I'm giving myself an "over/under" of 10 for how many times I write St. Louis Rams instead of Los Angeles Rams in a story this season. Thankfully I have a good editor.
Indeed, it will be a special year in Los Angeles as the NFL finally returns to America's second-biggest media market. Heading into this past offseason, it sure appeared that NFL owners were going to vote for a project where the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders were going to share a stadium in Los Angeles instead of Rams owner Stan Kroenke's bold vision for his own complex. After all, St. Louis appeared ready to build Kroenke a new stadium.
But Kroenke is part of the "new money" NFL owners, and once he got Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on his side, the "old money" owners who wanted to reward long-time Chargers owner Dean Spanos were outflanked. The Chargers could still join the Rams in Los Angeles but would then be a tenant in Kroenke's new $2.6 billion mega-complex that will open in 2019. That stadium already has been awarded a Super Bowl in 2021, and obviously Los Angeles will be on the short rotation going forward.
So for the next three years, the Rams will play in the 93-year-old L.A. Memorial Coliseum, sharing that with the USC football team. The Rams played in that building from 1946-79 and were one of the NFL's most iconic franchises in that span. The team moved to Anaheim for 15 years and then to St. Louis for the 1995 season.
What kind of product can Rams fans expect in 2016? Los Angeles has potentially the next Eric Dickerson, who set the NFL single-season rushing record with the Rams in 1984, in second-year running back Todd Gurley. He was the 2015 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, and the sky is the limit for him. However, the rest of the offense is blah.
Of course, the Rams made a big splash in this year's draft by trading a fortune to Tennessee for the No. 1 overall pick to select Cal quarterback Jared Goff. Maybe he'll be a star one day, but he's not considered a lock franchise QB like Tampa Bay's Jameis Winston was last year or Indy's Andrew Luck was a few years ago. As of now, Goff is still behind Case Keenum on the depth chart. That won't last long. Led by tackle Aaron Donald, the defense should be very good even after jettisoning veteran starters like end Chris Long, linebacker James Laurinaitis and cornerback Janoris Jenkins.
The Rams were 5-3 at home last season, 5-3 against the spread and 3-5 "over/under." L.A. hosts three 2015 playoff teams this year -- hey, maybe the L.A. distraction (i.e. off the field the night before games) will help the Rams. I project a 4-4 record. The Rams have a wins total of 7.5 at Bovada, with the under a -170 favorite. I think this team goes 6-10 and yet somehow Coach Jeff Fisher still won't be fired. Overall, the Rams' strength of schedule ranks as the third-toughest in the NFL with an opponents' combined 2015 winning percentage of .551. Odds listed below for the home team, and obviously any home trends for the Rams are in St. Louis.
Sept. 18 vs. Seahawks (+4): Short week for Los Angeles as it visits San Francisco in the second game of the Week 1 Monday night doubleheader. I'm sure this game sells out, but the Coliseum is massive, so I wonder if any other ones will. Seattle should be 1-0 after hosting Miami in Week 1. This will be fun with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll returning to his old USC stomping grounds. The Rams upset the visiting Seahawks 34-31 in overtime in Week 1 last year -- before Gurley was healthy off his knee surgery. Michael Brockers and Donald stuffed Marshawn Lynch for a 1-yard loss on fourth down to end the game. Nick Foles, recently released, was the Rams' starting QB then and had one of his better games of the year in completing 18-for-27 for 297 yards and a TD. The Rams for some reason have given Seattle problems over the past few years. Key trend: Rams have covered five straight as home dog in series.
Oct. 9 vs. Bills (-1): L.A. is off a trip to Arizona in Week 4. Buffalo could be in letdown mode if it wins in New England the previous Sunday, and that's possible with Tom Brady sitting his final game due to suspension. Rams beat Bills 15-12 in Buffalo in 2012 in the last meeting. Key trend: Rams 4-6 ATS in past 10 as home favorite of 2.5 points or fewer.
Oct. 23 vs. Giants (pick'em): Los Angeles is in Detroit the previous Sunday, and this game is in London with a 9:30 a.m. ET start. Thus it's ahead of L.A.'s bye week. New York is off a Week 6 home game vs. Baltimore. The Rams have dropped six straight in the series, last 37-27 in St. Louis in December 2014. Odell Beckham Jr. had a monster game. Key trend: Rams 4-6 ATS in past 10 before a bye (any location).
Nov. 6 vs. Panthers (+3.5): The Rams come off their bye week. Carolina could be bit flat off an NFC Championship Game rematch at home in Week 8 vs. Arizona. Rams have dropped five of past six in this series. Key trend: Rams 7-3 ATS in past 10 after a bye (any location).
Nov. 20 vs. Dolphins (-2): Rams off a trip to the Jets in Week 10. Miami is in San Diego the previous Sunday, so I'd think the Fins would consider staying the week in California. The Rams have lost three straight in this series, last 17-14 in Miami in 2012. Key trend: Rams 6-4 ATS in past 10 at home vs. AFC East.
Dec. 11 vs. Falcons (-3): L.A. surely will be coming off a loss at New England in Week 13. Atlanta is home to Kansas City the previous Sunday. Rams have lost three in a row in this series, last 31-24 in Atlanta in September 2013. Key trend: Rams 5-5 ATS in past 10 at home vs. Falcons.
Dec. 24 vs. 49ers (-5.5): Rams on extra rest as they visit Seattle on a Thursday in Week 15. San Francisco is in Atlanta the previous Sunday. The Rams beat the visiting 49ers 27-6 in Week 8 last year. Gurley rushed 20 times for 133 yards and a TD and set an NFL record for yards gained in a player's first four starts of his career. The Rams held the 49ers to 189 total yards. Key trend: Rams 4-4-2 ATS in past 10 as home favorite in series.
Jan. 1 vs. Cardinals (TBA): As with all games, no line in Week 17 with too many potential intangibles. Potentially huge letdown game for Arizona as it plays a likely big one in Seattle on Christmas Eve. The Rams lost to the visiting Cardinals 27-3 in Week 13 last year. The Rams had nine first downs and held the ball for just 20:13. Foles was terrible, and Gurley was held to 41 yards on nine carries. Key trend: Rams 3-7 ATS in past 10 at home in series.
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