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Thread: Analysts' Predictions for Rams in NFC West

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    Analysts' Predictions for Rams in NFC West

    The Rams finished third in the NFC West last season with a 7-8-1 record.

    Experts' Picks (Consensus: third)

    Nick Wagoner ESPN.com
    DIVISION FINISH: 3 Finishing third in the NFC West doesn't necessarily mean the Rams won't be in the playoff chase given the strength of San Francisco and Seattle. For a team that will again be one of the youngest in the league, the big jump they're hoping for may have to wait until 2014.

    John Clayton ESPN.com
    DIVISION FINISH: 4 It's just a matter of time before this young team matures enough to make a playoff return. The Rams will be explosive on offense and surprise you with how good they are on defense.

    Has the "Professor" been slacking off on his homework? We shall see ..


    Adam Schefter ESPN.com
    DIVISION FINISH: 3 A highly underrated defense on a team whose quarterback needs to prove his worth.

    Jeffri Chadiha ESPN.com
    DIVISION FINISH: 3 The Rams could be the biggest sleeper in the NFL. They've added more playmakers on offense and head coach Jeff Fisher has toughened them up.

    Ashley Fox ESPN.com
    DIVISION FINISH: 3 Year 2 for Jeff Fisher. Sam Bradford needs to prove he can take the next step.

    Intelligence Report

    Five things you need to know about the Rams:

    1. Bradford's team: Steven Jackson was the centerpiece of the offense for most of the past decade and also filled a key leadership role for that group. But Jackson now plays in Atlanta and a young offense needs a leader and a new direction. Enter Bradford. He has taken on a larger leadership role in Jackson's absence, regularly providing guidance for the team's young wideouts during practice and in meetings. The offense figures to be more Bradford-centric this year given the team's personnel shift toward adding speedy pass-catchers.

    2. What a rush: The Rams finished in a tie with Denver for the most sacks in the league in 2012 with 52. Leading the surge was a defensive line that combined for 39 of those. After re-signing valuable backup end William Hayes to a three-year contract, everybody returns from a group that is quite accomplished for being so young. End Chris Long leads the way as the veteran of the group, but the real upside lies with third-year end Robert Quinn and second-year tackle Michael Brockers.

    3. In a hurry: The common perception of the Rams' offense is that it will take on a drastically different look with Bradford spending most of his Sundays in the shotgun and constantly playing in a two-minute mode. The reality is that while the Rams want to incorporate more of that up-tempo approach, it's not going to be a reincarnation of Chip Kelly at Oregon. Instead, Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer wants to be game-plan specific each week while making the best use of the speed and talent in place. So some weeks the Rams may really look to speed things up and on others will look noticeably different.

    4. Safety first: The Rams bring back talent and experience at nearly every level of their defense. Among the front seven, only rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree doesn't have meaningful NFL game experience. At corner, the Rams have the tandem of veteran Cortland Finnegan and talented youngster Janoris Jenkins. Safety, on the other hand, brings the defense's biggest question marks. Rookie T.J. McDonald will start at one spot and fourth-year veteran Darian Stewart will likely handle the other. Neither has been overwhelming in camp or the preseason and Stewart has a history of injury issues and missed tackles.

    5. Youth movement, part II: The Rams were the youngest team in the league last year and project to be right near the top of that list again this season. Although they have plenty of veterans starting on both lines, they are particularly young at the offensive skill positions and across the board in terms of depth. Among receivers and running backs, wideout Austin Pettis has the most experience and he's entering just his third season. The franchise got plenty of production from young players a year ago, but if it wants to take the next step to the postseason, it'll need even more production from even more younger players in 2013.

    -- Nick Wagoner, ESPN.com

    Inside The Numbers

    In his third season, Sam Bradford posted career highs in Total QBR, touchdowns and yards per attempt. Bradford made progress on deep throws, posting a 90.9 QBR on passes thrown at least 15 yards downfield in 2012, 23.2 rating points higher than his QBR on such throws last season.

    Bradford completed a career-high 42.6 percent of his passes 15 or more yards downfield last season, which ranked 15th in the NFL. The move to the middle of the pack was a big improvement for Bradford, who ranked 29th in 2011 and 31st in 2010.

    Rookie receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey should give Bradford more options downfield. Last season Chris Givens was Bradford's favorite target on deeper throws, but the duo connected only 33.3 percent of the time, the second-worst rate for Bradford to any Rams receiver last season.

    In addition, Austin should help Bradford get some extra yardage. Rams wide receivers averaged 3.8 yards after the catch per reception last season, the eighth-worst rate in the league. Austin gained 947 yards after the catch in 2012 at West Virginia, most among players from automatic-qualifier schools.

