St. Louis Rams' 2013 Schedule: Win-Loss Predictions for Every Game
I have been doing this article every year since 2010 and have had some success, but I've had embarrassments as well.
In 2010, I predicted seven wins for the Rams, and indeed they finished with a 7-9 record.
In 2011, I figured the Rams would build on their 2010 success and advance to a 10-6 record, but that prediction blew up in my face after the Rams finished with just two wins.
I got back on track in 2012 after predicting a 7-9 record, and the Rams finished 7-8-1. Not only did I accurately predict the win total, but I nailed the game-by-game predictions, maintaining 100 percent accuracy through the first 10 weeks.
Predicting football isn't easy and certainly requires more luck than knowledge, so I'm not bragging, but hopefully I can continue my success in 2013.
Here's a look at the schedule before we get started:
Week 1: September 8 3:25 p.m. CDT vs. Arizona Cardinals
Week 2: September 15 Noon CDT at Atlanta Falcons
Week 3: September 22 Noon CDT at Dallas Cowboys
Week 4: September 26 7:25 p.m. CDT vs. San Francisco 49ers
Week 5: October 6 Noon CDT vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 6: October 13 Noon CDT at Houston Texans
Week 7: October 20 Noon CDT at Carolina Panthers
Week 8: October 28 7:40 p.m. CDT vs. Seattle Seahawks
Week 9: November 3 Noon CST vs. Tennessee Titans
Week 10: November 10 Noon CST at Indianapolis Colts
Week 11: Bye
Week 12: November 24 Noon CST vs. Chicago Bears
Week 13: December 1 3:05 p.m. CST at San Francisco 49ers
Week 14: December 8 3:25 p.m. CST at Arizona Cardinals
Week 15: December 15 Noon CST vs. New Orleans Saints
Week 16: December 22 Noon CST vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 17: December 29 3:25 p.m. CST at Seattle Seahawks
Week 1: Arizona Cardinals (Win)
Some say this is an important game for the Rams, that it'll set the tone for the entire season, but that's not necessarily the case.
The Rams lost in Detroit during their 2012 opener and went on to have a decent year.
In 2010, the Rams opened the season at home against Arizona, just like this year, and they lost the game. And guess what? They finished with a respectable 7-9 record.
The first game of the season never makes or breaks a team, even if the game is against a division foe.
Having said that, I'm not buying into the Arizona hype. The Cardinals have a very solid defense and an improved offense, but I believe the Rams will be too energized to lose this game in front of their home crowd.
St. Louis should open the season with a "W."
Week 2: At Atlanta Falcons (Loss)
This would be a great game for prime time...
Steven Jackson, a Rams legend, faces his former team for the first time. Les Snead, the Falcons' young front office prodigy, comes backs to Atlanta to show off his talented new squad. Two young quarterbacks—Matt Ryan and Sam Bradford—duke it out as they strive to become the next elite NFL quarterback.
And it all happens under the Georgia Dome, where the Rams won the Super Bowl in 1999.
It's a great combination of storylines, and this game should be in prime time, plain and simple. But network heads can't detect that. They can't identify good storylines. The only words they know are "Tebow," "Sanchez" and "Rex Ryan."
As far as my thoughts on the game...
Steven Jackson is not the back he used to be. Atlanta's run game will struggle, but the Falcons can throw the ball as well as any team in the league.
The Rams defense struggled to force incompletions in 2012, allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 66.2 percent of their passes.
The Rams will be on the road against not only one of the better teams in the league, but one of the better passing teams, and that spells trouble.
Week 3: At Dallas Cowboys (Win)
Unfortunately for the Rams, they play the Cowboys early in the season.
The Cowboys often look worthy of the playoffs early on and wait until the end of the season to blow their playoff hopes, so I would feel a lot better about this game if it were set for Week 15 instead of Week 3.
Regardless of the inconvenient scheduling, I feel the Rams are the better team.
The Cowboys surrendered 36 sacks a year ago, which is not a good sign for Dallas since the Rams led the NFL in sacks in 2012 (tied with 52).
The Cowboys excel in the passing game, which does not bode well for the Rams and their weak pass defense, but the protection is not solid enough to keep Tony Romo upright for the majority of the game.
The pressure from the St. Louis front eight will overwhelm the Cowboys and disrupt their passing game. They'll struggle to find rhythm.
If the Rams can keep Romo and his receivers in check, this will be St. Louis' first road victory.
Week 4: San Francisco 49ers (Loss)
This prediction will surely aggravate St. Louis fans.
The 49ers were not able to beat the Rams in 2012, so naturally some feel that the Rams will have the upper hand in their home game against San Francisco and will walk away with a victory.
However, in this scenario, the Rams start the season with a 2-1 record. Combine that with their success against the 49ers a year ago, and maybe they enter this contest slightly overconfident.
The Rams also have the youngest team in the NFL according to Pro Football Weekly, so their youth and inexperience could work against them on the prime-time stage (this game takes place on Thursday Night Football on the NFL Network).
In fact, the Rams are 1-3 in their last four prime-time appearances, so they've struggled under the national spotlight in the past.
