistent this season.
Here's where the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel lies for the Rams.
The Jets aren't close to the team that went to two AFC championship games in a row in '09 and '10.
I see this playing out a lot like the game against Arizona last week. The Jets' running game is awful, averaging a mere 83 yards per game. Plus, their quarterback is a major question mark.
If the Rams learned anything from the game against Arizona, it's that even with an All-Pro wide receiver, a quarterback won't do a thing if he's under pressure.
Prediction: Rams 21, Jets 13
Week 12: Rams @ Cardinals, 4:25 PM
Keven Kolb wants no part of the Rams defense after Week 5.
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This is a game Kevin Kolb will be looking forward to. The Cardinals have lost both of their starting running backs for the year in Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams. Kolb has had no connection with Larry Fitzgerald, who hasn't had much success since the days of Kurt Warner ended in the desert.
The Cardinals, for anyone who hasn't noticed, could have easily lost to the Dolphins and the Patriots. Everyone's hailed their defense through the first quarter of the season, but they're only a top-five defensive unit in one category.
An offense ranked 25th or worse in every major category will struggle tremendously to win games. The Rams aren't much better, but at least they have a serviceable running back.
Anyway, Arizona will have traveled to Green Bay and Atlanta before getting back home for the Rams. Expect another low-scoring game if the St. Louis defense can suffocate Kevin Kolb and keep him away from Larry Fitzgerald. That is, if Kolb is even the starting quarterback at this point in the season.
Prediction: Rams 17, Cardinals 10
Week 13: 49ers @ Rams, 1 PM
Steve Smith will have to be a factor for St. Louis if they are to be SF at home.
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This game will be a true test of the home-field advantage the Rams have experienced over the first five weeks of the regular season.
The Edward Jones Dome hasn't sold out yet this season, but it has drawn at least 53,000 people in each of the three games played there. Watching the games on TV, it feels like the atmosphere is louder than it's ever been before.
The Rams will need that if they are to beat the Niners at home. As in the first matchup, I expect the San Francisco rushing attack to be front and center. St. Louis may have their backs against the wall on both sides, as the key will be the play of both lines.
The first step in becoming a consistent winner in this league is winning big games at home. The Rams are just too thin at wide receiver to match up with the 49ers secondary that, through five weeks, has given up the second-fewest passing yards in the league.
Prediction: 49ers 31, Rams 16
Week 14: Rams @ Bills, 1 PM
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At this point in the season, I see the Rams fighting for a playoff spot in the NFC. I predict them to be 6-6 through 13 weeks in a very tough NFC but not out of the race.
A December road game in Buffalo probably won't be easy considering the weather conditions in upstate New York.
Many people saw the Bills as the clear No. 2 in the AFC East, yet they've proven that they are just as ambiguous as the Jets and the Dolphins. Ryan Fitzpatrick basically took his money and ran last year, as his performance since signing a huge contract in 2011 has been sub-par.
Something can be said for the running game, however, with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. Right now, both of these guys are still settling back in after early-season injuries. By Week 14, barring any other setbacks, they should be in midseason form.
For the Rams, it'll be about running the ball effectively and limiting turnovers. In addition, they can't let Buffalo get away with any big plays. Currently, the Bills have three receivers who have caught balls for 40 yards at least once this season.
Prediction: Rams 17, Bills 14
Week 15: Vikings @ Rams, 1 PM
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Minnesota is currently 4-1, and they're winning with Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin.
Not one of those men is the quarterback. That man would be Christian Ponder, who hasn't thrown for more than 270 yards all season. Simply put, he's managing games effectively and not turning the ball over (only two picks through five games).
When you have playmakers like Ponder does, it becomes a lot easier because you know where to put the ball.
Blake Williams and the rest of the Rams' defensive coaches must make it a mission to make Christian Ponder's day in St. Louis a living hell. The Vikings will attempt to do the same to Sam Bradford.
Whoever can stand up longer will have the more successful day, and his team will win. In this case, stability on Minnesota's offensive line will rule the day.
Prediction: Vikings 16, Rams 10
Week 16: Rams @ Bucs, 1 PM
Cadillac Williams scored the game-winning TD last time the Bucs and Rams squared off.
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St. Louis will end its season on the road, first in a hot place and then in a very cold one. The Rams should remember the last time they played in Tampa. It was Week 7 in 2010, and the Buccaneers would win 18-17 on a touchdown pass from Josh Freeman to Cadillac Williams with 20 seconds remaining in regulation.
The important thing about that game was that St. Louis led 17-3 at halftime, only to go scoreless in the second half. Both teams are similar two years later, and this time they will meet much later in the season.
In addition, both have new head coaches and are considered bottom feeders in their respective divisions. It could be a battle for a .500 season, or maybe one of these teams will surprise people down the stretch.
Regardless, the key to the game will be the quarterbacks. One is more mobile than the other, but Sam Bradford will be going up against a weak secondary.
He'll rise to the challenge.
Prediction: Rams 27, Bucs 10
Week 17: Rams @ Seahawks, 4:25 PM
The Rams pressured Russell Wilson enough in Week 4.
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The Rams will finish their season in Seattle for the second time in the last three years. Unfortunately, this time probably won't determine who wins the division.
If the defensive line can pressure Russell Wilson like they did in Week 4, it's not going to be easy for the rookie. The Seahawks have an awful receiving game, and while it may not be Wilson's fault, he will pay for it.
St. Louis will have already dealt with a big road test in San Francisco. If they can manage to stay competitive in that game, they should be able to take down the Seahawks in their home building.
Prediction: Rams, 14, Seahawks 10.