The schedule makers didn't do the St. Louis Rams any favors.
The Rams go coast to coast in the first two weeks before a home opener that could have more fans of the visiting team than the home club.
As the team prepares for next week's training camp, we'll break down the schedule - week by week - and try to predict how the Rams will do in 2009.
Week One: At Seattle
The Rams open at NFC West division rival Seattle, which is expected to improve from last year' 4-12 record. The Rams were 2-14, and while they should be better as well, it's never easy opening on the road.
The selection of Aaron Curry and signing of TJ Houshmandzadeh should have the Seahawks well on their way to a win in week one. Not to mention the fact that a healthy Matt Hasselbeck is better than anything St. Louis has to offer at quarterback.
Week Two: at Washington
The Redskins hail from the NFC East—the only division last year that did not have a team below .500. The Redskins expect to contend for the division title this year, and the 19-17 upset loss last year to the Rams still has to sting.
Expect the Redskins to win this one going away, as the Rams will simply be overmatched in the nation's capital.
Week Three: Green Bay
A recent check of Stubhub will show you that dozens of tickets for this game have already been put up for sale by Rams fans. If the Rams begin the season 0-2 as expected, dozens could become hundreds.
The Packers dominated the Rams the last time they played in St. Louis (2007, 33-14) and had more fans in the Edward Jones Dome than the home team. This year's contest could be the same result. Green Bay was 6-10 last year, but lost seven games by four points or less.
The switch to Dom Capers 3-4 scheme with rookie BJ Raji in the middle could mean Aaron Kampman could have a field day on the outside and wreak havoc on Marc Bulger. The Rams winless start continues.
Week Four: at San Francisco
A trip back out to the West Coast pits the Rams against another division contender. San Francisco was right in the mix with eventual NFC champion Arizona before stumbling to a 7-9 finish. It's pretty much a do-or-die season for quarterback Alex Smith, but the drafting of playmaker Michael Crabtree from Texas Tech should help.
With running back Frank Gore among the best in the league, if the Niners can get anything from tight end Vernon Davis, their offense could be in the top half of the league. That being said, Mike Singletary's team is built around defense, and San Fran has one of the best linebacking corps in the NFL, led by Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes.
That could mean trouble for Steven Jackson and the Rams running game. Not to preach gloom and doom, and an 0-4 start is looking like a real possibility.
Week Five: Minnesota
Will Brett Favre make another appearance in the Ed or not? That remains to be seen. What is known is that Minnesota has one of the best run defenses in the league, and one of its best running backs with the dynamic Adrian Peterson.
The St. Louis offense is built around Steven Jackson, and that is not a good combo against the Vikings. It doesn't look good for a win in week five.
Week Six: at Jacksonville
If the Rams are going to squeeze out their first win, it could be here. It all depends on which Jacksonville team shows up—the club that struggled to a 5-11 record last year, or the team that went 11-5 in 2007. David Garrard regressed from an outstanding season in 2007, when he threw 18 touchdowns to only three interceptions.
Last year, he tossed 15 TDs to 13 picks—a big reason the Jags struggled. Jacksonville waived all-time leading rusher Fred Taylor and handed the reins to the more-than-capable Maurice Jones-Drew.
The Rams will get a look at former teammate Torry Holt, who will be donning a Jacksonville jersey after spending his entire career in St. Louis. This game is strength against strength as both squads love to run the ball. The difference could be hunger, and the Rams have to be hungry after an 0-5 start.
Week Seven: Indianapolis
Good thing they got that win last week, because this week Peyton Manning and company come to town, and it ain't gonna be easy to win two straight. In fact, the Rams are outmatched in nearly every category, and many Colts fans could score tickets to this one and make the short drive from Indianapolis to St. Louis. The Rams struggle in this one and lose big.
Week Eight: at Detroit
If the Rams drop this one, then they might end up with the No. 1 overall pick in next April's draft. St. Louis has to win this game simply for morale's sake. The Lions could be dangerous, but one has to believe that the Rams can dispatch Detroit and leave Motown with a win.
Week Nine: BYE
Week Ten: New Orleans
The bye week comes at the perfect time and gives the Rams time to prepare for Drew Brees and the potent Saints air attack. The Rams secondary is not bad and they could hold their own in this one. The game will be won or lost up front.
If St. Louis can generate pressure on Brees with Chris Long, Leonard Little and James Hall, it has a chance. If not, it could be a long day. The Saints are vulnerable against the run, which plays right into the Rams game plan. I like St. Louis to win its second straight here and third of the season.
Week Eleven: Arizona
Kurt Warner and the NFC champs come to town. Warner is still loved in St. Louis, and it's just hard to root against the guy. The Cardinals enter the season as the favorites in the NFC West (when was the last time that's ever been said?) and, as long as they can keep Anquan Boldin happy, there is no reason they can't win the division again.
Rookie Chris "Beanie" Wells and Tim Hightower give the Cards a nice 1-2 punch in the back field. They already have the best wideout tandem in the league in Boldin and Fitzgerald, but their secondary leaves a lot to be desired. No pressure here, Marc Bulger.
You're only facing the guy you supplanted in the city that worshipped him, who just went to his third Super Bowl, and the game will rest on your shoulders. This is a pick 'em game, but Arizona will be the favorite.
Week Twelve: Seattle
The Rams can exact some revenge here on their home turf. I like the Rams to upend Seattle in a mild upset.
Week Thirteen: at Chicago
Soldier Field in December is never enviable, but the Rams are built for the cold with a solid running game. But, so is Chicago and Jay Cutler is a seasoned veteran when it comes to playing outside in December. He will be the difference in this game and the Rams will fall to 4-8.
Week Fourteen: at Tennessee
The Titans had the league's best record last year, but still fell short of reaching the Super Bowl. Their defense will not be as good this year, but the offense could be even better. Second-year tailback Chris Johnson could wind up in the Pro Bowl again, and he and Lendale White are probably the best running back duo in the NFL. Johnson's playmaking ability on the ground, and through the air, could be the difference.
Johnson and the Titans simply toyed with the Rams last preseason. While it was the preseason, that kind of dominance was probably not far from what would have happened in the regular season. Throw in the fact that this game is played in Nashville, and it gives even more of an edge to Tennessee.
Week Fifteen: Houston
The Rams will have to deal with another good pass rushing team in Houston, but could burn the Texans a couple times through the air with Donnie Avery's speed. As long as the offensive line gives Bulger enough time to throw, the Rams could win what I expect to be a wildly high-scoring game.
Week Sixteen: at Arizona
See the reasons above, then move the game to the desert and the Cardinals complete the season sweep.
Week Seventeen: San Francisco
It depends what the Niners have to play for here. If their in the playoff hunt, then they will have the motivation to win. If not, the Rams could end the season on a high note with a home victory. Regardless, expect a low-scoring game and, why not, let's predict a Rams win to close out the year 6-10.
A six-win season isn't anything to write home about, but what it is, is a four-game improvement from last year. Six wins would also be more than the previous two seasons combined. As I wrote before, the Rams will be improved this year, just don't expect them to be in playoff contention.