It's a slate of tough dates for Rams
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Friday, Aug. 27 2004
The Rams play the seventh-toughest schedule in the National Football League in
2004, based on last season's standings.
Seven of their 16 games are against 2003 playoff teams. Only Carolina, New
Orleans and Tampa Bay (with eight apiece) face more.
The Rams play both Super Bowl participants - New England and Carolina. Not to
mention three-time NFC runner-up Philadelphia.
They get Michael Vick in his 71,000-seat playpen - the Georgia Dome.
They renew acquaintances with old rivals New Orleans and Tampa Bay and face a
potential warm-weather game at Miami in late October, and potential
cold-weather contests in late November in Buffalo and Green Bay.
And let's not forget the division. There's the budding rivalry with the Seattle
Seahawks, who some believe are the team to beat in the NFC West . . .
traditional West Coast rival San Francisco . . . and of course, the team St.
Louis loves to hate, Mr. Bidwill's Arizona Cardinals.
Other than that, there's absolutely no challenge, intrigue, or excitement to
the Rams' 2004 schedule. If not the most interesting and most daunting schedule
since the move to St. Louis, it's close to it.
Let's begin at the beginning. The Rams are 7-2 in home openers since the move
from southern California, which doesn't bode well for the Big Red, who visit
their old hometown Sept. 12.
The Rams have swept all four meetings with the Cardinals since realignment put
the teams in the same division in 2002. Under new coach Dennis Green, the Big
Red at least had the makings of an exciting offense with underrated Marcel
Shipp at running back, plus '03 rookie sensation Anquan Boldin and No. 3
overall draft pick Larry Fitzgerald at wide receiver.
But injuries to Boldin (knee) and Shipp (ankle) will sideline them far beyond
opening day. If the Rams have any aspirations for another NFC West title - or
even a wild-card playoff berth - they must sweep the Cardinals.
In fact, the best recipe for postseason play would seem to be a 5-1 record in
division play, coupled with a .500 or better mark out of the division.
The Rams could accomplish 5-1 in the division by sweeping Arizona and San
Francisco, and splitting with the Seahawks. The Rams haven't swept the 'Niners
since the 2001 Super Bowl season. But with no Terrell Owens, no Jeff Garcia and
no Garrison Hearst, the ***** appear to have no chance to make a playoff run.
Seattle is another matter. The Seahawks are a year older, a year wiser and
still look like a team on the rise. Both Rams-Seahawks contests were tossups a
year ago, with the Rams losing by a point in Seattle in September, and the
Seahawks losing by five in St. Louis three months later. Look for more of the
same in '04. But there will be no late-season showdown this time. The teams
meet in Week 5 (Oct. 10 at Seattle) and Week 10 (Nov. 14 at St. Louis).
None of the Rams' four games leading up to the Oct. 10 Seattle contest are
against teams that posted a winning record in '03. But in the NFL, last
season's shortcomings don't always preclude this season's success, or vice
In Week 2, for example, Atlanta figures to be a different team with the
electrifying Vick at quarterback than the squad the Rams manhandled over the
past five seasons. The Rams are 7-0 against the Dirty Birds in that span,
outscoring Atlanta 264 to 88.
After chasing Vick around the Georgia Dome, the Rams get Aaron Brooks, Joe Horn
and the visiting New Orleans Saints in Week 3. The Edward Jones Dome has been
one of the toughest places for visitors to win since the start of the '99
But the Saints certainly don't quiver when they enter the building. They've won
three of their last four contests in St. Louis, including victories against the
Rams' '01 Super Bowl team and 2000 playoff team. Oh, what a rivalry this was
prior to realignment. Remember this bit of choice trash-talking by "Hollywood"
Horn before a key 2001 Rams-Saints clash?
"The Rams know what time it is. We have their number. We're
coming to play. . . ."
On Sept. 26 at noon, it will be time - time for the first Rams-Saints game
since '01. This time, if Kyle Turley throws any halftime tirades - or helmets -
it will be in the Rams' locker room, not for the Saints. Bad back permitting,
All things considered, the Rams would do well to be 3-1 at the quarter pole.
Then comes that first contest against Seattle, followed by non-division tilts
against Tampa Bay, Miami and New England.
No team made the Greatest Show work harder for its points than the vaunted
Tampa Bay defense in recent years. This time, there will be no Warren Sapp and
no John Lynch on the field Oct. 18, when the teams meet for the fourth straight
time on Monday night. The Bucs have turned into Oakland East under general
manager Bruce Allen and coach Jon Gruden, and appear to be in a transitional
On Oct. 24, the Rams visit Miami for the first time since 1998. Hopefully, Marc
Bulger won't skip the team flight home from Pro Player Stadium to be with his
girlfriend, as predecessor Tony Banks did in '98.
The Dolphins are especially tough at home early in the season, when the south
Florida heat remains a factor. Over the past six seasons, they're 17-4 at home
in September and October. But with no Ricky Williams or David Boston, the
Dolphins must do it with defense against the Rams and everybody else.
The Rams reach the season's midpoint Nov. 7 at home against New England, taking
their bye week following the Miami game. The Rams are 5-0 following bye weeks
over the past five seasons - which is tied for the best post-bye record in the
league (with Philadelphia) over that span. New England, by the way, plays at
Pittsburgh Oct. 31 while the Rams are resting. In what figures to be one of the
highlight games of the season, this is the first meeting between the teams
since the memorable Super Bowl XXXVI matchup.
It is at this time of the year that the Rams' season will start to become
The Seahawks come to the Edward Jones Dome the week after New England. Then,
the Rams play four of their next five on the road, starting with a Nov. 21 trip
to Buffalo and a Nov. 29 Monday nighter at Lambeau Field against the Packers.
By then, we should have a pretty good idea if the 2004 Rams are pretenders,
contenders or the team to beat in the NFC West
Re: It's a slate of tough dates for Rams
Wow, I am SO looking forward to this schedule. Tough, but once it get's rolling, it should be some good stuff. I think we may get a bit of a break on the toughness of the schedule in that Tampa and Miami MAY not be quite as good as they were last year...
C'mon Marc, show us why we gave you the big bucks and spank these teams. PATS/SAINTS/BUCS/SEAHAWKS..... Man I can't stand any of those teams!!!!