Thursday, September 29, 2011

St. Louis Rams: 5 Things That Will Save Their Season From Going Up In Flames

St. Louis fans are frantic at the moment trying to figure out what went wrong with their beloved Rams. 

But honestly, it's not rocket science. The answers are quite clear. 

Steven Jackson, an elite running back in this league and their best overall player, has been sidelined since Week 1 after only two carries. 

Their most reliable wide receiver, Danny Amendola, who happens to be Sam Bradford's favorite bailout option, dislocated his elbow during the Rams' 2011 opener against Philadelphia. This explains why the team is converting only 25.5 percent of their third downs. 

If those two injuries weren't crippling enough, they also lost Ron Bartell for the season from a neck injury. He was by far the team's best cornerback heading into 2011. 

But with both Jackson and Amendola possibly returning for the team's Week 4 matchup against theWashington Redskins, both the excuses and the patience are running thin. 

The Rams have to get their act together soon if they want to avoid a catastrophic outcome. That means Sunday is practically a must-win situation. 

Here's what they have to do to get back on track not only for the Washington game, but for the remainder of 2011...

1) Fix the Leak In the Secondary

The secondary is one of the most obvious faults with the team currently.

You won't hear Ron Bartell's injury being discussed on ESPN or the NFL Network, but truthfully his injury has had just as much negative impact as any other current injury in the NFL besides Peyton Manning.

He does not have multiple Pro Bowls on his resume, but he is a veteran presence with superb coverage and tackling skills. He truthfully lies between the top 10 to 15 cornerbacks in the NFL, but don't tell ESPN—they'll never admit that since he's not playing on a coast.

Bartell was injured with a fractured neck during Week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Ever since then, in his place, the Rams have relied on their 2008 fourth-round pick Justin King. The results have been disastrous to say the least. 

Last week against the Baltimore Ravens, King allowed rookie receiver Torrey Smith to score three touchdowns in the first quarter alone. The Rams lost in a 37-7 blowout. 

The Rams have to resolve the situation before every remaining team on their schedule destroys their secondary, simply by attacking the weak spot (King). 

The Rams just recently made their first effort toward clogging the leak by signing veteran corner Rod Hood. 
Here are the details regarding the Hood signing. Basically he's the best veteran available and should produce better results than any corner currently on the roster. 

For the sake of their 2011 season, the Rams better hope that Hood is a somewhat-dependable response to their cornerback situation. 

2) Quickly Synchronize Amendola and Clayton

The Rams need offensive production and they need it fast. 

They have converted only 25.5 percent of their third-down conversions and their offense has given up just as many defensive touchdowns as they have scored all season (three).

It's not overly shocking due to them losing their two most productive offensive weapons to injury (Danny Amendola, Steven Jackson).

However, they'll possibly be getting both of their top two weapons back from injury as soon as this Sunday against the Washington Redskins.

Along with the return of Jackson and Amendola, the Rams will be reacquainted with another familiar face—wide receiver Mark Clayton. 

Clayton was the Rams' top receiver the first four weeks in 2010. Clayton had 22 catches for 300 yards and two touchdowns in his first four games with the Rams last season before going down with a season-ending knee injury during the team's fifth game against Detroit.

After a year of rehabbing the knee, Clayton has returned to the Rams and has been placed on the team's PUP list (physically unable to perform), which automatically makes him inactive for the first six weeks, but allows him to return to the team for Week 7.

This means that Sam Bradford will be reunited with two of his favorite offensive targets within the next couple of weeks.

On the bright side, this could result is a major boost for the team's offensive production.

However, Bradford hasn't thrown a pass to Amendola in three weeks and he hasn't thrown to Clayton in a year, which could result in sloppy routes and poorly timed passes. 

The Rams need to avoid setbacks. They don't have time for an adjustment period. Bradford needs to be in sync with both Amendola and Clayton as soon as they return. If he can accomplish that, then the payoff could be huge. 
3) Remember Who’s Boss

It was exciting to watch Sam Bradford play last season since he was a No. 1 overall draft pick, so much so that people forgot who the team belongs to—Steven Jackson. 

It was like a child getting a new Game Boy for Christmas and temporarily forgetting about the Xbox hooked up to the flat screen (not that Bradford doesn't have the potential to be every bit the difference-maker Jackson is).

This team does not have the receiving arsenal required to excel through the air, although the return of Amendola and Clayton could help make that a reality. 

What the team does have, however, is an elite running back in Jackson. 

Call him old, say that he lost a step, but he is elite whether you like it or not. 

