EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Soon after the NFL released the 2014 schedule Wednesday night, I offered a quick analysis of what looks to be a tough slate heading into the season.
After a night to ponder some other things, here are a few leftover observations:
-- You'd think the NFL would have learned its lesson about scheduling the Rams to play at home on "Monday Night Football" in October but the Rams are once again set for a prime-time matchup at the Edward Jones Dome on Oct. 13 against San Francisco. Last year, the Rams hosted the Seattle Seahawks on "Monday Night Football," in what should have been a good moment for the franchise in returning to a prime-time stage it hadn't hosted in years. Instead, that game, a game which turned out to be quite a battle between two motivated defenses, was overshadowed by the St. Louis Cardinals playing in the World Series right down the street. The result was one of the smaller crowds of the season and one of the team's lowest-rated games locally. There's no guarantee there will be any sort of overlap again or that the Cardinals will even be in the playoffs this year but that's not the point. Playoff baseball is going to take precedence over regular-season football in most cities, especially St. Louis, anytime the two are running concurrently.
-- We've already discussed what looks to be a murderers' row of eight difficult games coming after the team's Week 4 bye but we haven't touched on the unfortunate timing of the bye itself. That eight-game stretch might not be so awful if it was at least broken up with the bye week but putting the bye that early gives the Rams no chance to come up for air. So the Rams will open with a winnable trio of games against Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Dallas, get a week off and then embark on eight games against opponents with winning records from 2013. Making matters worse, the Rams could have gotten a reprieve if they had their Thursday night game during that stretch in lieu of the bye week. While that would mean a quick turnaround one week, it would also make for more time off on the other end.
-- Speaking of the "difficult" eight-game stretch in the middle of the season, it bears repeating that things that might look bleak now don't always come to fruition. In fact, they usually don't. At this time last year, many looked at the schedule and thought Atlanta and Houston would be two of the best teams the Rams would play. The Texans ended up with the first pick and the Rams beat them soundly during the regular season. On the other side, Arizona might have looked ripe for a couple of Rams' wins and the Cardinals went on to a 10-6 record. Past results are rarely an indicator of the future.
-- In my way too early prediction for the Rams, I went 8-8, which is a bit of a cop out I admit but without seeing not only draft results but how those rookies fare in preseason and training camp, trying to get too adventuresome at this point doesn't make much sense. We'll obviously know a lot more about this team after it has, you know, a 53-man roster. But it is worth pointing out that the Rams played well against some good opponents outside of the NFC West last year with impressive victories against Indianapolis, Chicago and New Orleans. Again, that doesn't mean much in predicting how things will shake out in 2014 but it's not crazy to think the Rams could do some damage again outside of the division against tougher foes such as Denver or Kansas City after getting battle-tested in the West.