Look, I don't pretend to tell Stan Kroenke how to run his business. The guy is one of the richest men in the world, and in addition to owning the Los Angeles Rams also owns the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Rapids (MLS) and is the majority owner of Arsenal of the English Premier League. So clearly this guy is doing something right in life - No. 1 being marrying the daughter of Walmart co-founder James Walton.
My point being that I never understood why Kroenke signed off on a contract extension last year with head coach Jeff Fisher. Interestingly, that news leaked in early December even though it apparently had happened months before. I say interesting because less than two weeks later after the media reported the extension, the Rams canned the incredibly mediocre Fisher. His firing came one day after a 42-14 blowout loss at home to the Falcons. It was the Rams' third consecutive lopsided defeat, and it put the team at 4-9 and handed Fisher his 165th career loss, tying Dan Reeves for the NFL record. I guarantee you that Fisher will remain tied with Reeves for that mark because he's not becoming a head coach of another NFL team unless he buys one or has something blackmail-worthy on a current owner.
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The Rams were borderline unwatchable offensively at times last year. No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff looked completely overmatched and like perhaps the biggest QB bust since Oakland took JaMarcus Russell at the top spot in 2007. It took about a decade for the Raiders to climb out of that hole. I'm not saying Goff is Russell yet, though, as he had a terrible offensive line and group of receivers around him, not to mention unimaginative play-calling.
NFL teams tend to go in the opposite direction when hiring a new head coach. The Rams did just that and stunned many around the NFL in hiring Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay. He was 30 when hired but 31 now and the youngest head coach in modern NFL history. McVay largely got the job because of how he turned former fourth-round pick Kirk Cousins into a Top 10 NFL quarterback. In 2016, McVay's Redskins offense averaged more than 400 yards per game for the first time in franchise history and finished as the NFL's third-ranked unit. The Rams last year would sometimes struggle to reach 400 yards combined in back-to-back games. Kudos to the organization for not hiring some retread and going bold.
Los Angeles was 3-5 on the road last season (1-7 at home), 3-5 against the spread and 3-5 "over/under." The Rams travel to three playoff teams in 2017: Dallas, NY Giants and Seattle. The road slate, which includes four dreaded 1 p.m. ET starts, looks considerably tougher than at home. I project a 1-7 record. Odds listed for the home team .
Sept. 21 at 49ers (-1.5): Thursday night. Rams open at home vs. Colts and Redskins, both semi-winnable. This is the only game San Francisco is favored in all season. It's the only short week of the season for the Rams. L.A. opened last year with an offensively horrific 28-0 loss in San Francisco that set the tone for the season. Case Keenum was the QB that Monday night. Key betting trend: Rams 3-7 ATS in past 10 as road dog in series.
Oct. 1 at Cowboys (-12.5): Extra time to prepare for that Dallas offense can't hurt. The Rams have a pretty good defense. If there was a do-over for the 2016 draft, would the Rams take Dak Prescott No. 1 overall now? I think we know the answer in hindsight, although that would have been the biggest reach in draft history at the time. These two open the preseason against one another in L.A. Key betting trend: Rams 5-5 ATS in past 10 as double-digit road dog (three times last year, 1-2 ATS).
Oct. 15 at Jaguars (-3.5): L.A. off a Week 5 matchup vs. Seattle. Bit of a break here in that this is a 4:05 p.m. ET start. Fox TV must have needed a late-window game in Week 6 because there's no other reason these two would be pushed back. Goff looked a lot like the Jags' Blake Bortles did as a rookie. The jury is still out on Bortles, too. Key betting trend: Rams 4-2 ATS all-time at AFC South teams.
Nov. 5 at Giants (-8.5): Rams off their bye week. It's the Rams' second trip to MetLife Stadium in two years, as they beat the Jets there last November. Teams are supposed to play better out of a bye, but L.A. stunk up the joint in that scenario last year vs. Carolina. Key betting trend: Rams 7-2-1 ATS in past 10 after a bye (any location).
Nov. 19 at Vikings (-7.5): L.A. hosts Houston the previous Sunday. L.A. played the final preseason game of 2016 at the Vikings' new U.S. Bank Stadium. The last regular-season meeting was outdoors at the University of Minnesota in 2015 and the Vikings won in overtime. Key betting trend: Rams 4-6 ATS in past 10 at NFC North teams.
Dec. 3 at Cardinals (-8.5): Rams come off a home game vs. the Saints. L.A. has won at Arizona in each of the last two seasons, recording a total of eight takeaways in the two games. It was 17-13 in Week 4 last year. Tavon Austin returned a punt 47 yards to set up Keenum's 4-yard touchdown pass to Brian Quick with 2:36 to play. Key betting trend: Rams 4-6 ATS in past 10 as dog in series.
Dec. 17 at Seahawks (-13.5): Probably won't be too nice in the Pacific Northwest this time of year. L.A. hosts the Eagles the previous Sunday. It's the eighth straight season the Rams visit Seattle in the season's last four games. They lost there in Week 15 on a Thursday last season, 24-3. L.A. had 183 yards. Key betting trend: Rams 3-7 ATS in past 10 as at least 7-point dog in series.
Dec. 24 at Titans (-7): Goff and Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, the No. 2 overall pick in 2015, faced off in Pac-12 play twice and Mariota's Oregon Ducks blasted Goff's Cal Bears in 2013 & '14. Some scouts thought Goff was more NFL-ready coming out than Mariota was. Oops. It's the fourth time these franchises have met since the Rams' victory in that exciting Super Bowl XXXIV. Key betting trend: Rams 3-7 ATS in past 10 as December road dog of 7 points or fewer.
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