When Jackson is in the game, defenses have no choice but to respect the run. Cadillac Williams played decent at times filling in for Jackson while he's been out with his quad injury, but Williams does not strike fear in opponents.

When the defense is respecting the run, they are not respecting the pass. And Bradford has the physical tools to make them pay for that, no matter how mediocre his receivers are.

Jackson is a difference-maker in this league. If you need proof, then look no further than the past three games when he has been out of the lineup. Give Bradford responsibilities, but put the outcome of the game on Jackson's shoulders.   

4) Threaten Steve Loney’s Job and Make the Offensive Line Earn Their Money

The Rams have been struggling with a below-average offensive line for several years now. 

Players have come and gone. The Rams have drafted linemen, cut linemen, signed free agents and switched up their positions. 

They spent a No. 2 overall draft pick on Jason Smith, a second-round pick on Rodger Saffold and they've invested in three mid- to high-priced free agents (Jacob Bell, Jason Brown, Harvey Dahl). 

The effort toward finding offensive line talent is undeniable. The front office has spent a lot of resources in building a solid front five. 

But after the first three games of 2011, the Rams offensive line is still playing at a below-average level. 

With all the resources and all of the change, there is one constant that still remains—offensive line coach Steve Loney. 

Loney was hired during the Scott Linehan regime of 2006 to 2009. He is the only coach from that era still remaining, for some reason unknown to the St. Louis fanbase.

At the very least, given the continued futility, the front office should at least put some pressure on Loney. Threaten his job and demand results. He has no excuse. The front office has gone to hell and back finding him talent to work with and still he has yet to produce a respectable product on the field.

But it can't be 100 percent on Loney. The players need to have personal accountability. The coaching staff should have a private meeting with the starting five linemen and remind them what each of them are earning each game. Warn them that there will be changes sooner rather than later if they do not perform at an admirable level.

And finally, the surrounding players need to get involved. Sam Bradford needs to get in Jason Smith's face every time he gets bull-rushed to the ground. Steven Jackson needs to chew out Jacob Bell every time he runs into a brick wall.  

5) Smack Someone In the Mouth, Taste Some Blood

The team is flat and lifeless on the field, and the emotion is just not visible. Someone needs to light the fire under the rear end of this team and get them fired up to play on game day. 

Enough with the foolish penalties during critical situations. If they are going to get penalties, fine, but at least get something out of them. 

To quote the great Al Pacino from the movie "Any Given Sunday":

"If you're going to make mistakes make them big. I'm not going to eat your lunch for that."

If you feel the need to get a penalty, don't do it when the team is on a promising drive trying to get its first score of the game. 

Do it during a low-risk situation when the opposing team has the momentum. Chop-block someone, head-slap someone, draw some blood. Be nasty.

If the you're going to lose, fine. If the other team is going to end up winning, fine. But at least make the other team leave the game beat up. At least establish a scrappy reputation.

Don't let the other team leave the game hoping that they can play you again every single week for the remainder of the season.  

Establish that identity, show that swagger, then future opposition will enter the games with less confidence. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

St. Louis Rams Could Add CB Rod Hood to the Active Roster

St. Louis Rams beat writer Jim Thomas of the post dispatch just announced over Twitter that the team may be looking to add cornerback Rod Hood to the roster.

jthom1: Rams waive s jermale hines from active roster, waive te/fb ben guidugli from practice squad. Cb rod hood could be joining active roster.

The possible signing is a reaction to the pitiful performance by CB Justin King last Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.

King was burned for three touchdowns in the first quarter alone, all three touchdowns were scored by rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith, who was making his NFL debut for Baltimore.

King is filling is for injured Rams veteran Ron Bartell, who is out for the season with an injured neck. The loss of Bartell is one of the more underrated injuries in the NFL, as his absence is effecting his team as much as any injured NFL player besides Peyton Manning.

Rod Hood could be a suitable temporary replacement for Bartell, and a permanent replacement for King.

Hood started his career with the Philadelphia Eagles between 2003 and 2006, where he played under current Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo, who was the defensive backs coach (2003) and the linebacker coach (2004-2006) during Hood's time there.

CB Rod Hood breaks up a pass intended for
WR Hines Ward during Super Bowl XLIII
Hood then played with the Arizona Cardinals for two seasons (2007, 2008), where he was a starter at cornerback during the Cardinals 2008 Super Bowl run. He also recorded the best season of his career with Arizona in 2007, where racked up 57 tackles and five interceptions (both career highs).

Hood most recently played for the Tennessee Titans in 2009. He started in four out of his six games with the Titans and was able to get three interceptions within that short time period. His season with the Titans ended after he was placed on injury reserve following an ACL tear.

