National Football League

Rams’ Schedule Seems Promising at First Blush

When Dick Vermeil coached the Rams in the late 1990s, he deeply analyzed everything about his team, including the schedule the league put out. There definitely are good and bad schedules, and the Rams have had their share of bad ones in the past. Last year, between Oct. 4 and Nov. 18, the Rams played at the Edward Jones Dome once. That was partially a product of their home game in London, but it didn’t help. Two years ago, the Rams had a mid-season stretch of four-out-of-five on the road, and then finished the season with three of their last five away. The Rams also got two prime-time games in 2011, and both were on the road.

With all that being said, it looks like the league did the Rams a favor this year. One of the things Coach Vermeil looked at is when you play your division opponents. In 1999, the Rams played Atlanta, San Francisco, Carolina and New Orleans of the NFC West all at home before they played them on the road, and Vermeil said that made a big difference for his team. The 2013 schedule shapes up the same way. The Rams host Arizona in their opener. Not only is that an advantage in and of itself, but Arizona’s best defensive player, Daryl Washington, is suspended for the first four games of the season.

In weeks four and eight, respectively, not only do the Rams get Seattle and San Francisco at home before they face them on the road, they get them for home prime-time games. That’s a tremendous advantage for any team, especially a young one. No coach or player likes to go on the road and spend their day in a hotel room waiting for the game to start. Having both of their prime time games – a Thursday night against the 49ers and a Monday night against Seattle – at home, is a big advantage.

Another nice thing about this schedule is that normally you want to be home after a Monday night game, and the Rams are, against Tennessee on Nov. 3. Playing on Monday night and giving players time to recover before travelling on Saturday can be a real pain. You only really have two days to get ready, because players are off on Tuesday anyway and still recovering on Wednesday. So, having only Thursday and Friday to prep before going on the road Saturday is tough. At home, the Rams will be able to have a good walkthrough on Saturday before hosting Tennessee.

Other things I noticed about this schedule:

** It’s not all good. Facing Steven Jackson and Atlanta in their home opener in week two is going to be rough. Especially because the Falcons are at New Orleans in Sean Payton’s return for the opener, a game they aren’t likely to win. The Rams will have their hands full…

** San Francisco having to travel here for a Thursday night game is awesome. After playing the Colts, the 49ers will have one day to prepare. The Rams are at Dallas the week before, but will have Monday and Wednesday to get ready.

** When the Rams go to Houston for week six, the Texans will be coming off a rugged Sunday night game in San Francisco. That can’t hurt the Rams chances at Reliant Stadium.

** When Seattle comes here for a week eight Monday nighter, they’ll have 10 days off between games, having played the week seven Thursday night game against Arizona.

** When the Rams host Tennessee in week nine, the Titans will be coming off their bye. Although statistics indicate that isn’t an advantage for the team coming off the bye, I stubbornly and steadfastly think the stats don’t count here, and that if everything else is equal, the bye the week before is an advantage. And don’t forget, the Rams will be coming off a physical Monday night clash with Seattle.

** The Rams get another break when they visit Andrew Luck and Indy for week ten. The Colts will be trying to bounce back from an emotional Sunday night game with Houston. Emotional divisional game and a relatively short recovery week is a good thing for the Rams.

** The Rams come off their bye with a home game against Chicago.  Week ten has a very short trip, week eleven a bye, and week twelve a home game. The Rams should be reasonably well rested for the final quarter of the season.

** As the Rams go to San Francisco for week thirteen, Thanksgiving weekend, the 49ers will have had to travel across the country to Washington D.C. for a Monday night game in week twelve.  Even though the 49ers are at home, with that sort of travel and the distraction of Thanksgiving week, the schedule breaks the Rams’ way.

** In week fifteen, the Rams host the Saints, against whom they’ve traditionally done very well. Then they host Tampa Bay, which they throttled last year. Two of the last three are at home.

** In week seventeen, in a game that could be flexed to Sunday night, the Rams are at Seattle. This will be the fifth time in 12 years since realignment that the Rams have played in Seattle in December, and the third time in four years they’ve played their finale there. They lost that winner-takes-all Sunday night game in 2010, and lost the heartbreaker to close out last year.

Overall, this is a terrific schedule for the Rams.  If the team is built the way Jeff Fisher usually builds his teams, it sets up for a very successful 2013 season.