The St. Louis Rams finished 2012 precisely where many expected them to finish.
The improved 7-8-1 record caught portions of the mainstream media off guard, as they were expecting St. Louis to remain in the NFL cellar for another year, but those educated on all things Rams knew there was a revival in the works.
There were no illusions of Jeff Fisher leading a Super Bowl charge in his first season, but a phenomenal offseason gave us every reason to believe that the Rams would experience a four- or five-win improvement over their 2-14 disaster in 2011.
My personal game-by-game predictions for 2012 had the Rams finishing 7-9—a half game off their final 7-8-1 record—while 11 of 16 games were accurately predicted.
But what about the 2013 season?
Will the Rams up their performance to a double-digit win total? Will they level out and once again finish around .500?
Since we have no idea what changes St. Louis will make in the offseason, it's far too early for official 2013 predictions. But now that we can identify the 2013 opponents, let's go over some early game-by-game predictions, using what we know now.
We're not sure how much talent will be added to these teams in the offseason, but we can use the 2012 season as the measuring stick.
So read on and see where the Rams stand in 2013.
The Rams handed Tampa a convincing 28-13 loss on their home turf this season, and nothing will change now that St. Louis has home-field advantage.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been a young, rising team for several years now, but instead of capitalizing on their young talent, they seem to regress a little more each year.
The Bucs stumbled with a 1-5 record in the final six weeks of the season, and Josh Freeman—at one time thought of as a franchise quarterback—threw nine interceptions in the final three games.
The Rams will take care of business.
2013 Record: 1-0
Atlanta is far more advanced than St. Louis and won't be intimidated on its own turf.
Ryan just turned in the best season of his career with 4,719 yards and 32 touchdowns, and his production will only improve moving forward.
St. Louis will be outmatched during this road trip.
2013 Record: 1-1
The Bounty Gate fiasco forced the Saints to finish with a losing 7-9 record, and one of the most dominate teams in recent years suddenly appeared vulnerable.
Will the distractions bleed into the 2013 season, or will they shake off the 2012 disaster and carry on with their business as usual?
With Drew Brees leading the way, it would be beneficial to bet on the latter.
Had the Rams played New Orleans in 2012, they could have stole a win from the fragile franchise, but it will be difficult to expect that in 2013.
2013 Record: 1-2
Ron Rivera and his regime have made it clear that they cannot win games.
Despite possessing a number of talented players, Rivera's Panthers have a painful 13-19 record after two full seasons.
Carolina ownership made the mistake of retaining Rivera for another year, which will leave the Panthers vulnerable and result in more losses.
It doesn't matter if this contest is a home or away game for the Rams—St. Louis appears to be the better team at this point in time.
2013 Record: 2-2
While the Rams have elevated themselves out of the NFL slums, the Jaguars are still bottom-feeders after a disappointing 2-14 record.
QB Blaine Gabbert has been horrendous in his first two seasons, while RB Maurice Jones-Drew is beginning to wear down after seven NFL seasons, as is evident from his 10 missed games in 2012.
It will take Jacksonville several more years to restock their roster, making this an easy win for the Rams.
2013 Record: 3-2
J.J. Watt is a possible defensive player of the year candidate, while Arian Foster remains one of the most dangerous ground threats in the game.
The Rams are still very young, and they need to mature a bit before taking down teams like Houston on their own turf.
2013 Record: 3-3
This is the first time Jeff Fisher will face his former team, and you can guarantee he'll have the Rams ready to roll on all cylinders.
Since Fisher joined St. Louis, the Rams are an upward trending team, while his old Titans are slowly but surely slipping into the NFL's cellar.
The Titans finished the season with a 6-10 record and were one of the more inconsistent teams in the league.
Expect the Rams to outplay Tennessee in all aspects.
2013 Record: 4-3
After finishing 2011 as the worst team in the NFL, the Indianapolis Colts have successfully transitioned into the Andrew Luck era, and it paid off with an 11-5 record.
However, the Colts only had two victories over playoff teams in 2012, while they were exposed during a 24-9 defeat to Baltimore in the first round of the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Rams had three wins and one tie against playoff teams. They earned every victory after playing an extremely difficult 2012 schedule.
As the Colts schedule increases in difficulty and their cornerstone players add another year to their age, people will see that this current team still needs work.
2013 Record: 5-3
The Chicago Bears were one of the strongest teams in the league through the first half of the season, but the Bears did what we expected them to do—they choked.
The Bears failed to make the playoffs and have entered an era of transition. Well, at least that's what they think.
They fired a solid head coach in Lovie Smith and retained an awful quarterback in Jay Cutler, but it should have been the other way around.
With Cutler still at the helm and a total coaching change in progress, things are not looking good for Chicago in 2013.
Expect the Rams to capitalize on this era of transition in Chicago with a victory.
2013 Record: 6-3
Jason Garrett is living on a thin line, while QB Tony Romo may or may not be the starting quarterback next season, depending on what direction the team takes this offseason.
The team is falling apart at the seams, and they are vulnerable in 2013.
Expect an up-and-coming team like St. Louis to overcome the past-their-prime Cowboys, even if it's an away game.
2013 Record: 7-3
The Rams proved they're capable of playing tough against the 49ers, and their confidence will only increase as time goes on.
With one win and one tie against San Francisco this season, the teams are as evenly matched as two teams can possibly get.
The games in 2013 will once again be fierce and come down to the wire.
For now, we'll give this one to St. Louis due to home-field advantage.
2013 Record: 8-3
Again, it's difficult to predict who will come out on top when the Rams and 49ers meet.
We gave the last one to St. Louis due to the home advantage, so this one goes to San Francisco.
Although, if the Week 10 tie between these two teams is any indication, the Rams are certainly capable of winning in San Francisco if things go their way.
2013 Record: 8-4
The Rams handed Seattle a 19-13 defeat in Week 4 of this season, but the Seahawks came out on top with a 20-13 victory in the season finale.
Again, even though Seattle made the playoffs and finished with a better 2012 record, these two teams appear to be evenly matched when they face off.
Just like with San Francisco, we'll give this to St. Louis for their hometown advantage.
2013 Record: 9-4
Since St. Louis was awarded the first game, it's only realistic that we give Seattle this one.
After all, the Rams have only won in Seattle once since the Seahawks entered the division in 2002.
St. Louis will surely play a tough game, and it will be fun to watch, but Seattle always has a major advantage in their home stadium.
2013 Record: 9-5
The last time Arizona entered the Edward Jones Dome, QB Kevin Kolb was massacred by the St. Louis front four and sacked nine times.
For the Cardinals' sake, they better find a lot of offensive line help before they even think about returning to St. Louis.
But even if they do beef up the line, they were swept by the Rams in 2012, and St. Louis appears to the superior team in every department.
This should be an easy victory for St. Louis.
2013 Record: 10-5
Again, the Rams were superior to Arizona in basically every way this season.
When the two teams met, St. Louis dominated in every aspect, and the Cardinals had no chance.
Arizona is in a transitional period as they search for a new head coach, and that certainly doesn't help their chances of being competitive again in 2013.
St. Louis will handle Arizona with ease in 2013.
2013 Record: 11-5