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Mailbag: Rams' schedule appears brutal

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Kareif from New York writes: Where do you see the rams finishing in there divison and whats going to be there record?

Mike Sando: Fourth place seems most likely based on the Rams' depth and the injury concerns on the defensive line, specifically with Adam Carriker and Leonard Little. Carriker always seems to be battling something, and Little could wear down over the course of a season. It's also not good for Marc Bulger to potentially have finger problems heading into the season. He'll play, but will he be comfortable?

I was going through the Rams' schedule over the weekend and having a hard time finding more than four or five likely victories. Three of the first four games are on the road. It's a long shot for this rebuilding Rams team to win at Seattle, Washington or San Francisco. And then the first home game is against the Packers, a team that has offensive firepower in the passing game to go with a zone blocking scheme that could be formidable on the ground. Getting to 1-3 could be rough. Two of the next three are at home, but those home games are against the Vikings and Colts, sandwiched around a trip to Jacksonville. This team could easily be 2-5 or 1-6.

The more I look at that schedule, the more I think the Rams will have a hard time, even if they improve and compete more effectively within the division.

Andy from San Diego writes: I recently read your July 20th blog entry regarding (among other things), T.J. Houshmandzadeh boycotting Madden 10 because of
the ratings. You posted a download link to a spreadsheet with the ratings for 25 of the 32 teams.I'm curious as to whether or not you now have a compilation of all 32. I ask this, because I am playing the "old-gen" version (PS2) and once it was released, it was largley agreed that the ratings were poorly put together (not in subjective sense, but just to give an example, Larry Fitzgerald had 98 speed, while Randy Moss had only 89 -- plain physical inaccuracies. I guess they could care less if you don't have a PS3 or Xbox360). The ESPN video game area listed many of the stats that "old-gen" is limited to, but not the complete set. So, I was just wondering if you had this info available. Thanks.

Mike Sando: You're in luck. I posted the full 32-team spreadsheet within this Aug. 18 blog entry. The spreadsheet shows ratings across 49 categories. Hope you find it useful.

Ray from Santa Barbara writes: First off, great article, Mike. It's really great to see Bay Area teams get coverage on ESPN. I just know a guy like Josh Morgan would get run on Mike and Mike or at least ESPN news if he played on the Giants or Pats. It's good to see the West Coast writers giving these guys attention. Since you cover the NFL, my question to you is this: If Michael Crabtree is ignorant enough to re-enter the draft, do you see him going anywhere higher than the second round? From what the Internet says, the general consensus is no, but these days most people on the Internet are hardly experts. I think this is another unfortunate story of an athlete who has no clue of what the term "fair market value" actually means. Anyways, keep the articles coming. You're always a good read.

Mike Sando: Thanks, Ray. First, I can't see Crabtree sitting out the whole season. He would lose money. Whether he fell into the second round a year from now might depend upon what he did to assure teams' fears. He could drop significant just on the fears that he would be a difficult player to sign. I just cannot see it getting to that point. There's too much at stake.

Jordan from the Bay Area writes: Hey Sando, longtime reader. I stumbled across this article.

Mike Sando: NFL.com's Jason La Canfora takes the Seahawks to win the NFC West, declaring Matt Hasselbeck as the best quarterback in the division. Kurt Warner has been outstanding and his offensive line returns after starting 20 games last season. I think the Cardinals will be tough to unseat in the division if their running game becomes a factor throughout the season, not just sporadically.

Ocho from Seattle writes: Sando, why on earth aren't the Seahawks going after some free agent O-Linemen?

Mike Sando: The available linemen are likely to remain available for the short term. Seattle should understand its needs better once more is known on the Walter Jones front. I suspect that is the reasoning behind the wait, although I tend to think this team needs a veteran tackle either way.

Casey from San Francisco writes: Sando, just wanted to clarify. The Gridiron Challenge you posted, are we only taking NFC West players? If not, maybe we should. We're all in fantasy leagues and having to pick players from one division would be a great challenge and fun complement to what we're doing already. Thoughts?

Mike Sando: I wonder, though, if the gene pool would be a little small. In the NFC West, everyone would take Frank Gore or Steven Jackson most weeks. Everyone would take Larry Fitzgerald, etc. Not sure there would be enough variety.

Tyler from Reno writes: In the case of Michael Crabtree, if he continues to hold out, does his overall compensation begin to shrink? For example, if he misses the first two games of the regular season, does he recieve less when he finally signs his contract? If that is the case, doesn't he realize that no one has broken the slotting system so far and he isn't going to break it, either, so he is only hurting his wallet in the end? If I were the 49ers management, my offers would be getting smaller, not bigger, as my rookie has that much less of a career than the others. Thanks for your help!!

Mike Sando: Yes, Crabtree would lose a game check each week he missed during the regular season. Teams pay base salaries over the 17-week season, counting the bye. Crabtree could try to make back the money by negotiating extra cash into his deal, but I'm thinking the 49ers would draw a hard line on this one.

Josh from Bend, Ore., writes: Mike, First let me say I really enjoy your work. Fair and insightful. My question is this: Is Nick Reed going to make the the Seahawks team? He is one of those energy guys. Every teams needs one or two of the overachievers. They say he is too small. What, too small to sack the QB, have a pick, block a punt, get tackles for a loss? No, no, no and NO!! What do you think?

Mike Sando: I think he earns a spot on the initial 53-man roster and I thought Jim Mora alluded to that reality during a recent radio interview. What else could Reed possibly do to earn a spot on this roster?

Steve from Arizona writes: The running back situation in Arizona keeps getting crazier! Like the battle for the No. 1 spot between Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower isn't intriguing enough, the Cards' big free-agent acquistion, Jason Wright, is being outplayed by the rookie LaRod Stpehens-Howling. What are the Cards gonna do? Would they actually cut Wright and use that third back spot for Howling?

Mike Sando: The Cardinals would probably keep all four of them at the expense of a second fullback. They play three or more receivers quite a bit, anyway, so the need for a second fullback isn't all that great.