Many people thought the Rams would take a big step forward last season in Jeff Fisher's second year as head coach. Perhaps they would have if quarterback Sam Bradford hadn't been lost for the season in the team's seventh game. He was off to the best start of his career, completing a career-high 60.7 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns and four picks for a solid rating of 90.9. This is very much a make-or-break year for the former No. 1 overall pick because he either hasn't been able to stay healthy or hasn't been all that good. Don't rule out the Rams taking a QB in this year's draft, although not in the first round. Outside of one big game, receiver Tavon Austin was a disappointment as a rookie. Look for the Rams to take a receiver with one of their first-round picks. The team's leading receiver last year was tight end Jared Cook with only 51 catches and 671 yards. That won't cut it in the pass-happy modern day NFL.
St. Louis was a solid defensive team in 2013. It ranked 13th in points (22.8 ppg) and 15th in yards. End Robert Quinn was unbelievable with 19 sacks and seven forced fumbles. He finished fourth in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting and is only 23 years old. Just think if the Rams are able to get South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to put up front with Quinn and Chris Long (8.5 sacks).
Key Offseason Moves
The Rams lost one offensive linemen in Chris Williams and nearly a second in Rodger Saffold. He agreed to a deal with Oakland but then the Raiders voided his contract when he failed a physical. The Rams quickly agreed to a new deal with Saffold and had no problem passing him physically. It's likely that St. Louis takes an offensive linemen as well with one of its first-round draft picks. The team lost backup QB Kellen Clemens to the Chargers but signed former Lion Shaun Hill. St. Louis also took a chance on Titans receiver Kenny Britt. He's got talent but has had some off-field incidents. He fell out of favor in Tennessee last year and caught just 11 passes. Britt entered the league as a first-round pick of Fisher's Titans in 2009 and had his two most productive seasons under Fisher as a rookie and in 2010. It's a low-risk, potential high-reward deal for the Rams. With the No. 2 and No. 13 overall picks in May's draft, the Rams figure to get two starters.
2014 Schedule (all
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 7, Minnesota, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 14, at Tampa Bay, 4:05 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 21, Dallas, 1 p.m.
Week 4: BYE
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 5, at Philadelphia, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Monday, Oct. 13, San Francisco, 8:30 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 19, Seattle, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 26, at Kansas City, 1 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 2, at San Francisco, 4:05 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 9, at Arizona, 4:25 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 16, Denver, 1 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 23, at San Diego, 4:05 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Nov. 30, Oakland, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 7, at Washington, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Thursday, Dec. 11, Arizona, 8:25 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 21, New York Giants, 4:05 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 28, at Seattle, 4:25 p.m.
St. Louis has the third-hardest schedule in the league with an opponents' 2013 winning percentage of .564. It has eight games against playoff teams. The good news is that the first three games are all very winnable, although having the bye in Week 4 is much earlier than coaches would prefer. The Rams beat the Bucs last year but were blown out at Dallas. They didn't play the Vikings and are 6-point favorites for that one on NFL odds.
Out of the bye is a very challenging eight-game stretch. The only opponent in that run not to make the playoffs last year was Arizona and it won 10 games. The Governor's Cup is up for grabs in the Rams' first visit to Kansas City since 2002. For a third consecutive season and fourth time in five years, the Rams close the season on the road against Seattle. The Seahawks have won three straight in the series. St. Louis was only 1-5 in the division last season. It managed 18 total points in two losses to Seattle and lost two to the Niners by a combined 34 points.
NFL Free Picks: Over seven wins. This looks like it might push. However, if Bradford stays upright all season and the Rams land a Sammy Watkins in the draft then the offense should be much improved. The defense is already good enough.