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Thread: Variety Show
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By Jim ThomasOf the Post-Dispatch
Based on last season's records, the Rams have the easiest schedule in the NFL.
The Rams face only four teams that had winning records in 2004: Philadelphia (13-3), Indianapolis (12-4), Seattle (9-7) and Jacksonville (9-7).
They face only four teams that made the playoffs: Philly, Indy, the Seahawks and Minnesota (8-8).
But given the current parity-driven state of the NFL, the Rams should take nothing for granted. Teams can change from the "Same Old Sorry (Bleep) Rams" into the "Greatest Show on Turf" in an instant.
The 2005 schedule features familiar rivals New Orleans and Philadelphia. And, of course, NFC West opponents Arizona, San Francisco and Seattle. But it's really characterized more by the unfamiliar than the familiar:
On Thanksgiving weekend, the Rams play the Houston Texans - a 2002 expansion team - for the first time.
The day before Halloween, they play former St. Louis expansion rival Jacksonville for just the second time, and for the first time since 1996.
In a Sunday night affair on New Year's Day, the Rams play a regular-season game in Dallas for the first time since the move to St. Louis in '95.
The home opener on Sept. 25 marks the first visit of the Tennessee Titans to St. Louis for a regular-season contest, and the first meeting of the teams other than the preseason since Super Bowl XXXIV.
Perhaps the marquee game of the season occurs Oct. 17 when the Rams make their first visit to Indianapolis since '95. As such, it will be running back Marshall Faulk's first game against his old club since the memorable trade that sent him to St. Louis in 1999. It's also the Rams' only Monday night appearance of this season.
There will be some new faces to go along with the new places. The Rams get their first look at young quarterbacks David Carr of Houston, Byron Leftwich of Jacksonville, Eli Manning of the New York Giants and, quite possibly, No. 1 overall draft pick Alex Smith of San Francisco.
At the other end of the QB spectrum, they'll face some of the top QBs in the league, including Eli's older brother Peyton, Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb and Minnesota's Daunte Culpepper.
Obviously, no opposing quarterback will draw as much interest as the one who now calls Arizona home - Kurt Warner. A two-time NFL MVP with the Rams, Warner faces his former team twice in the NFC West. As long as Bill Bidwill owns the Big Red, playing Arizona will always be a big game for any St. Louis football fan over age 30. Putting Warner in a Cardinals uniform turns up the rivalry several notches.
We won't have to wait long for the first meeting. It figures to be 100 degrees-plus in the Valley of the Sun on Sept. 18, when the Rams travel to Arizona for a Week 2 contest.
That game comes on the heels of the season opener against the Rams' traditional rival, San Francisco, on Sept. 11 at Monster Park. Gone are the days when the Niners owned the Rams. The Rams have won 10 of the past 12 meetings with their old West Coast rivals, and Mike Martz is 8-2 against San Francisco since taking over as head coach in St. Louis.
Were it not for the terrorist attacks of 2001, this would mark the first time the Rams have opened with back-to-back road games since the move to St. Louis in 1995.
In '01, the Rams opened with an overtime victory in Philadelphia on Sept. 9, then won at San Francisco two weeks later en route to a berth in Super Bowl XXXVI against New England.
In between, the Rams were supposed to play at home against Atlanta on Sept. 16. But that game - like all others in the NFL that week - was called off and rescheduled for the first week of January following the terrorist attacks.
The key to the 2005 season could be the first four games, which come against opponents that combined for a paltry 19-45 record in '04: San Francisco (2-14), Arizona (6-10), Tennessee (5-11) and the New York Giants (6-10).
The *****, Titans and Giants all appear to be in rebuilding modes of varying degrees. The Cardinals, after what looks like a strong offseason, could be playoff contenders in 2005.
In that group of four games, only the Tennessee contest is at home, where the Rams are 43-10 in the regular season and postseason since the start of the '99 season.
In contrast, the Rams are only 8-18 on the road (regular season and postseason) since the start of the 2002 campaign. In 2004, the Rams went 2-6 away from the Edward Jones Dome. Not only did they lose their last five regular-season contests on the road, the Rams weren't even competitive. The average score of those five games was 33-12.
If they are to be a legitimate contender in the NFC, the Rams must show they can win on the road. And if they win their share of games on the road, St. Louis should be playoff-bound for the sixth time in seven seasons.
Reporter Jim Thomas
Re: Variety ShowIn contrast, the Rams are only 8-18 on the road (regular season and postseason) since the start of the 2002 campaign. In 2004, the Rams went 2-6 away from the Edward Jones Dome. Not only did they lose their last five regular-season contests on the road, the Rams weren't even competitive. The average score of those five games was 33-12.
If they are to be a legitimate contender in the NFC, the Rams must show they can win on the road. And if they win their share of games on the road, St. Louis should be playoff-bound for the sixth time in seven seasons.[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
Re: Variety ShowThe key to the 2005 season could be the first four games, which come against opponents that combined for a paltry 19-45 record in '04: San Francisco (2-14), Arizona (6-10), Tennessee (5-11) and the New York Giants (6-10).
We HAVE to come out of the first season-quarter with 3 wins, but I'd sleep easier if we have all 4."Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod