Expectations are high in St. Louis as the Rams are counting on big things from their pair of first-round draft picks and new Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams. But are the Rams worth banking on in your NFL picks to win the NFC West or even better?
Can Rams Win the NFC West?
Sure, only if the other three teams leave the division! As any football fan worth his salt knows, the NFC West is about as loaded as any division in football. The reigning Super Bowl champions, the Seattle Seahawks, reside there and so do the San Francisco 49'ers, a club many believe is the second best team in the NFL. And a notch below those two titans of gridiron greatness sit the Arizona Cardinals that compiled a 10-6 record and actually defeated the Super Bowl champs 17-10 late in the season. Not exactly a division that will allow a longshot like the Rams a backdoor entry into first place and a division crown.
But before you pooh-pooh the Rams, let me give you a few things to consider. First and foremost, Sam Bradford is returning to the starting lineup and by all accounts is fully healed from a season-ending knee injury he suffered in the early part of the 2013 season. The offense Bradford will be running won't be the high-octane run-and-gun variety but is expected to be more balanced, allowing the former first-overall pick in the 2010 draft the luxury of handing the ball off as opposed to crouching under center and dropping back to fire away against a fully prepared pass defense.
Next we have the matter of the pair of first-round draft picks. Greg Robinson was tabbed as the number two overall pick in the draft to become Sam Bradford's newest best buddy as his blindside bodyguard. But according to reports, Robinson is having a difficult time adjusting to the complexities of an NFL playbook. That comes as no surprise to the critics who decried the Rams choice and wondered aloud how they could spend the second pick in the entire draft on a lineman who wasn't universally lauded as the Next Big Thing. We have now learned that Robinson will not only not be Bradford's blindside protector but is going to spend the season at guard in order to acclimate himself to the next level.
However, as doom and gloom ass that report may be, let's look at the defense headed by freshly hired defensive guru Gregg Williams. Yes, the same Gregg Williams who was suspended for the Bountygate scandal that rocked the Saints a few years back. Well, his punishment is over and he is now the Defensive Coordinator of the Rams and expect to see his genius at work. He will also have the opportunity to mold the Rams other first-round pick (#13) Aaron Donald. And speaking of Donald, the 6'1" defensive tackle out of Pittsburgh, he impressed one and all in the OTA's last month and could very well be an impact player on a defensive line that boasts all first-round picks.
What are the NFL Odds?
For those who go where angels fear to tread, Bet365.com is posting some enticing numbers on the St. Louis Rams. They have NFL odds of 14-1 to win the division, 25-1 to win the NFC and 40-1 to win the Super Bowl. There are a thousand reasons to scare away anyone from betting the Rams. And it's not like they are a franchise in disarray that has no direction and no talent. The Rams are simply in the wrong division at the wrong time. Twice a year they will line up against Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona. That's a tall order and one that the Rams probably won't be able to fill this season.
However, if you are looking for a more reasonable hurdle for the Rams to jump then may I suggest you consider betting them as one of your NFL future picks in the total wins category. At this moment Bet365.com is dealing St. Louis at 7 ½ (-120 Over). If you look at their strength of schedule for 2014 you will no doubt note that they have the third toughest schedule with their opponents a combined .564 winning percentage. But that is due to their divisional rivals. Look at the rest of the teams they play and you will find the likes of Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Oakland, Washington and the Giants (at home) to name a few.
My bet is that St. Louis will crack .500 this season and Over 7 ½ (-120) looks like value in your NFL picks to me.