- Hood is obviously the most appealing addition, but the Rams also worked out cornerbacks Bryan McCann, who was just recently released by Dallas, as well as Jeremy Ware (Oakland Raiders) and Mike Holmes (Chicago Bears). These workouts were confirmed by Jim Thomas through Twitter.

-The Rams also worked out wide receivers Chris Brooks, who spent time with Indianapolis and Tampa Bay in 2010, and rookie Adam Mims, who was cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers during training camp. These workouts were also confirmed by Jim Thomas through Twitter.

-To make room for the anticipated moves, the Rams waived safety Jermale Hines, who was the team's fifth-round pick last April out of Ohio State. They also released tight end Ben Guidugli from the practice squad.

UPDATE 9/27/11 8:00 PM

Rams Agree to Terms With CB Hood

Jim Thomas just reported on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the Rams have officially agreed to terms with cornerback Rod Hood.  

The 29-year-old veteran should be on the practice field by tomorrow (Wednesday), but it's unclear if he'll be up to speed in time for Sunday's match-up against the Washington Redskins.

However, whether he's fully acquainted yet or not, it's likely that he's still a much better option as a starter than Justin King, who has been a liability ever since replacing the injured Ron Bartell as the starter.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Rams vs. Eagles Post-Game: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Well, the St. Louis Rams (0-1) failed to pull off an opening day upset against the Philadelphia Eagles (1-0), and their roster was bombarded with injuries to key positions, but on the positive side there were some positives.

The Rams came out in the first-quarter looking like a team capable of taking down the so called "Dream Team", but in the end the Eagles had pound-for-pound more talent. Combine that with the numerous mental mistakes that the Rams made and there was no way they were going to win the game.

So let's get started...


The Rams defensive line was clearly not up to the task of stopping the run given LeSean McCoy's 122 rushing yards and Michael Vick's 97, but they were not terrible. The pass rush was present—if they were playing against any quarterback other than Vick then they would've had six or more sacks, as oppose to three.

The defensive backs also had a good game. Outside of DeSean Jackson's 41-yard catch, as well as his touchdown catch, the backs kept the receivers relatively in check for most of the game.

Also, the running backs clearly get an A+ for this game. Steven Jackson had 56 yards and a touchdown on only two carries before injuring his quad and leaving the game, and Cadillac Williams did a phenomenal job substituting with 91 yards on 19 carries.


Where to start?

Sam Bradford wasn't terrible. He was able to avoid any interceptions, which is a difficult thing for any young quarterback to do when their team is getting manhandled, but he certainly wasn't at the top of his game. He missed a wide-open Danny Amendola in the end-zone, and he also had a fumble during a sloppy hand off to the running back, which resulted is a defensive touchdown for the Eagles.

The linebackers were also noticeably bad. Besides James Laurinaitis, who had five tackles and a fumble recovery, the linebackers were slow and completely incapable of containing either Vick or McCoy. However, the defensive line deserves their share of the blame as well for the pitiful run defense.

The offensive line had some success with their run blocking, but they looked like five children pushing back grown men whenever they dropped back to pass block. It's no surprise that Bradford couldn't make a difference with Trent Cole, Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins in his face all game, those three combined for four of the Eagles six sacks on Sunday.

But the group most blatantly terrible were the receivers—Brandon Gibson and tight end Lance Kendricks had two drops each (one of Kendricks' drops was a possible touchdown), rookie Greg Salas had a drop and even the sure-handed Danny Amendola let one slip by. They were never going to make a huge difference with Philadelphia's deadly trio at cornerback (Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie), but there's no excuse for them blowing the few opportunities that were allowed by the Eagles secondary.


The Rams had a fairly healthy training camp, but they made up for it quickly by getting six of their starters banged up in the first game of the season.

- Sam Bradford (QB) injured his finger, but the x-rays indicate that there was no fracture. There's some concern regarding possible nerve damage, but he's expected to play next Monday night against the New York Giants.

-Steven Jackson (RB) left the game after only two carries with a strained quad. Reports are generally indicating that he'll be out until Week 3, but Jackson indicated on 101 ESPN in St. Louis that he's working towards getting healthy for next week's game, so there's hope.

- Danny Amendola (WR) dislocated his elbow and was initially thought to out for 8-10 weeks, but the latest reports indicate he might not need surgery, which will get him back in action much sooner than expected.

-Ron Bartell (CB) had the most serious injury with a fractured neck that will likely keep him out for the rest of the season. The loss of his coverage skills and veteran leadership will hurt.

