In my post last week I noted the second season begins this Sunday at Arizona. Well, apparently the Rams were eager to get started. Opening the second-half (well kind of) of their season the way many expected them to do against the Eagles eight weeks ago.
This next game against the Cardinals is still a very important one. Recovering from a win can be just as difficult as from a loss. There is a mental side to it that this year’s Rams are not accustomed to. There is let down, complacency and the sense of accomplishment that they must fight through this week and for the remainder of their schedule should they continue to win.
Fans should remain cautiously optimistic from here on out. Look back no further than when Jim Haslett took over for the head coaching failure that was Scott Linehan. The Rams put together back-to-back impressive wins over the Redskins and Cowboys only to lose their next ten games. Where the Rams go from here and how they respond will be something to watch.
With nine games left there is still the opportunity to salvage the season. Beating the Saints, and in the fashion with which they did, might just be the catalyst to get the train rolling. With San Francisco playing at the level they are the division is most likely out of reach but a 7-9 season is not out of the realm of possibility. After starting off as poorly as they did, and on so many levels, would give the team a head of steam heading into the off season.
It would almost assuredly mean the return of head coach Steve Spagnuolo and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. And perhaps with an entire off season of OTA’s and a full mini-camp leading into 2012 that could be a good thing. And if the Rams are able to pull out six more wins this season I for one would be okay with the return of Spags and McDaniels in their current roles. Billy Devaney, well that’s a different topic for another day.
The Rams need to approach every game from here on out as if they are 0-6. They were playing with house money against New Orleans and came out fast and strong. They jumped passing routes and even got sacks only rushing three. More so, they proved that even with the talent on THIS roster, winning and playing at a high level can be done.
Moving forward we should see and expect nothing less. This does not mean the Rams will or should win every game. Even losing on the road against the 49ers, Bengals, and Steelers a 7-9 season is still within reach. The game plan on Sunday was effective and will needed to be tweaked depending on the opponent but not overhauled.
There is a lot at stake for both players and coaches the next nine weeks. Here is how I see it playing out. Really, really, really hope I’m right.
Week 9: @ Cardinals Win On the road for the 3rd time in four games but the Rams are still on a high after the New Orleans game. Feeley starts again but with the underwhelming Kevin Kolb behind center for the Cardinals the Rams come away with the win.
Week 10: @ Browns Win The Brown defense is much improved, however their offense is not. With Bradford back behind center the Rams muster enough offense to win “Shurmur Bowl”
Week 11: Seahawks Win Rams first home division game is a big one. Seattle is a team heading the wrong direction and the Rams. Steven Jackson continues his impressive second half leading the Rams to another win.
Week 12: Cardinals Win This time facing Arizona at home. Now with their own scouting report on Kolb, Spags games plans to collapse the pocket on him all day. Trading away their best DB to get Kolb, Bradford takes advantage of rookie DB Peterson hitting Danario and Lloydfor a couple of big plays.
Week 13: @ 49ers Loss Back on the road for another important division game. New coach Jim Harbaugh has his team ready and as prepared as any. All Pro linebacker Patrick Willis & Rookie Aldon Smith cause fits for the Rams passing game.
Week 14: @ Seahawks Win Having faced tough road battles already in 2011 going to Seattle is no new feat. Playing in outside in poor weather the Rams again ride Jackson to victory.
Week 15: Bengals Loss Cincinnati brings one of the best surprises of the season into St. Louis. Rookie QB Andy Dalton and the new look Bengals are clicking on all cylinders at this point. With the AFC North still in the picture for Cincinnati Dalton and company get the win.
Week 16: @ Steelers Loss Christmas Eve outside in Pittsburgh in a game that has playoff implications for both teams…think we all know how this ends. Much improved, yes, but the Rams have not played this kind of team in this kind of game in a long time.
Week 17: 49ers Loss San Francisco comes to town playing for a bye in the first round. While the Rams 2011 schedule toughens them up and prepares them for just this game. The 49ers are simply too much on this particular Sunday.
Final Record 7-9. Disappointing yes, but after staring at a 2-3 win season through seven weeks, I’ll take a strong second half and six wins…for now.