The opponents were already known, but the order in which the Los Angeles Rams would play them was revealed Thursday night. Coming off a disappointing 9-7 season, this offseason has been filled with many changes, none more critical than new coordinators in all three phases of the game.
Despite a disappointing 2019, the Los Angeles Rams will still play five game in primetime and still hold one of the more difficults schedules in terms of winning percentage from last year. Let’s break down the schedule.
Must-See Game – Week 1: Rams vs. Cowboys
The Los Angeles Rams will open up their season at home in a new stadium against no team other than the Dallas Cowboys and on Sunday Night Football nonetheless. It doesn’t get much better than that. These will be two of the NFL’s best offenses going head-to-head in primetime to start the year.
Dak Prescott vs. Jared Goff. Jalen Ramsey vs. Amari Cooper and Cee Dee Lamb. The matchups in this game will be top-notch.
On top of that, these two teams have played some good games over the past few seasons. In McVay’s first season, the Rams overcame a 24-13 deficit to win, 35-30. Then in 2018, these two teams met in the playoffs. The Rams and Cowboys have developed a mini-rivalry and it will be on center stage in Week 1.
Most Intriguing Re-Match – Rams vs/at Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals had a great draft and got much better over the offseason. They traded for DeAndre Hopkins and drafted Isaiah Simmons. While the Cardinals are still a year away from being a serious contender, they have pieces. McVay has never lost to the Cardinals in his Rams tenure, but this season could have two very exciting games. It’ll be interesting to see what the Cardinals have to offer in 2020.
Stretch That Will Decide The Season
Last season the Rams started strong before losing three straight conference games to the Buccaneers, Seahawks, and 49ers. It’s hard to argue that those three losses and that stretch essentially decided the Rams season. The team was never able to recover and finished 9-7.
This year there are two of those stretches that come to mind. The first one is the first four weeks of the season. The Rams begin with the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, and Buffalo Bills. Two of the three were in the playoffs last season and the third is one of the most talented rosters in the NFL.
Two of those games occur on the road and the third takes place in primetime. This is a stretch that the Rams can easily start 3-0 or 0-3. Winning all three games could set the Rams up for a 5-0 start as the next two games take place against the Giants and Redskins. However, a 1-2 or 0-3 start and the Rams will be playing from behind the eight ball to start the year.
The next stretch takes place Weeks 10-13. In this stretch the Rams play the Seahawks, Buccaneers, 49ers, and Cardinals. The games against the Buccaneers is on the road on Monday Night Football and then the Rams wrap up the stretch on the road against the much-improved Cardinals team.
These four games are much different than the stretch of games to start the year. Weeks 10-13 is later in the season and will either determine if the Rams are a playoff team and deserve to be in the playoff hunt, or is this team going to lie down and fall over?
A 1-3 or 0-4 finish in this stretch would be a disaster and is possible. However, 2-2 or 3-1 would set the Rams up perfectly for the final four games of the season as they head into the playoff hunt.
Sneaky key game: Week 2: Rams at Eagles
Sean McVay has never defeated Doug Pederson while in Los Angeles. These teams have met two times and both games have come down to the wire. Despite only being in Week 2, this will be a lkey game for the Rams. The Eagles will most definitely be in the playoff hunt. On top of that, this is a chance for the Rams to define their season. With a game against the Cowboys the week before, this winning or losing this game could be the difference in 2-0 and 0-2.
Game Nobody Wants to See: Week 15: Rams vs. Jets
There are a few candidates here. The Rams play the Redskins and Giants earlier in the year and they also play the Dolphins and Bears. However, the Redskins and Giants are at least conference games, the Dolphins have intrigue with Tua, and then the Bears and Rams have had a mini-rivalry the last three years.
Meanwhile, this Jets game happens late in the season when fans will have playoffs on their minds. A win here will be big, but it would be a lot better if this was an NFC opponent. Not only that, the Jets just don’t have a lot of excitement to offer.
Trap Game: Week 8: Rams @ Dolphins
There’s a reason that Tom Brady hasn’t necessarily played well in Miami. The Dolphins are a well-coached team by Brian Flores and will now have an exciting rookie quarterback in Tua. This team still has a long ways to go, but they do have some raw talent and they are well-coached.
The week before the Rams will play the Bears and after this game, the Rams head into the bye. If the Rams aren’t careful, they could fall into a trap and overlook the Dolphins as they look forward to the bye and playing the Seahawks afterwards. The Eagles fell into this trap last year as they played a physical game against the Seahawks at home before traveling to Miami with a division game against the Giants the following week. Philadelphia lost to the Dolphins in what was a shocking result. The Rams can’t let that happen.
Revenge Game: Week 6: Rams @ Redskins
While the Buccaneers or Patriots would be a good nomination here or even the Cowboys, we’ve already hit them and the other two will come later. The Bears would also be a good choice as Leonard Floyd and Brandon Staley have a past in Chicago.
However, in Sean McVay’s first season, the Rams fell just short against his former team. This will be McVay’s first game back in Washington and Kevin O’Connell also comes from Washington as the former offensive coordinator in the nation’s capital.
Game That’s Gotten Easier: Week 14: Rams vs. Patriots
When looking at the Rams’ opponents at the end of last season, everyone circled the game against the Patriots. A Super Bowl re-match in Los Angeles was going to be must-watch football. However, Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady now play for the Buccaneers and Jarrett Stidham will be starting for the Patriots.
New England has gotten success from backup quarterbacks in the past like Matt Cassell, Jacoby Brissett, and Jimmy Garoppolo. However, after Brady left, it just felt like the end of an era. The Patriots may not be the worst team in the league, but their quarterback position certainly took a hit and that matters.
Game that’s gotten tougher: Week 11: Rams at Buccaneers
Like the Patriots game, this one will have the exact opposite effect. When looking at the set of opponents at the end of last year, the Buccaneers may have seemed like an easier win. While the Rams did lose to Tampa Bay on the road last season, it was a very good game. This is now a team that has a quarterback that won’t turn the ball over 30 times and they have Rob Gronkowski. Add in Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and an improved offensive line and defense and this could be one of the better teams in the NFL. This game went from just a game on the schedule to a game that might have home-field advantage implications.
Bye Week Breakdown
The Rams bye week comes at a perfect time. It’s never easy when a team has a bye week in Week 5 or Week 12. Something in the middle that splits the season into two halves is typically perfect and that’s exactly what the Rams have. They’ll have the Bears and Dolphins heading into the bye to hopefully pick up some momentum and then have the Seahawks in Los Angeles coming out of the bye. It’s possible that the Rams get three straight wins there which would be huge.
Season Prediction and Expectation
The Los Angeles Rams come into 2020 after a disappointing season in which they finished 9-7 following a Super Bowl appearance. In my way-too-early win/loss predicitions, I have the Rams finishing 10-6 which would presumably get them back in the postseason.
The playoffs should be the expectation. In a new stadium with so much excitement surrounding the team with the logo and new uniforms, the Rams need to make the postseason. A playoff win would be nice, but anything less than a playoff appearance should be considered a failure and serious questions would need to start being asked.