-Jason Smith (OT) injured his ankle in what was originally thought to be a high ankle sprain, but it turns out it was a less severe low ankle sprain and he could be ready to play against Giants. He is considered day-to-day.

-Bradley Fletcher (CB) has a sprained toe and is day-to-day. He will likely be ready for the Giants—he almost has to be ready with Bartell's injury making the Rams conerback situation desperate enough.

-C.J. Ah You (DE) has an issue with is wrist that will require a brace, but he will still be able to play. The Rams will likely bring 2011 first round pick Robert Quinn into the mix as a result of Ah You's injury.

As you can see, the Rams bad luck with injuries from just one game is rather... excessive.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Rams vs Eagles: First Half Summary

The St. Louis Rams (0-0) are playing host to the Philadelphia Eagles (0-0) today at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, and the Rams came out of the gates looking like a team ready compete for a division title.

The game started with the Rams kicking off to the Eagles, and the St. Louis defense stepped up. A Bradley Fletcher sack forced Eagles quarterback Michael Vick to punt, which started the Rams first offensive drive.

Although, it wasn't much of a drive, more like one play... a 47-yard touchdown run by Steven Jackson.

However, Jackson had another 10-yard carry on the next drive, but was sidelined with a quad injury for the rest of the half. His return is questionable.

The Eagles made their first score inside the 10-yard-line after Vick hit running back LeSean McCoy with a shovel pass that was pounded into the end-zone.

On the next drive after the Eagles touchdown, the Rams brought the ball to Philadelphia's 35-yard-line when a hand-off between Sam Bradford and running back Cadillac Williams was fumbled and recovered by Juqua Parker, who ran it back into the end-zone for the Eagles second touchdown.  

Each team has a single field-goal as well, which makes the score 17-10, Eagles lead at the half.

The Rams defense is forcing plenty of third-down situations, but they are incapable of stopping the third-down conversions by the Eagles offense. That's something they have to fix before the second-half.

The offense is running the ball well with 115 rushing yards in the first half, but their passing offense is being shut down. The dropped balls by Lance Kendricks and Brandon Gibson are certainly not helping the matter.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Which Rams Receiver Will Be a Gem In 2011?

The St. Louis Rams had a wide receiver deficiency in 2011 to say the least.

Actually, they had arguable the worst group of receivers in the NFL if you look at statistics such as the team's very low yards per reception average of 9.9. Also, their number of receptions over 20 yards (36) was the third worst in the NFL, and their number of catches over 40 yards (four) was tied for second-to-last.

Mark Clayton emerged as the Rams top receiver for the first four games of 2010 before going down with a season-ending knee injury, and after Clayton was out Danny Amendola stepped up as the new primary target.

Although Amendola had an admirable season, finishing with 85 receptions and leading the NFL in all-purpose yards, he was still unable to get downfield on deep routes and he only averaged 8.1 yards per catch.

So with Clayton not fully recovered from his knee surgery, and with Amendola still incapable of providing a long ball threat, who will step up as the Rams top receiver in 2011?

Surely it has to be someone.

Rams Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels has created six 1,000 yard receivers over the last four seasons as either a coordinator or head coach— Randy Moss (2007, 2008), Wes Welker (2007, 2008), Brandon Marshall (2009) and Brandon Lloyd (2010).

So with McDaniels' ability to squeeze production out of his receivers, combined with stability at the quarterback position, it's likely that one of the Rams receivers will produce the numbers expected out of a No.1 wide receiver, despite the team's lack of overall talent at the position.

Which receiver will break the barrier and develop into the Rams first 1,000 yard receiver since Torry Holt in 2007? But more importantly, who has what it takes to be Sam Bradford's "go to guy"?

Mike Sims-Walker

At 6'2" and 212 pounds with 4.3 second 40-yard-dash speed, recently acquired free agent Mike Sims-Walker dominates the other Rams receivers in the physical tools department.

He has been closer to 1,000 yards than any other receiver currently on the team as a result of his 869 yard season in 2009, and he's clearly the most dangerous end-zone target with seven touchdowns in each of his last two seasons, which is a significant upgrade considering all of the Rams wide receivers combined for only 10 total touchdowns in 2010.

The only thing really standing in the way of Sims-Walker becoming the top receiver is injuries, but his injury rap sheet is over exaggerated— he missed seven games as a rookie in 2008 due to a knee injury, but has only missed three games in the last two seasons combined.

The only other factor working against Sims-Walker is a possible lack of chemistry between him and Bradford due to the lockout, but that's something that will go away with time. Bradford developed familiarity with Clayton and Amendola rather quickly as a rookie last year.

