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Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Morning Ram-blings: Schedule musings

By Nick Wagoner

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Back in the preseason we discussed the idea of strength of schedule and trying to project it out over the course of an NFL season. What looks like a difficult slate in July often looks much different in December or, in this case, October.

Five weeks into the 2013 NFL season, the St. Louis Rams' schedule certainly looks different than expected. According to our friends at Football Outsiders, the Rams played the second easiest schedule in the league over the first five weeks using their value over average metric adjustments. That factors in the combined records of the Rams' opponents thus far but digs deeper into the performance of those opponents. To this point, the Rams have played Arizona (3-2), Atlanta (1-4), Dallas (2-3), San Francisco (3-2) and Jacksonville (0-5), leaving their opponents with a combined record of 9-16.

Using their metrics, the Rams are about to embark on a schedule that will be the hardest in the league over the next 11 games. Of course, it's important to note that what looks like an extremely tough slate in the next 11 will change and vary week to week based on the Rams' performance and that of their upcoming opponents.

Still, we probably don't need too many advanced statistics to look at the schedule and see some trouble ahead. Houston and Carolina represent two tough road games though neither team is playing particularly well right now. A return home to face Seattle will be extremely tough and the Rams have dates with an improved Tennessee and an excellent Indianapolis team coming soon. That doesn't even factor for three NFC West division road games and a home game against vastly improved New Orleans down the stretch.

Entering the season, the Rams supposedly had the fourth most difficult schedule in the league. Of course, that was based on the performance of the records of this year's opponents in 2012. Those records obviously mean nothing now. Through five weeks, teams like New Orleans and Kansas City have proved much better than last year's record shows while teams like Atlanta have failed to live up to those expectations. The Rams themselves have been a disappointment compared to where they were at this time a year ago.

So while the numbers indicate a schedule that will be difficult based on tough opponents in the final 11, it's made that much tougher by a Rams team that hasn't lived up to the expectations that they created themselves a year ago. Therein lies the problem in any discussion involving schedule strength and the NFL.

I.C.Y.M.I. 

Our morning roundup of yesterday's Rams stories here on ESPN.com. ... We began Tuesday with our weekly Redskins watch and a quick look at the potential quarterback crop of 2014. ... We followed with a look at the Rams' No. 25 spot on this week's power rankings. ... From there, it was time for a little film work with our weekly study sessions on the offense and another on the defense.

Elsewhere:

The Baltimore Sun took a look at hometown kid Tavon Austin and the Rams' struggles in getting him going so far this season.

KMOX.com took an early look at the Houston Texas, this week's Rams' opponent.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch provided a look at the Rams and special teams penalties as well as the job done by rookie Zac Stacy to earn another start at running back.

Post-Dispatch beat writer Jim Thomas took plenty of questions in his weekly chat.