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  1. #1
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    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,
    of course.

    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

  2. #2
    sbramfan Guest

    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!!!!

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