    Cornerback Janoris Jenkins scored four defensive touchdowns last season. Only four other players have scored that many defensive touchdowns in a season in NFL history.

    The Rams were one of five teams in the NFL last season to have two players with double-digit sacks (Chris Long, 11.5 and Robert Quinn, 10.5).


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    Re: Analysts' Predictions for Rams in NFC West

    Pay attention Nick. You are supposed to be assigned to the Rams, right? Well Darien Stewart is NOT the starter at safety, Rodney McLeod is.

    I'm so sick of ESPN. They think the NFL only consists of a handful of teams like the Patriots, Jets, *****, Seahawks of late, Broncos, Ravens. I understand these teams have performed well or are newsworthy, but the person assigned to a teams who doesn't know another player has been named a starter for almost a week. Give me a break! Other than Herm Edwards there are very few analysts I listen to on that network. I used to think John Clayton was worthwhile too, but picking AZ ahead of the Rams. I think the SportsCenter commercial he does reflects his affinity for mind-altering drugs! OK, I'm done ranting.

    Go Rams!
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    Re: Analysts' Predictions for Rams in NFC West

    I can't really argue this article. I too see the Rams as the #3 team in the division. The other two teams are too talented, too deep for the Rams to be considered better than #3. A few injuries and they will be #4 in the division because they simply are not that deep and they're so young. Take a look at the penalties in the pre-season and you'll see that they're young and inexperienced and that issue will haunt them all season long. It's just a fact, young players will do stupid things and commit untimely penalties. It will take a while for this team to jell too. It could be a very rocky start for this team. 0-4 out-of-the-gate could very easily happen. That's a tough hill to climb for a young, inexperienced team.

    Don't get me wrong, I can see them hanging in there too and getting a wild-card spot, but the NFL is predictable in that injuries WILL occur and some teams can overcome them and some can't. I don't think the Rams can. On the flip side, a few injuries to players on the Hawks and Whiners would be devastating as well. If Cap goes down, or Wilson, both of those teams will slide down and come back to the Rams and Cards. But in an "all things being equal" world, the Rams are the weaker of the three, between the Whiners, Hawks and Rams.

    The NFL is fun because things happen that can't be predicted. For the Rams to finish better than third, those "things" will have to happen in their favor. IF the Rams, Whiners, Hawks and Cards all finish the season with relatively intact rosters, the Rams will finish with the third best record in the division.

    ...but watch out next year.
    Faithful Rams fan since 1968

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    Re: Analysts' Predictions for Rams in NFC West

    Good post RFRH, good argument.

    That depth in the NFC West you speak of might be the 'make or break' difference. I'm hoping that, against the odds, our young / very young team will make it -- Wild Card minimum.

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    Re: Analysts' Predictions for Rams in NFC West

    But, RFRH, that injury bug works both ways. A couple injuries to the Hawk's or Niner's rosters and we could be No. 1...

    Luck (not Andrew) is part of the game...
    This space for rent...

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    Analysts' Predictions for Rams in NFC West

    Quote Originally Posted by thoey View Post
    But, RFRH, that injury bug works both ways. A couple injuries to the Hawk's or Niner's rosters and we could be No. 1...

    Luck (not Andrew) is part of the game...
    That's what I said. IF the Whiners or Hawks suffer the injury bug and the Rams do not, the Rams will be in the hunt. Otherwise, the Rams are playing for third.
    Faithful Rams fan since 1968

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    Re: Analysts' Predictions for Rams in NFC West

    I foresee at least one of the two - either the Seahawks or the whiners - failing to meet expectations. I see a QB hitting a wall - and with Seattle having such a PED issue, I also see the team working hard to overcome said issue. I don't know which one - but...

    I see the Rams being the #2 team in the NFCW...and if that injury bug does bite either Seattle or San Francisco, well, then the west is ours. Again.
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    Re: Analysts' Predictions for Rams in NFC West

    Quote Originally Posted by RamsFanSam View Post
    I foresee at least one of the two - either the Seahawks or the whiners - failing to meet expectations. I see a QB hitting a wall - and with Seattle having such a PED issue, I also see the team working hard to overcome said issue. I don't know which one - but...

    I see the Rams being the #2 team in the NFCW...and if that injury bug does bite either Seattle or San Francisco, well, then the west is ours. Again.
    I have been saying this to all of my friends who are niner fans all year!!!

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    Re: Analysts' Predictions for Rams in NFC West

    Quote Originally Posted by Thoey View Post
    But, RFRH, that injury bug works both ways. A couple injuries to the Hawk's or Niner's rosters and we could be No. 1...

    Luck (not Andrew) is part of the game...
    True. ...Let's send the bug THEIR way!

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