How will the team fare in the league’s first 17-game slate?
Hallelujah, it’s finally game week! Sorry Andy Williams, but the start of football season is the most wonderful time of the year. The Los Angeles Rams will host the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football at 5:20 p.m. PDT to begin their 2021 campaign.
The Rams open the season with the fourth-best odds to win the Super Bowl, and the second-best odds in the NFC after the Buccaneers. Their addition of quarterback Matthew Stafford played a major factor in the shift in odds. There is a lot of excitement that LA can become the second team in a row to win a championship in their home stadium.
There’s still plenty of time until gameday, so let’s go ahead and look at how I envision the season playing out for the team. I will use a disclaimer that these are just predictions and they can always fluctuate as the season plays out. Unfortunately, I don’t own a crystal ball although that would be wicked awesome if I did. These predictions might not matter in a couple months, but they’re fun for the time being.
Week 1: vs Chicago Bears
This matchup won’t prove much besides the fact that the Bears will have to start Justin Fields as soon as humanly possible. LA’s D is going to have a field day against Andy Dalton and the barely-there Bears. Chicago’s defense is still a top-10 unit but this clearly isn’t 2018. One positive from this game is that the Rams can test the strength of their offensive line against Khalil Mack, one of the better defensive players in the sport. Other than that, Aaron Donald will have a huge statline per usual and Jalen Ramsey will be saving something extra special for Darnell Mooney and the Windy City’s “lame @$$ fans”.
Week 2: at Indianapolis Colts
It’s still unclear whether Carson Wentz and All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson will both be available against the Rams. If so, how healthy are they going to be? Pretty Twilight Zone-level stuff that they suffered the same freak injury. Anyways, the Colts might have one of the more complete rosters (if healthy) and because of this, they are a dark horse Super Bowl pick. Darius Leonard will be a menace and not just to the vaccinated players. Indy brought back receiver T.Y. Hilton on a one-year deal, but he’ll begin his campaign on Injured Reserve. The pass catchers leading the charge in his absence are young and unproven. Regardless of their opponent’s health, expect LA to remain unbeaten.
Week 3: vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Isn’t this a little early for a playoff-level matchup? This figures to be one of the most challenging games not only for the year, but on the home slate. Besides the Chiefs and Packers, Tampa has the most complete roster in the NFL, and will likely not become victimized by the Super Bowl hangover. The Bucs ended 2020 red hot and will begin that way prior to visiting LA. Last season, the Rams dealt the Buccaneers a close 27-24 loss at home before they caught fire. Expect Tampa to return the favor in a heartbreaker at SoFi.
Week 4: vs Arizona Cardinals
Fresh off losing to the Buccaneers, the Rams will be in search of a feel-good win. Why not enjoy some home cooking while beating the snot out of a divisional opponent? We already know that the Cards can move the ball as they’re led by QB1 Kyler Murray. The way this game will be decided is whether their defensive improvements will be considered upgrades when attempting to slow Stafford and company. J.J. Watt is no spring chicken anymore, but he can still get after the quarterback. Zaven Collins and Isaiah Simmons will prove to be dynamic. Jalen Ramsey has crowned DeAndre Hopkins the best receiver in the league. However, he’ll get the better of him by inches as Los Angeles refuses to drop a second-consecutive home game.
Week 5: at Seattle Seahawks
Another week, another divisional opponent, and this time on a short week. Seattle will be looking for some sweet revenge after being bounced in the Wild Card Round by the Rams at home last season. This was actually a historic win for LA as they became the first team to hand Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson a home playoff loss. The last time the Hawks lost a home playoff game was in 2004 against you guessed it…the Rams. In 2020, the Seahawks went 7-1 at Lumen Field, long-known as one of the most hostile sporting venues in all of North America. All this despite home-field advantage being nonexistent during the year of COVID. Seattle and Los Angeles will have a defensive battle but the Hawks will prevail on Thursday Night Football.
Week 6: at New York Giants
There might not be a game this particular week, especially if all the Giants’ players retire. A lot is uncertain about New York. Will running back Saquon Barkley be back to full health? Will receiver Kenny Golladay live up to lofty expectations? Will quarterback Daniel Jones take the leap or simply fall flat on his face? Poor guy, but I believe he’ll find something else to make himself meme-worthy. Perhaps Aaron Donald will literally turn him into a pretzel or maybe he’ll reenact the Butt Fumble. He’s already an expert in that department so why not bring something fresh to the table? The Giants play hard and disciplined under Joe Judge, but that won’t nearly be enough.
Week 7: vs Detroit Lions
This game will serve as exes duking it out, trying to show the other what they’re missing. Meow! New Lions quarterback Jared Goff leads the charge with his variety of pass catchers who somehow made an NFL roster. Seriously, if you can name at least one of their receivers without using Google, you might be a genius. Jared will do what he can to prove to the Rams that they made a huge mistake in trading him away. On the opposite sideline, Matthew Stafford will show his former organization what happens when you place a competent team around him. Goff will have a decent game against his old teammates but the Rams will win this one easily.
Week 8: at Houston Texans
Do I really have to talk about this team? The Houston Texans are a dumpster fire which is insanely offensive to dumpster fires everywhere. Mark my words, this manure pile will be picking first in the 2022 NFL Draft. Because this game is played on Halloween, Houston will put up a spooky performance. What a shame considering their tickets will probably be given away to trick-or-treaters. Wow, what a value! Yuck, just hand out some Necco Wafers instead. Yeah I know, the Rams lost to the Jets who were one of the worst teams last season. That win was a fluke and LA won’t drop another matchup remotely like that this time around.