Brandon Gibson

Although Sims-Walker has a lot more name recognition, that doesn't change the fact that Brandon Gibson is currently sitting at the top of the depth chart as the team's No.1 wide receiver.

Some fans may balk at the idea of Gibson becoming the lead receiver, which is understandable given his mediocrity throughout the first two seasons of his career in 2009 and 2010. However, it takes time for receivers to develop and find their groove, so don't count Gibson out just because of past performances.

Here is a list of well-known receivers and the number of seasons it took for them the reach 1,000 yards for the first time:

Miles Austin (Four Seasons)
Marvin Harrison (Four Seasons)
Reggie Wayne (Four Seasons)
Wes Welker (Five Seasons)
Vincent Jackson (Four Seasons)
Terrell Owens (Three Seasons)
Roddy White (Three Seasons)
Greg Jennings (Three Seasons)
Steve Smith (Three Seasons) *Carolina Panthers
Donald Driver (Four Seasons)
Santonio Holmes (Four Seasons)
Brandon Lloyd (Eight Seasons)

The point being that it's fairly rare for a receiver to enter the NFL and become a 1,000 yard guy within his first two years, especially a sixth-round draft pick like Brandon Gibson.

As you can see from the list, a lot of receivers turn the corner during their third NFL season. That doesn't mean that Gibson is guaranteed to play at a high level, but it's ridiculous to completely judge his ability after only two years in the league.

If the preseason is any indication, then Gibson could have a big year.

Danny Amendola

Danny Amendola is frequently referred to as a "poor man's Wes Welker", but is that really the case? Why is Amendola not every bit the player that Welker is? After all, when you break it down, the two are practically identical.

Here's is a little bio comparison on the two:

Wes Welker (5'9, 185 pounds)  Danny Amendola (5'11", 188 pounds)

Welker's College: Texas Tech
Amendola's College: Texas Tech

Welker's College Stats: 259 receptions, 3069 yards, 21 touchdowns
Amendola's College Stats: 204 receptions, 2246 yards, 15 touchdowns

Welker's First Two Seasons of NFL Action: 29 receptions 434 yards, 67 receptions 687 yards
Amendola's First Two Seasons of NFL Action: 43 receptions 326 yards, 85 receptions 689 yards

In Welker's third season of NFL action he went on to catch 112 balls for 1,175 yards under Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels. Amendola is about the enter his third NFL season... under coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Yes, there is a big difference between the Patriots supporting cast and the Rams, but if those coincidences don't convince you that it's at least possible for Amendola to become the same level of receiver as Welker, then nothing will.

Amendola is Bradford's favorite target, which is why he had 85 catches last year. Except this year opposing defenses won't have the luxury of closing in on him due to the presence of Mike Sims-Walker and Lance Kendricks.


Between the Rams top three wide receivers (Mike Sims-Walker, Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola), each of them are generating signs in their own unique way that they are about to break loose.

So given the maturity of the team, along with a respectable coordinator in Josh McDaniels, a solid offensive line, a decent run game, as well as a capable quarterback in Sam Bradford, it's not really a question of "if" one of the receiver will have a breakout year, it's more a question of "who".

And with the potential of each receiver clear as day, it's anybody's guess in the end.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Official St. Louis Rams 2011 Season Predictions

The St. Louis Rams will play host to the Philadelphia Eagles at the Edward Jones Dome this Sunday in St. Louis for the 2011 season opener.

The Rams had a dismal 1-15 season in 2009, but they were able to bounce back with a respectable 7-9 record in 2010 despite losing the season finale against the Seattle Seahawks— which kept the Rams out of the playoffs. 

But the Rams will look to redeem themselves in 2011 and own an NFC West title for the first time since 2003.

Though the 2010 team fell short, the coaching staff and the front office made some decent additions in an attempt to prevent a similar outcome, such as Quintin Mikell, Mike Sims-Walker, Cadillac Williams, Lance Kendricks, Justin Bannan and even offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Though the first half of the schedule seems intimidating at first sight, the Rams are a talented team with clear playoff potential.

And with that, here is a prediction for the outcome of the Rams 2011 campaign...

Week 1: Rams vs. Eagles

Game Time: 12:00 PM CDT
Game Date: September 11th, 2011
Location: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis,MO

Verdict:   WIN  (Rams 27, Eagles 23)
Record: 1-0

The Philadelphia Eagles have pound-for-pound more overall talent, but the stars seem to be aligning for the Rams when it comes to this particular game.

