What to expect from Rams' 2014 schedule

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The NFL will announce the 2014 schedule for the St. Louis Rams and the league's 31 other teams Wednesday night.

The announcement itself will reveal no surprises since we already know the who and where of what the Rams' schedule will look like. What remains to be seen is the when and that's what we'll get when the reveal is made at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

With that in mind, here's what to look for when the schedule is finally, mercifully, revealed:

Tough sledding: The Rams have played one of the toughest schedules in the league in the past few seasons and the early projection for 2014 would indicate that nothing is going to change. Using the combined winning percentage of their opponents from 2013, the Rams are slated to play the third-toughest schedule in the league in 2014, trailing only Oakland and Denver. Rams' opponents combined for a .564 winning percentage last year. Of course, using last year as an indicator of toughness this year is an extremely inexact process. Many teams will make a leap forward and many will take a step back. However, it's hard to see how the rest of the NFC West is going to take any major step back, leaving the Rams with at least six tough games. Add in AFC champion Denver and other 2013 playoff qualifiers such as San Diego, Kansas City and Philadelphia and it surely won't be an easy road for the Rams in 2014.

Schedule quirks: For whatever reason, the Rams' schedule has had some games that continue to pop up each year at this time when its released. For example, the team has played Seattle in December in four of the past five seasons, including Week 17 matchups the past two seasons and in 2010. This is the third year in a row the Rams have played Tampa Bay, playing the Bucs in Week 16 each of the past two years. The Rams have played San Francisco or Seattle in Week 17 five years in a row. It also wouldn't surprise to see the Rams open with Arizona, the team they've played in Week 1 in 2010 and 2013.

In prime time: The Rams are guaranteed at least one prime-time game on Thursday night. The question is whether they'll get a second. Last year, the Rams played two prime-time games, both against division opponents at the Edward Jones Dome. Their Thursday night loss at home to San Francisco was one of the team's worst performances of the season but they managed a much more spirited effort against Seattle on "Monday Night Football" before coming up just short in the closing seconds. In 2012, the Rams also played a prime-time game against a division opponent at home, against Arizona. History tells us the Rams are likely to stay in the NFC West for any prime-time games this year but the guess here is that they have to travel to do it. I'm also going to guess that the Rams garner one Monday night game somewhere along the way for a total of two prime-time appearances.

Storylines to watch: Beyond the usual hard-hitting, heavyweight battles in the NFC West, the Rams don't have much in the way of major storylines, though a number of elite players dot the schedule. Denver's visit to St. Louis very well could be the final appearance of Peyton Manning in St. Louis. And the Rams will get to see the other Manning brother with the Giants also paying a visit to St. Louis. The Oakland Raiders also travel to the Gateway City in a game that will surely dredge up the bizarre free-agent journey of offensive lineman Rodger Saffold. As for road trips, it's a safe bet the RG III trade will be a hot topic when the Rams visit Washington, Lovie Smith memories will be brought up when they travel to Tampa Bay and the in-state battle for the Governor's Cup will become a nice punch line for the game at Kansas City.

Home opponents: Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders.

Away opponents: Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers.