If someone asked me how many games the Rams are going to win in 2010, I would probably give one of two answers. My pessimistic side would say "2-4 wins", and my optimistic side would say "5-8 wins, due to their easy schedule". But surprisingly, when I look at the season one game at a time, it is easy to lean towards the optimistic side. They play seven games against teams that had five wins or less in 2009 (Seattle twice, Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Washington, Detroit, and Oakland). And they play four games against teams that are clearly on the decline (Arizona twice, Denver, and Carolina).
I don't think the Rams are going to have a miraculous comeback season, and make the playoffs, like the '07 Atlanta Falcons, or the '08 Miami Dolphins. But their schedule definitely doesn't hurt their chances. There is a good chance the Rams will be drafting in the top 10 again in the 2011 draft, but I don't think it will be in the top 5 this time (which might put them in a perfect spot to draft Georgia WR AJ Green, but that's another story). So here is my prediction for each game in the 2010 season:
WEEK 1 VS. ARIZONA CARDINALS- WIN
The Rams start off at home against the Cardinals. Both teams will come ready to play, given it's the opener, but the Rams have the home field advantage. Expect the Dome to be a factor; with Sam Bradford's debut, and the buzz surrounding the team after beating the Patriots, it should be a stadium full of Rams Fans.
Arizona is not the same team from the last two seasons (and even those teams were not dominant during the regular season). They have two mediocre options at QB (Matt Leinart, Derek Anderson), and they aren't sure which one will be the starter. WR Anquan Boldin is gone, making double coverage on Larry Fitzgerald an option (Fitzgerald has already struggled against CB Ron Bartell alone). They will have to rely on their running game, and so far in the preseason, the Rams defense has been dominant against the run. And we saw how weak Arizona's defense can be, when they played Green Bay and New Orleans in the playoffs. So I think the Rams take the 'W' opening day.
WEEK 2 @ OAKLAND RAIDERS- LOSS
The Rams will be on the road in Oakland, against a team with a good defense. Raiders QB Jason Campbell is much better than JaMarcus Russell, and Campbell will have some weapons at his disposal that he didn't have last season in Washington (McFadden, Heyward-Bey, Zach Miller). I don't think the Raiders have a completely better team than the Rams; but they have a better defense, and they have the home field advantage. I think this will be a circumstantial loss.
WEEK 3 VS. WASHINGTON REDSKINS- WIN
The Rams have played the Redskins in 2008 and 2009. In 2008, the Redskins were one of two teams that the Rams beat. And in 2009, they lost in the final seconds of the game. I think the 2010 Rams have the talent to finish the job with ease this time around. And I'm not buying into ESPN, I don't believe that the Redskins are suddenly a contender in the NFC East just because they added Donavon McNabb. I think McNabb will be under the same pressure from the pass rush that Jason Campbell was in '09. I'm not buying it, the Rams take this game, especially since they are at home.
WEEK 4 VS. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS- WIN
The Rams have not beat the Seattle Seahawks since the playoffs in 2004. That's pretty pathetic actually. But the Seahawks continue to get worse, and the Rams have built a pretty solid foundation. I think the Seahawks are more like the Rams of 2007; they are on their way down, and the current Rams are on their way up. I think this time, at home, the Rams finally beat Seattle; and they start off the season 3-1.
WEEK 5 @ DETROIT LIONS- LOSS
Some people might disagree with this prediction, but I think the Lions pull off this win. The Lions were the only team the Rams beat in 2009, but I think the Lions get their revenge. The Lions have possibly the most talented WR in the league in Calvin Johnson, and he will give the Rams' weak defensive backfield trouble. The Lions also have other weapons on offense, like TE Brandon Pettigrew, WR Nate Burleson, and explosive rookie RB Jahvid Best. And a defensive line featuring Kyle VandenBosch and Ndamukong Suh could give the Rams o-line some trouble.
WEEK 6 VS. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS- LOSS
San Diego has a very powerful offense that is capable of putting up points. They do have some question marks on defense, but I don't think it matters. San Diego is a playoff team, and possibly even a Super Bowl threat. The Rams are just not at that point yet. Even if it is a home game, I don't see the Rams pulling off a win this week.