That's not to say this isn't a winnable game for the Rams, especially at the Edward Jones Dome, but the 49ers are always a tough team to overcome, especially early on in the season.
In each of the last two seasons, the 49ers have accumulated a 4-1 record in their first five games. They have the ability to get rolling early on and overwhelm their opponents.
For that reason, I'll give this win to San Francisco, but the Rams will have a shot at revenge later on in the season.
Week 5: Jacksonville Jaguars (Win)
Blaine Gabbert. That's all you need to know about this prediction.
Though many Rams fans also support the Missouri Tigers and have fond memories of Gabbert, it's hard to deny that Gabbert is likely the worst starting quarterback in the NFL.
After two NFL seasons, Gabbert has 21 touchdowns against 17 interceptions and has completed just 53.8 percent of his passes. His career passer rating is an abominable 70.2.
Gabbert was sacked 40 times as a rookie in 2011 and was brought down 22 times in just 10 starts in 2012.
The St. Louis front eight will have a field day against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
For a moment, picture the Rams game against Arizona in 2012, when Kevin Kolb was completely manhandled by the Rams defense and sacked nine times. He looked completely deflated and humiliated.
That's what this game will look like.
And yes, star running back Maurice Jones-Drew appeared in only six games for Jacksonville last season, so that hurt their record, but the 28-year-old Jones-Drew is not capable of overpowering a St. Louis defense that is tough against the run.
Unless the Rams defense takes an off day and gets shredded by Jones-Drew, there's no reason to believe that the Rams won't win this game soundly.
Week 6: At Houston Texans (Loss)
Coming off a thorough victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Rams will travel south to take on the Houston Texans.
The Texans have a modest 15-9 record at home since 2010, so they don't always capitalize on their home-field advantage.
Even so, the Rams will have a tough time picking up a road win in Houston. The Texans handed the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens a lopsided 43-13 loss at Reliant Stadium last season, so they're capable of running on all cylinders in front of their home crowd.
Defensive end J.J. Watt will be in the St. Louis backfield all day, and we know what happens to the St. Louis offense when under pressure—Sam Bradford and the receivers become out of sync and the point production is nonexistent.
Matt Schaub is a solid quarterback for Houston, but he's not always consistent. The St. Louis defense is capable of disrupting his game, but the Texans will still figure out a way to put points on the board.
Week 7: At Carolina Panthers (Win)
Last season, the Rams were able to defeat Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. They had a 3-1-1 record against scrambling quarterbacks. So if the Carolina Panthers are banking on Newton overwhelming the St. Louis defense with his versatile game, they're in for a rude awakening.
Also, the Panthers have recently struggled in the first half of seasons.
In 2011 and 2012, the Panthers finished the first half of the season with a 2-6 record. They've had issues establishing themselves early on, which benefits the Rams.
Keeping Newton in check is never an easy task, but this game is a great opportunity for a St. Louis road win.
Week 8: Seattle Seahawks (Win)
This is the second prime-time game for the Rams in 2013—they'll take on the Seattle Seahawks on Monday, October 28 at 8:40 p.m. ET.
In this scenario, the Rams lost their first prime-time game to the San Francisco 49ers during Week 4.
Now that the Rams have already been embarrassed once on prime time in front of their home crowd (in this scenario), they have learned their lesson and are eager to redeem themselves.
And since this is a big stage and an important game, I'm going to make a very specific prediction...
I predict that Janoris Jenkins, who thrives under pressure during key games, tilts the momentum of this game in the Rams' favor with a pick-six.
You can call it a gut feeling or wishful thinking, but this game has "Janoris Jenkins" written all over it.
Week 9: Tennessee Titans (Win)
Jeff Fisher will be facing his former team for the very first time, so you can rest assured he'll have the Rams jacked up for the Tennessee Titans.
On the other hand, the Rams don't need any extra motivation for this game—they're already the better team.
The Titans have Jake Locker under center, and his play has been mediocre at best.
Locker started 11 games in 2012 and finished with 10 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. In his two-year career, he has completed just 55.5 percent of his passes. Not to mention, Jared Cook was arguably his most dangerous and reliable receiver, and he's now wearing a Rams uniform.
With no passing game to speak of, the Titans will have to depend on Chris Johnson and the run game, which is a concern since Tennessee has one of the better offensive lines in the league.
Even so, it's unlikely that Johnson will outscore the Rams on his own. Ever since his 2,006-yard performance in 2009, his play has gradually declined. He's no longer a one-man show.
The Rams should walk away from this game with a victory.
Week 10: At Indianapolis Colts (Loss)
I was not overly impressed with the Indianapolis Colts in 2012 despite their 11-5 record.
Nine of their 11 victories were won by a touchdown or less. It felt as though the team had a lot of fortunate breaks, and rarely did it overpower opponents. The Colts lost to Jacksonville, Chicago and the New York Jets. They beat Cleveland by only four points, and both victories over Tennessee were by fewer than five points.
They were one of the weaker teams with a winning record, and it showed when Baltimore dominated them in the first round of the playoffs with a 24-9 victory.
