Now that the season is over and we have had time to dissect the awful ending to what was a promising 2010 season it is time to start looking forward a little bit and wondering what the St. Louis Rams might have in store for them in 2011. The only thing that is certain as of right now, assuming the season is not shortened due to a strike, is we know who the Rams will be facing in 2011. At first blush it looks like it is going to be tough sledding for the Rams next season. Here is who the Rams will be facing.
Home: Arizona, Seattle, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington, New Orleans, Baltimore, Cincinnati
Road: Arizona, Seattle, San Francisco, Dallas, NY Giants, Green Bay, Cleveland, Pittsburgh
When you look at the schedule as we sit here in January you have to believe that the Rams will have a difficult time of it in 2011. Having road trips to Dallas, New York, Pittsburgh and Green Bay is daunting to say the least. Meanwhile the home schedule doesn’t look a lot better with playoff teams like Philadelphia, New Orleans and Baltimore all coming to St. Louis. Does it all mean though that the Rams will do worse than their 7-9 record of this past season and does it mean that maybe this season was not a true indicator of where the Rams organization really is?
Will the Rams finish worse than 7-9? You have to say it is of course a possibility, but there are a lot of things that can change between now and when the Rams actually see these teams. Remember when we looked at the Rams schedule before the season there was no way they would beat San Diego or win in Denver, but circumstances change. You never know what the other team will look like when you actually play them. Not to mention we have a whole offseason to get through before we can truly evaluate what the Rams will have or any of these other teams.
Does it mean the Rams record of 7-9 was deceiving? You can make a case that the Rams had the record they did because of their soft schedule, but again you can only play the teams they put in front of you. Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona had essentially the same schedule and their records were the best they could do. The Rams merely did the best they could and came up with seven wins. Sure facing the AFC North and NFC East is more daunting then facing the NFC South and AFC West, but that was how it was in 2010, not necessarily how it will be in 2011.
There have already been some who say that the Rams are doomed because of their tougher schedule, but what they forget is that the Rams share 14 common opponents with the other teams in the NFC West. Those teams have to make some of those trips as well and unless there is some huge talent jump by the entire division I don’t think any of those teams will be favored in places like Pittsburgh or Philadelphia or Baltimore.
When you dig even deeper you realize that those other NFC West teams are going to have just as rough of a time getting to 9-7 or 10-6 next year. Here are the only differences, outside of the 14 common games, these teams have in comparing opponents.
Rams: vs. New Orleans, at Green Bay
Cardinals: vs. Carolina, at Minnesota
49ers: vs. Tampa Bay, at Detroit
Seahawks: vs. Atlanta, at Chicago
At first blush the only game that would appear to be a sure betting favorite for an NFC West team is the Cardinals hosting the Carolina Panthers. Every other game would probably have the opposing team as the favorite if they were setting lines today.
The one thing that can also change everything is what happens with the collective bargaining agreement. The NFL season could be shortened if there is a work stoppage. The NFL season could be longer if there is agreement to play 18 games. Everything is up in the air with the league and much like the league everything is up in the air with the teams in the NFC West. There may be reason to think the Rams might have a tougher time in 2011, but there is too much instability to say that with any certainty. Things might not be as bad as they appear as we sit here in January.
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