Week 9: vs Tennessee Titans
After playing two cupcakes, it’ll be nice to see a quality opponent. These Titans are legit as their offense is loaded with Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown and Julio Jones. The Rams have to stop all of them to even have a chance of winning. It’s difficult but not impossible so here’s what I see being the Rams’ keys to success. First, box up Henry by gang tackling him on every carry. Next, rotate players to keep them fresh as the All-Pro dishes out the punishment. This is a similar approach to what the Packers did in a 40-14 win at Lambeau last season. Henry nearly broke the century mark but didn’t have any runs longer than 10 yards. This is easier said than done but Donald and associates can get the job done. Does anyone else find that to be a dope-sounding law firm name? Donald & Associates: We won’t let your justice get sacked. Finally, Jalen and members of the secondary can help put the clamps on Brown and Jones. Maybe a bend but don’t break approach is wise in this case, and if this plan goes well, LA will win in a shootout.
Week 10: at San Francisco 49ers
For the second week in a row, the Rams will play in primetime, this time on Monday Night Football against the Niners. San Francisco is currently on a four-game winning streak in the series, with the last LA win coming in a 48-33 win during their 2018 Super Bowl run. The Niners were way too injury-prone last season and maybe this campaign will bring better luck. When healthy, this team truly is one of the strongest teams in the division and it stands to reason that they could go worst-to-first. The last time that happened was in 2019 when they lost Super Bowl LIV. It’s possible the 49ers could implement a two-quarterback system with Jimmy G and Trey Lance. Offensive guru Kyle Shanahan would find a way to make it happen. With a healthier defense and strong play calling, San Fran will be a force to reckon with all year long. The series losing streak for the Rams will hit five.
Week 11: BYE WEEK
The bye week is one of the hardest opponents on the schedule, so I can see this matchup leaning either way.
Prediction: It’s a toss-up mate
Week 12: at Green Bay Packers
Well, well, well, the drama queen is back in the green and gold. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers returns to the Packers for maybe his last dance with the team. (Green Bay, we can’t thank you enough for not trading him within the division.) The Pack is a bona-fide Super Bowl contender, getting eerily close the last couple seasons. LA didn’t have a prayer last season on the road in the Divisional Round when they lost just shy of the NFC Championship. This was with the league’s top defense as well. The Rams do have an asset at their disposal as Stafford has familiarity with the Pack since he played against them twice a year in Detroit. Los Angeles will give Green Bay a better game this time around but Rodgers and the Pack will prove too much yet again.
Week 13: vs Jacksonville Jaguars
After a couple tough losses, the Rams have to return to their winning ways. What better opponent to do it against than a rookie quarterback and a legendary college coach new to the pros? Trevor Lawrence will be productive, but this team isn’t a contender for anything besides an early selection in next year’s draft. The Jags will be introduced to the real Sacksonville as Lawrence will be running for his life the entire game. Urban Meyer will see how the pros really work and begin praying that another high-profile college job opens up after the season. The Rams put a dub back in the win column against another rebuilding trainwreck.
Week 14: at Arizona Cardinals
At this point in the season, it’s possible that the Cardinals will be fighting for a playoff spot. There is clearly enough talent to make a run. However, they play in the NFC West which could potentially boost three playoff teams come January. If this team was in the NFC Least, they would probably win the division. But they don’t and Sean McVay has their number as he’s never lost to them. Arizona will make it tough throughout but McVay will march his record to 10-0 against the Redbirds after sweeping them for the fifth consecutive year.
Week 15: vs Seattle Seahawks
Earlier, I predicted the Seahawks to win at home against the Rams. I believe this time around, LA will protect their home and win with the right arm of Stafford and the loving embrace of Leonard Floyd as he drags Wilson to the ground.
Week 16: at Minnesota Vikings
I can see this being a trap game for the Rams. Minnesota has improved, don’t you know? First off, this is an odd-numbered year and the Vikings have made the playoffs in that pattern every odd-season under Head Coach Mike Zimmer. Can’t argue with that kind of logic. The Purple People Eaters will see the return of stud defensive end Danielle Hunter, who missed all of 2020 with a neck injury. Defensive tackles Michael Pierce and Dalvin Tomlinson will make their Vikings debuts to fortify their line. Second-year pass catcher Justin Jefferson has this game circled as he anxiously awaits lining up across from Ramsey. Jefferson’s excitement is worth the wait as his team stuns LA en route to an upset.
Week 17: at Baltimore Ravens
During his MVP campaign, quarterback Lamar Jackson threw five touchdown passes in a demolition of Los Angeles. Ever since that game, the Rams decided they likely didn’t want to be embarrassed like that again. Nevermore! Of course, the Ravens are one of the best teams in the AFC and this will be quite a difficult setting to get even at. Los Angeles will do what they can to slow Jackson and their power running game but this will be a low-scoring game Baltimore steals late.
Week 18: vs San Francisco 49ers
Depending on both teams’ standings in the playoff picture, this game might not matter to anyone. The Niners might start Lance this week if they haven’t put him in by this point of the season. Most likely, LA will be using this game as a playoff tune-up early as they FINALLY end their losing streak to San Fran.
Final Record: 11-6
How close is your prediction to my own?