A lot of people liked the St. Louis Rams as a dark-horse playoff team in 2014, myself included. Will that continue to be the case with quarterback Sam Bradford out for the season? Let's take a look at how his injury affected the Rams' odds.
Bradford Soon To Be An Ex-Ram?
Bradford tore the ACL in his left knee during Saturday night's preseason game against the Cleveland Manziels. It's the same ACL tear that ended his 2013 season after seven games. The Rams only have themselves to blame for putting all their eggs in one basket, so to speak. Why would they think Bradford would be able to stay healthy this year when he couldn't in two of his first four seasons in the NFL or while at Oklahoma? In his five years, Bradford will have missed 31 of a possible 80 games. A total of 20 quarterbacks have been taken No. 1 overall in the common draft era (since 1967). Only mega-bust JaMarcus Russell and Alex Smith will have played fewer games in their first five years in the NFL than Bradford.
The Rams could have cut Bradford, the last No. 1 overall pick before the new collective bargaining agreement vastly limited rookie salaries, this offseason and saved $10 million on this year's salary cap. Instead, his contract is a cap hit of $17.6 million and his base salary of $14 million is the fifth highest in the NFL. His cap hit next season will be $16,580,000, but I would be willing to bet that Bradford has played his last game in a St. Louis uniform.
The Rams also had two first-round picks to take a quarterback in this year's draft, and reportedly liked Johnny Manziel, but instead took Auburn offensive tackle No. 2 overall Greg Robinson -- when they had their pick of the QBs -- and Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald at No. 13 when Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater were still on the board. Donald might be a great player, but the Rams already had a good defensive line. It really wasn't a position of need. St. Louis did take Garrett Gilbert in the sixth round but he's a project at best.
It's probably too late in the preseason to make a trade for someone who could start Week 1 because it takes time to learn the playbook, etc. Plus the Rams would have to wildly overpay for someone like a Kirk Cousins. There have been whispers of perhaps the Rams talking to the Eagles about Mark Sanchez because Sanchez knows the system as the Rams offensive coordinator is Brian Schottenheimer, who used to be in that role with Sanchez's former Jets team.
Thus the starter should be veteran journeyman Shaun Hill. The 34-year-old spent the past four years in Detroit backing up Matthew Stafford. He barely saw the field the past three years but played in 11 games in 2010 and wasn't too bad, completing 257 of 416 passes for 2,686 yards, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Of course that team had Calvin Johnson and the Rams most certainly have no one close to Megatron. Hill has started 26 games over his career and is 13-13. His overall rating is 85,9, which would have ranked No. 19 in the league last year, ahead of guys like Stafford, Carson Palmer and Robert Griffin (Bradford's career rating is 79.3). The Rams would surely take that number in 2014. Hill probably will be better than Kellen Clemens was last year as Bradford's backup. What really has to frighten the Rams is what happens if Hill get hurt. The No. 3 is Austin Davis, who has yet to throw a regular-season NFL pass.
NFL Free Picks
The Rams had a wins total of 7.5 before this injury and now it's 6.5, with the under a -135 favorite. They have jumped from +750 to win the NFC West to +1200 and from 50/1 to win the Super Bowl to 66/1. Obviously this team won't win a Super Bowl, but I don't believe that the sky has totally fallen. If Hill can play all 16 games there's no reason the Rams can't go 7-9 like last year or maybe even 8-8 with that defense. So go over the wins total at a sportsbook like Bovada.