WEEK 7 @ TAMPA BAY BUCS- WIN
Tampa Bay is a very weak team. Second year QB Josh Freeman did not have a very promising rookie performance, and I think he continues to struggle in his second year. RB Cadillac Williams is a shadow of his rookie form, and #2 RB Derrick Ward has been extremely disappointing so far for the Bucs. The Bucs had a good draft, obtaining DT Gerald McCoy, DT Brian Price, WR Arrelious Benn, and WR Mike Williams. They have some young talent to build on, but I think the Rams have the means to dominate the Bucs.
WEEK8 VS CAROLINA PANTHERS- LOSS
They are not the same Carolina Panthers that went to the Super Bowl. The lost QB Jake Delhomme, and Steve Smith is not the dominating WR he use to be. But Delhomme's replacement, Matt Moore, was 4-1 as a starter when he stepped in (beating both New Orleans and Minnesota). I think this has potential to be a very close game. But I think that ultimately Carolina will pull of a victory.
WEEK 9 BYE
WEEK 10 @ SAN FRANCISCO- LOSS
San Francisco is the favorite to win the division. They have a defense that will potentially be one of the best in the league. I think their weakness is QB Alex Smith, and I think that QB should have been their first priority this past off-season, especially with Donovan McNabb and Jason Campbell available. But they still have weapons on offense in Michael Crabtree, Frank Gore, and Vernon Davis. The 49ers have been rebuilding for a long time, and they are finally ready. I don't think the Rams can compete with the 49ers until 2011 at the very earliest.
WEEK 11 VS ATLANTA FALCONS- LOSS
Atlanta, much like Carolina, is a team that I think the Rams could possibly upset. But Atlanta has Michael Turner and Roddy White on offense, with a solid QB in Matt Ryan. The Falcons don't have a very strong defense (ranked 21st in 2009), but I think that their offense will be just a little too much for the Rams in week 11.
WEEK 12 @ DENVER BRONCOS- WIN
I just don't agree with the moves head coach Josh McDaniels has made for the Broncos. The team failed to make the playoffs last season, so McDaniels responded by letting go of their best offensive player in Brandon Marshall, and dropped a solid TE in Tony Scheffler. Bronco fans must be going crazy. Hopefully, by week 12, Josh McDaniels will go completely insane, and decide to start Tim Tebow at QB. That would seal the deal for the Rams. McDaniels destroyed this team, and I think it will show in 2010.
WEEK 13 @ ARIZONA CARDINALS- LOSS
This is where Arizona gets their revenge for week 1. They will be at home, and whichever QB they choose will probably be much more comfortable with the offense by week 13. The Rams also have thin depth, and I think that will begin to show by week 13.
WEEK 14 @ NEW ORLEANS SAINTS- LOSS
New Orleans has a pass happy offense, and the Rams secondary is pretty weak. I think the reigning Super Bowl champs pull of a win, and expose the Rams defensive backfield all day. The Rams had a pretty good showing against New Orleans in 2009, keeping the game close through the first half, but I think the outcome will be the same as it was in '09.
WEEK 15 VS KANSAS CITY CHIEFS- WIN
The Chiefs were 11th in the NFL in rushing. And the addition of RB Thomas Jones can only help. Jones will probably take the majority of the carries, and share time with Jamaal Charles. The Chiefs currently lead the NFL in average rushing yards per game, for the preseason. However, they were 25th in the NFL in passing offense in 2009. So given their lack of a passing offense, and the way the Rams defense has been playing against the run, I don't see the Chiefs offense over powering the Rams in any way. The Chiefs have a lot of potential on defense in Eric Berry, Tyson Jackson, Glenn Dorsey; and some proven veterans in Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali. But despite the potential they have on 'D', the Chiefs defense was ranked 30th in total yards allowed, which was even worse than the Rams last year (29th). I don't think Matt Cassel is the answer for them at QB, and their defense is too young to flourish. The only thing they have going for them is their running game, but that's not enough to win on the road against the Rams.
WEEK 16 SAN FRANSISCO 49ER'S- LOSS
Again, the 49ers are a very strong team, and have the talent to have a top defense in the league. Mix that with their offensive weapons (Davis, Gore, Crabtree), and the Rams won't beat this team, even in St.Louis. The only way the Rams win this game is if the 49ers have clinched home field advantage (in the playoffs) at this point, and bench their starters.
WEEK 17 @ SEATTLE SEAHAWKS- WIN
The Seahawks are trying to put band-aids over major wounds, but they need a complete makeover. The Seahawks are on the decline, and the Rams are on the rise. I see the Ram rolling over them in 2010, and I think we will see the Rams end the season on a high note.
FINAL RECORD: 7-9