4 Bold (And Slightly Less Bold) Predictions for the 2014 St. Louis Rams
Predictions and NFL football go hand in hand. Some predictions are mild, while others are bold and somewhat unlikely.
There are hundreds of predictions to be made when it comes to the 2014 Rams. The majority of the predictions we read between now and the end of the season will turn out to be inaccurate, but a portion will be on track.
This article will attempt to make a handful of predictions. Half of these predictions will be safe and easy, while the other half will be bold and specific.
Let us know which predictions you agree with, and feel free to broadcast your own in the comments section.
Bold: Sam Bradford Will Exceed 30 Touchdown Passes
Sam Bradford has only two healthy years out of four total NFL seasons, and his highest single-season touchdown total is a modest 21.
Furthermore, Bradford is coming off of a devastating knee injury, which could hinder his ability to move in the pocket and extend plays.
However, Bradford tossed 14 scores in only seven starts last season, putting him on pace for a 32-touchdown season. There's no question he was approaching a career year before his injury, and it's possible he'll regain that form in 2014.
Adding to my confidence is the fact that this is truly a make-or-break year for the young passer. His desire to break out and silence the doubters will push him into becoming the best passer he can be.
Less Bold: A Fistfight Will Occur Within the First 3 to 4 Weeks of the Season
Seriously, how can anyone not love the Jeff Fisher era?
The Rams went from being the laughing stock and the butt of every joke to being one of the grittiest, nastiest teams in the league.
They went from being Steve Spagnuolo's hand-picked choir boys to a team that literally punches you in the mouth at every opportunity.
Some teams do not take kindly to St. Louis' new attitude, which is why several 2013 games broke out into brawls.
The most notable fights came against the Carolina Panthers—a skirmish that got Chris Long ejected—as well as the Chicago Bears fight, where someone apparently got under Kyle Long's skin (Chris Long's younger brother).
Without a doubt, there will be more than a few fistfights in the 2014 season. That's just what the new St. Louis Rams are about.
So I say again...how can anyone not love the Fisher era?
Bold: Kenny Britt Will Have a Big Year
Kenny Britt made a name for himself in 2010 after recording 775 yards and nine scores as a receiver. That season put him on the map.
In 2011, it appeared as though Britt was set for a breakout year. He had 289 yards and three scores in the first three games but suffered a season-ending injury that put an end to what would have been a fantastic year.
Britt has been trying to regain that form ever since but has been a disappointment. He had just 11 catches for 96 yards last year despite playing in 12 games.
It's perfectly possible that Britt will fail with the Rams and eventually disappear for good. However, Britt is only 25 years old, so he is just now entering his prime.
Now that Britt has experience in the league and has been reunited with his former coach, it would not be overly shocking to see him have a big year.
According to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Britt is already making plays at practice and appears to be back to his old self.
Early-summer practice is never a clear indication of Sunday production, but it's certainly a good start.
Less Bold: Tavon Austin Will Take the Next Step
Tavon Austin had several punt-return touchdowns wiped out from penalties early in the 2013 season, which hurt his all-purpose numbers, but he managed to make big plays more consistently as the year progressed.
He had a monster game against the Indianapolis Colts, where he exceeded 300 all-purpose yards and three scores. The next week, he had two game-changing touchdowns against the Chicago Bears, including a 65-yard rushing touchdown.
Austin was injured two weeks after the Chicago game and sat out the remainder of the season.
Before Austin went down with the injury, it was clear he was adapting to the speed of the NFL a bit more each week. Now that those rookie kinks are worked out, expect big things from Austin in 2014.
Bold: Robert Quinn Makes a Run at the NFL Single-Season Sack Record
In his third NFL season, Robert Quinn reached 19 sacks—just 3.5 shy of Michael Strahan's record—and the St. Louis defensive end appears more and more unstoppable each year.
Quinn was only 23 years old during the 2013 season. He has not even peaked as an NFL player, and that's a frightening thought.
As impressive as Quinn was in 2013, he still had five games with zero sacks last season. Expect his consistency to rise in 2014, which will put the sack record in serious jeopardy.
Less Bold: Rams Defense Carries Team to Wild-Card Berth
Why is it that predicting a wild-card berth for a team with a decade-long playoff drought is "less bold"?
Well, in the NFC West, even the third-place team has a great shot at making the playoffs. There's a solid chance only one team in the division will miss out on the postseason, so the Rams simply have to avoid last place.
The St. Louis defense, particularly the defensive line, will be one of the premier units in the league next season. Even if the offense completely implodes, which is unlikely, the defense will still make the team competitive on a weekly basis.
The level of talent on St. Louis' defense is reaching ridiculous proportions, so this team can only be held out of the playoffs for so long. Something has to give.
Bold: Rams Replace San Francisco as Division's No. 2 Team
With Bleacher Report being based in San Francisco, there's undoubtedly a number of colleagues and readers who would beg to differ with this assessment, but call it a gut feeling: The Rams will unseat the 49ers as the No. 2 team in the NFC West.
Justin Smith is 34 years old, Vernon Davis is 30, Anquan Boldin will turn 34 in October, and Patrick Willis will be 30 by the season's end. Star running back Frank Gore is 31, but the 49ers have decent depth to replace him (Marcus Lattimore, Carlos Hyde).
Additionally, Aldon Smith is staring a suspension in the face, and Colin Kaepernick just signed a monster $126 million contract, which takes some of the motivation out of his performance (it has certainly happened in the past).
After three consecutive NFC Championship Game appearances and no Super Bowl rings, the 49ers are coming dangerously close to missing their window (if they haven't already).
Meanwhile, the Rams' window has not even appeared yet. They have a combination of youth and talent that would make any NFL team jealous.
This is a bold prediction, as the 49ers are a force to be reckoned with. However, mark 2014 down as the year St. Louis replaces San Francisco in the playoff picture.
Less Bold: Zac Stacy Breaks 1,200 Yards
Zac Stacy only had one carry during the first four weeks of the 2013 season, but he earned the starting job in Week 5 and averaged 80.8 rushing yards per game in the final 12 contests.
With that average, Stacy theoretically would have finished with approximately 1,292 rushing yards had he been the Week 1 starter and played in all 16 games.
With that in mind, it wouldn't be the least bit surprising if Stacy exceeded 1,200 yards in the upcoming season.
The Rams drafted rookie Tre Mason in the third round of last month's draft, and that will take away a handful of Stacy's carries. However, he's still the workhorse back and will receive the majority of the workload.