However, the Rams were not exactly juggernauts in 2012 either. They also had losses to Chicago and New York. They lost to Miami and Detroit as well.
And while the Rams are a better team than they were a year ago, they'll be facing Andrew Luck, who is the real deal and now has a year of experience under his belt.
The Colts were 7-1 at home in 2012, so even if they're not a powerhouse team like San Francisco, they're still a tough team to overcome on the road.
Week 11: Bye
The Rams enter their bye week with a 6-4 record.
Week 12: Chicago Bears (Loss)
If you're looking for an in-depth explanation as to why the Chicago Bears will beat the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome, I don't have one.
The Bears were 3-5 on the road in 2012, and those three victories came against garbage teams—Jacksonville, Tennessee and Arizona. Jay Cutler has a 21-23 record on the road and plays behind a questionable line, which can easily be exposed by the St. Louis pass rush.
However, every year when I do predictions, I'll pick at least one surprise loss, and this is it. Last year it was Miami and the New York Jets, and it turned out to be accurate.
The Bears have had their struggles, so this is certainly a winnable game, but they're not a bad football team. They went 10-6 in 2012.
This game is a wake-up call for the Rams. They inexplicably lost to the Jets in 2012, and this is their 2013 version of the Jets game.
Week 13: At San Francisco 49ers (Win)
In the previous slide, I had the Rams losing to Chicago in a somewhat surprising loss.
In 2012, the Rams surprisingly lost to the Jets, so the Chicago loss is the 2013 version of that game. And how did the Rams respond to the Jets loss?
They won three in a row, including a 16-13 overtime win over San Francisco. And that's how they'll respond once again, at least in this scenario.
I had the Rams losing to the 49ers on a prime-time stage in Week 4, so at this point, they've been eager for this game for quite some time—they're hungry and want payback.
The 49ers beat the Rams in their own house, so they give the 49ers the same treatment. They travel to San Francisco and leave not only with a victory, but a 3-1 record in the division.
This late in the season, the Rams' rematch with the 49ers is likely a must-win game, so they'll enter this game full of energy and give 100 percent effort.
Week 14: At Arizona Cardinals (Win)
Where will the Arizona Cardinals be as a team 14 weeks into the regular season?
For starters, Carson Palmer will be facing reality. His mind will be occupied with the realization that he left a playoff team to become a rental for two losing franchises.
Larry Fitzgerald will be giving it his all, but in the back of his mind, he'll be distracted by the voice in his head, reminding him that he signed an eight-year contract with a team that will never sniff another Super Bowl during his tenure.
Patrick Peterson will be day-dreaming about the year 2015. He'll be fantasizing about free agency and praying that the franchise tag is not an option.
Did I mention I'm not buying the Cardinals hype?
The Cardinals' defense will still be an obstacle at this point, but Arizona will have a tough time running the ball and scoring points against the Rams.
The Rams will win this game and sweep the Cardinals. In this scenario, that gives them a 4-1 record in the division at this point.
Week 15: New Orleans Saints (Loss)
The New Orleans Saints obtained a 7-9 record despite losing their head coach for the season, so the return of Sean Payton should be good for an extra two to three wins, at least.
Despite their downfall in 2012, the Saints are for real. As long as Drew Brees is under center, New Orleans will always be a dangerous team.
With that in mind, don't be fooled into thinking this will be a light game for the Rams.
In fact, since I'm skeptical that the Rams' pass defense will tighten up at any point in 2013, it wouldn't surprise me if Brees picks apart the St. Louis secondary and leads his team to a lopsided victory.
In 2012, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady destroyed the Rams' secondary with a combined 646 yards and seven touchdowns. The Rams lost those two games by a combined score of 75-27.
The Rams clearly have issues against elite pocket passers (many teams do), and with young, questionable talent at safety, it could be more of the same in 2013.
Week 16: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Win)
The Rams were able to defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on their own turf in 2012 and walked away with a 28-13 victory. It wasn't exactly a blowout, but it was possibly the Rams' easiest victory of the season. They went unchallenged in the second half of that game.
With that in mind, it's difficult to imagine the Rams falling to the Buccaneers at the Edward Jones Dome.
Doug Martin ran for 1,454 yards as a rookie and has already established himself as one of the better backs in the NFL, but the St. Louis defense can handle a running team. What really hurts Tampa Bay is Josh Freeman, who threw nine interceptions in the final three games of the 2012 season.
Unless Freeman has a spectacular turnaround, there's no reason to believe the Rams will lose this game.
Week 17: At Seattle Seahawks (Loss)
St. Louis fans are dying for the Rams to win this game. If the team wins just one game all year, they want it to be this one.
The Rams haven't won in Seattle since 2004, and it's time for that losing streak to end. The fans are fed up.
But in my position, I'm trying to accurately predict the outcome of these games. Do I want the Rams to win this game? Of course. But the team has eight consecutive regular-season losses in Seattle, and that's a pretty difficult stat to ignore.
Predicting a victory in this case would go against my desire to fairly assess each game and accurately predict the outcome.
I'm going to stick with a loss for this game, but perhaps the team can prove me wrong.