Just a couple of years ago, the St. Louis Rams looked to be on their way towards the top of the NFC West. In fact, I picked them to run away with the division in 2011. That was the year that Sam Bradford was going to take that next step forward and lead the team to the playoffs — like they thought he would do when they made him the top overall pick in the 2011 draft.
Instead, Bradford and the Rams took a step back and went 2-14 that year. Not my best pick, probably not my worst either, though. Then, to make things even more confusing for St. Louis, they finished in NFL no-man’s land last year with a 7-9 record.
This year, the Rams have a good defense and a new weapon for Bradford, rookie receiver Tavon Austin. They would again be considered a contender in the NFC West if it wasn’t for how far the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks have come in the last few years.
So, let’s start there for the Rams this year. They have four games against the 49ers and the Seahawks. In the best-case scenario, they steal one of those four games. Maybe they can catch one of those teams at home and grab a win. We can start out our 2013 record prediction with a 1-3 mark against the two teams likely to win the division.
The other team they face twice a year, the Arizona Cardinals, is an easier win, but not a certain one either. Let’s say the Rams split with the Cardinals. Now we’re at 2-4 after the division games.
Out of the division, the Rams play three teams that can be penciled in as losses. They face the Atlanta Falcons and the Houston Texans on the road, both teams that made the playoffs last year. They host the New Orleans Saints in Week 15, another team very likely to find themselves playing in this year’s postseason.
That leaves us with a 2-7 mark, but let’s see if we can make that better. They get two teams that I see as easy wins. The Jacksonville Jaguars come to town in Week 5 and the Tennessee Titans in Week 9. Give the Rams wins there and we’re at 4-7.
Give them a win in half those games, plus give them the Bears game because it comes off their bye week, and we end up with another 7-9 finish for the Rams.
7-9 may not be what Rams fans are hoping for, but this team suddenly finds itself in a really tough division with a strong overall schedule. Better than a 7-9 record would indicate, the Rams are going to have to fight for every win in 2013.