Friday, November 15, 2013
Rams at the bye: Looking ahead
By Nick Wagoner
ST. LOUIS -- Earlier today, we took a look back at the Rams' first 10 games and how they got to this bye week with a 4-6 record.
With six losses already under their belt, anything short of winning out will likely leave the Rams at home once again come the postseason. But there's still plenty to gain over the final six weeks.
As the youngest team in the league, the Rams probably aren't far off what realistic expectations were for this point in the season. How they came to this point is a different matter, but it doesn't mean the Rams can't finish this season by taking another step in the right direction.
Here's how the final six games look along with a prediction of win or loss.
Week 12 vs. Chicago
On the schedule, it says this is a home game and it is in the sense that it's being played at the Edward Jones Dome. But we've seen Bears fans take over the Rams' home stadium before, and I have no reason to believe next week's matchup will be any different. That will make it harder for the Rams to pull off a win but in terms of the matchup, it's not out of the question. Coming off a big win against Indianapolis and a bye week to rest up and get healthy, there's a legitimate chance for the Rams to get a win.
Week 13 at San Francisco
The Niners throttled the Rams in Week 4 here in St. Louis, leaving little reason to think the Rams can compete with them on the road. San Francisco has mostly been much better since that game, but it still has Jekyll-and-Hyde tendencies. The Rams shocked everyone by playing the Niners to a draw last season. The Rams should be more competitive in this meeting than the first one but it probably won't be enough.
Week 14 at Arizona
The Rams already have a win against the Cardinals this season but needed a late comeback in the fourth quarter to pull it off. Sam Bradford led that comeback and he's gone now, which makes the matchup that much more difficult. The Rams should still be able to give Arizona's offensive line troubles all day, but the Cardinals are playing better than most realize.
Week 15 vs. New Orleans
For whatever reason, the Rams seem to give the Saints fit, no matter the year or the coaching matchup. The last time these two met in St. Louis, the Rams stunned everybody by pulling off a big win in 2011. This Saints team again appears to be much better than the Rams on paper and it also boasts a much more dominant Jimmy Graham at tight end.
Week 16 vs. Tampa Bay
Probably the only game remaining on the schedule where Rams fans should have some level of certainty for a win. The Rams handled the Bucs on the road last year and this one is at home against a team struggling as much as any other. Perhaps a coaching change in Tampa could give the Bucs some late-season life but otherwise, it's harder to see the Rams dropping this one.
Week 17 at Seattle
Once again, the Rams close out a season on the road against a strong Seattle team. The way the season is shaking out, the Seahawks are headed toward the NFC West Division title and a possible No. 1 seed in the NFC. The guess here is the Seahawks will have both of those accomplishments wrapped up by the time the Rams visit. St. Louis and Seattle play close, hotly contested games as it is but with the Seahawks potentially resting key players, the Rams could emerge with a nice victory.
So there you have it, a prediction of 3-3 for the final six, which would put the Rams at 7-9 on the season. Of course, injuries and such could alter this but given the schedule 3-3 feels like the best-case scenario for the Rams down the stretch. They could surprise and win another or disappoint and drop one of those potential wins, too. Unpredictability has been a staple of the season as well.
Should the Rams go 3-3 in the final six, they'd finish at 7-9 and frankly, that wouldn't be such a bad finish. Sure, the Rams had better expectations than that coming into the season, but we've long discussed the possibility of the Rams actually having a worse record to end the season but being a better team when they get there. That's why it won't be the record so much as how it's attained that truly matters in the team's final six game.