The Eagles are weak where the Rams are solid, whether it's the Eagles very questionable offensive line taking on a nasty St. Louis front four or Philly's weak and young linebacker corps facing inside receivers like Danny Amendola and Lance Kendricks, who are both capable of causing problems for defenders with short and intermediate routes.

Not to mention, rookie defensive coordinator Juan Castillo's first assignment will be to game plan against a Josh McDaniels' offense, which is a difficult task even for veteran coaches.

Also, if the Rams are going to beat a team that's above their heads at any point in 2011, then it will be at the beginning of the season before the more talented teams have completely gelled.

The Rams are a very disciplined team—even during their 1-15 season in 2009, the effort from the players was clearly visible every week, and that kind of dedication will help them pull off an upset in the opener.

Week 2: Rams @ Giants (Monday Night Football)

Game Time: 7:30 PM CDT

Date: September 19th, 2011

Location: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford,NJ

Verdict:   LOSS  (Rams 23, Giants 27)
Record: 1-1

After a hard-fought opening game against the Eagles, the Rams will not get much of a break the following week against the New York Giants on Monday Night Football.

The Rams only prime-time game of 2010 was their disappointing finale against the Seahawks in Seattle, so it's possible that the pressure of Sunday or Monday Night Football is a little too much for some of the young players on the team.

The Rams have more veteran leadership this season, which could ultimately help them overcome that pressure, but if the Rams win the opening game against the Eagles, then they might enter MetLife stadium with a little too much confidence.

The Giants front eight is more intimidating than Philadelphia's, so Sam Bradford will make some mistakes under pressure, and New York's defense will also do some damage against the run game.

The Rams will stay toe-to-toe with the Giants for practically the entire game, but one or two major mistakes under the prime-time pressure creates the difference, such as giving up a touchdown on a kickoff or perhaps a long passing touchdown as a result of blown coverage.

The Rams earn respect with their Opening Day victory over the Eagles, but they lose against the Giants the following week for their own good, as the loss will get the team refocused.

Week 3: Rams vs. Ravens

Game Time: 7:30 PM CDT
Game Time: 3:05 PM CDT
Date: September 25th, 2011
Location: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis,MO

Verdict:   LOSS  (Rams 13, Ravens 17)
Record: 1-2

For the last 10 years, it has never been a easy feat to win against the Baltimore Ravens.

Some of their stars are aging, such as Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, but the defense is still very much a dominate unit and the offense is much better than what we've been used to in the past.

The Rams young offense will struggle against the experienced and highly talented Ravens defense, while the Rams defense plays a solid game, but they allow Baltimore to just barely outscore them.

The Rams lose a difficult game this week, but the experience they gain by playing a premiere defense benefits them for the remainder of the season.

Week 4: Rams vs. Redskins

Game Time: 12:00 PM CDT
Date: October 2nd, 2011
Location: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis,MO

Verdict:   WIN  (Rams 30, Redskins 10)
Record: 2-2

After three brutal games to start the season, the Rams finally get a bit of a break during the fourth week against the Washington Redskins.

The Redskins are generating a lot of buzz from their ability to successfully run the ball in the preseason, but the 0-16 Detroit Lions from 2008 went 4-0 in the preseason, so they'll be the first to tell you how meaningless it is.

The truth is that Redskins do not have a top running back capable of carrying the load for four quarters, they have the worst quarterback situation in the NFL and their defense is incapable of uniting despite some of the talented players they possess.

Unfortunately for the Redskins, the Rams will not be taking this game lightly after back-to-back losses.

The Rams use their home-field advantage to trample the rebuilding Redskins in this game, and Sam Bradford throws for three touchdowns and over 300 yards for the first time in 2011.

Week 6: Rams @ Green Bay Packers

Game Time: 12:00 PM CDT
Date: October 16th, 2011
Location: Lambeau Field, Green Bay,WI

Verdict:   LOSS  (Rams 17, Packers 27)
Record: 2-3

After getting a slight break from the Redskins in their fourth game, as well as their bye week following that game, the Rams get shoved right back into the fire for their fifth game of 2011 at Lambeau Field.

This mid-October matchup with the defending Super Bowl champs is not as intimidating as it would be if it were freezing cold on a December day in Green Bay, but it's still too much for the Rams to handle.

The Rams score a touchdown or two and make some promising stops on defense, so they certainly walk away from this game with a few positives to hang their hats on, but in the end, Green Bay easily overpowers them.

The Rams struggled winning on the road in 2010, so until they master the art of winning away games, they won't be outscoring the Packers at Lambeau anytime soon.

Week 7: Rams @ Cowboys

Game Time: 3:15 PM CDT
Date: October 23rd, 2011
Location: Cowboys Stadium, Dallas,TX

Verdict:   WIN  (Rams 27, Cowboys 21)
Record: 3-3

Once again, the Dallas Cowboys are being portrayed as a playoff threat in the NFC, but once again, that hype will prove to be unwarranted.

Cowboys rookie right tackle Tyron Smith will be worn down by the relentless motor of Chris Long, while left-tackle Doug Free will also be outdone by the defensive end combination of James Hall and Robert Quinn on the right side. 

As a result of the pressure, Tony Romo will feel vulnerable for the majority of the game, and it will lead to several sacks and a few turnovers. 

DeMarcus Ware greatly challenges the Rams offensive line, but in the end, the Rams offense is able to get it done when it counts.

Week 8: Rams vs. Saints

Game Time: 12:00 PM CDT
Date: October 30th, 2011
Location: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis,MO

Verdict:   LOSS  (Rams 17, Saints 24)
Record: 3-4

The Rams will enter their October 30th matchup against the New Orleans Saints with some excitement knowing that it's the end of the grueling portion of their 2011 schedule, but that excitement doesn't allow them to overcome this game. 

The Saints had a down year in 2010 after losing the NFC South title to the Atlanta Falcons, but they should produce a strong showing in 2011, which the Rams unfortunately fall victim to in this game. 

Just like the Green Bay game, the Rams will score a few points and make some defensive plays against the Saints, which will allow them to exit the game knowing that they did some good things.

However, the New Orleans offense is too powerful, and the Rams young offense is not developed enough to get into a shootout with one of the best in the business. 

Week 9: Rams @ Cardinals

Game Time: 3:15 PM CDT
Date: November 6th, 2011
Location: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale,AZ

Verdict:   WIN  (Rams 34, Cardinals 14)
Record: 4-4

The Rams enter this game determined to even their record at 4-4, and they leave the game with their first division win, which makes a statement to the rest of the NFC West that the Rams plan to own the 2011 season.

The Cardinals weak offensive line will allow the Rams to create consistent pressure all night, and at this point in the season, rookie defensive end Robert Quinn will be settled in and making plays, which makes the Rams pass rush even more dangerous.

Arizona's soft front eight on defense gives up big chunks of yardage on the ground, which sets up the play-action pass and results in several long gains through the air by the Rams offense.

This game will be the Rams best defensive showing throughout of the first half of 2011, and it's also the first game that the offense feels truly synchronized under their new Josh McDaniels' offense.

Week 10: Rams @ Browns

Game Time: 12:00 PM CDT
Date: November 13th, 2011
Location: Cleveland Browns Stadium, Cleveland,OH

Verdict:   LOSS  (Rams 16, Browns 17)
Record: 4-5

The Cleveland Browns were only 5-12 in 2010, but they are not a team to take likely. They are on the rise and have stepped up against some pretty powerful teams when they have the home-field advantage.

They beat the New England Patriots by the score of 34-14 during ninth week of 2010, and the very next game, they took the New York Jets into overtime, but they eventually lost to the Jets 26-20. 

Clearly, the Browns are a better team than most give them credit for, and they are certainly a tough team to play in their home stadium.

The Rams and the Browns will get into a defensive brawl this game, but the Browns will narrowly squeeze away with a one-point victory.

Week 11: Rams vs. Seahawks

Game Time: 3:05 PM CDT
Date: November 20th, 2011
Location: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis,MO

Verdict:   WIN  (Rams 26, Seahawks 13)
Record: 5-5

The Rams have been aching for another shot at the Seattle Seahawks ever since their devastating 2010 finale that resulted in the Rams missing out on postseason play.

That is why the Rams will enter this game with some intensity.

The weak Seattle defense will allow the Rams to control the clock with their run game, and the Rams offense will also come up big with a few deep passes.

The Seahawks offensive line is not capable of containing the Rams front four, so Tarvaris Jackson will be scrambling around for the entire game, which will result in a few interceptions. 

The Rams defense makes their presence known, and St. Louis evens out their record once again.

Week 12: Rams vs. Cardinals

Game Time: 12:00 PM CDT

Date: November 27th, 2011
Location: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis,MO

Verdict:   WIN  (Rams 28, Cardinals 13)
Record: 6-5

The Cardinals are thought by some to be the most threatening team in the NFC West outside of the Rams, but St. Louis steps up and serves Arizona a second helping of defeat.

With the Cardinals offensive line showing no major improvements between this game and their previous matchup, the Rams defensive ends have another field day at Kevin Kolb's expense. 

Larry Fitzgerald will step up and make a few plays, including the Cardinals only touchdown of the game, but he will eventually find himself incapable on single-handedly compensating for a lack of offensive production.

Cornerback Patrick Peterson will be getting into a groove at this point in the season, so he will have a solid showing against the Rams receivers, but the Arizona linebackers will not be able to prevent Danny Amendola and Lance Kendricks from making big plays from the slot. 

Steven Jackson will score once or twice inside the red zone, which, combined with a superb defensive showing by the Rams, results in the Rams reclaiming a winning record.

Week 13: Rams @ 49ers

Game Time: 3:15 PM CDT
Date: December 4th, 2011
Location: Candlestick Park, San Francisco,CA

Verdict:   WIN  (Rams 26, 49ers 16)
Record: 7-5

The Rams were not so lucky during their 23-20 overtime loss at Candlestick Park in 2010, but they have improved overall as a team, while the 49ers are still stuck in the Alex Smith era. 

Of course, it's possible that the 49ers could be over their 2011 season at this point in the year, and they could instead be more focused on 2012, which means rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick could be starting this game.

Either way, San Francisco's quarterback deficiency will be too great for them to overcome this game.

Week 14: Rams @ Seahawks (Monday Night Football)

Game Time: 7:30 PM CDT
Date: December 12th, 2011
Location: CenturyLink Field, Seattle,WA

Verdict:   WIN  (Rams 16, Seahawks 10)
Record: 8-5

The Rams beat the Seahawks with ease during their first encounter of 2011, but at this point, they'll be looking to climb a new mountain—defeating the Seahawks on their own turf. 

The Rams were able the beat Seattle at the Edward Jones Dome in 2010, and they should do it again in 2011, but it's winning against the grueling 12th man that poses a problem.

However, the Rams will get it done.

The potency of the St. Louis offense will suffer, but the defense will be able to stay focused and get the job done against whichever second-tier quarterback the Seahawks are starting at this point.

It will be a bit more narrow that their first matchup of 2011, but the Rams still pull off a win in the end.

Week 15: Rams vs. Bengals

Game Time: 12:00 PM CDT
Date: December 18th, 2011
Location: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, MO

Verdict:   WIN  (Rams 23, Bengals 6)
Record: 9-5

The Rams will be elated after their Monday Night Football victory over the Seahawks, not to mention their four-game winning streak, so they will enter this game against the Cincinnati Bengals with a lot of momentum.

The Bengals have a solid defense, which will somewhat contain the Rams offense for the first half of the game.
However, the St. Louis defense will force multiple three-and-outs against the stale Cincinnati offense, which will eventually result in a winded Bengals defense, and that's when the Rams will strike the scoreboard.

The Rams offense will score two touchdowns in the second half, but their defense will get it done all four quarters. 

Week 16: Rams @ Steelers

Game Time: 12:00 PM CDT
Date: December 24th, 2011
Location: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh,PA

Verdict:   WIN  (Rams 13, Steelers 23)
Record: 9-6

After the Rams cruise through a five-game winning streak, they get another taste of what it's like to play a dominate football team, just like what they experienced during the first half of the 2011 season. 

The Rams will enter this game with a winning record and several consecutive wins, so after being overconfident and outgunned, the Pittsburgh Steelers will walk away with a victory. 

It's possible that the Steelers will have everything clinched at this point in the season, so if that's the case then the Rams have a shot, but there are a lot of good AFC teams, so it's not likely. 

Assuming the Pttsburgh starters are playing, the Rams offense will be relatively shutdown outside of maybe a single touchdown, while the Rams pass rush will struggle to sack Ben Roethlisberger, resulting in some big plays for the Steelers offense.

Week 17: Rams vs. 49ers

Game Time: 12:00 PM CDT
Date: January 1st, 2011
Location: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis,MO

Verdict:   WIN  (Rams 25, 49ers 10)
Record: 10-6

It's possible that the Rams will have nothing to gain from winning this game, which could result in the starter being benched.

But chances are there will be something to play for.

Unfortunately for the 49ers, their quarterback situation will not improve at any point in 2011—they will either settle for Alex Smith, or they'll be watching Colin Kaepernick go through his rookie growing pains.

The Rams defense will play hard this game in order to make their final statement of the 2011 season, at least the regular season.

The 49ers, especially if they have the rookie Kaepernick in the the game, will cough up a few turnovers and take a several sacks.

Meanwhile, the Rams offense will in sync by the final game of the season, so they'll be able to put some points on the board.

The Rams will win this game and enter the postseason on a high note.