Remember week 17 in 2010? The Rams lost a game in Seattle and blew a chance at a playoff spot and a .500 record. Fast forward to 2012, the Rams again lose to Seattle to end their season and blow a chance at a .500 record.
In 2011, the Rams responded to that promising 2010 campaign by posting a dismal 2-14 record. So why would things be different after a promising 2012 season? Are the Rams doomed for a letdown once again in 2013? What are the differences between those 2010 Rams and this year’s version?
Well, there are plenty more differences other than the half-game difference in records (7-8-1 this year, 7-9 in 2010). This year’s version of the Rams was way more impressive than that of 2010. Therefore, Rams fans should have a lot to look forward to going into 2013.
Strength of schedule is one of the most obvious differences between the two teams. In 2010, the Rams the second easiest schedule according to thesportsgeek.com. This season, nfltraderumors.com says that the Rams have played the fifth toughest schedule thus far (They have not released their final rankings yet since week 17 has not been completed).
In addition, nfltraderumors.com also says that the Rams are tied for the most wins against top ten opponents with three. They have posted a better record against better opponents this season. That is largely due to the improvement of the NFC West this season.
Remember when Seattle made the playoffs in 2010 at 7-9 and everyone proclaimed the NFC West as a crappy division? Well nobody is saying that anymore. In fact many are calling it the best division in football.
The 49ers and Seahawks both posted 11 wins this season en route to playoff berths. More impressive however is that all four teams in the division had ranked in the top half of the league in total defense. Each team from the division made it extremely difficult on opposing offenses all season long.
Shockingly, the Rams were able to compete this year despite having the youngest team in the NFL. The average age of a Rams player heading into the season was a youthful 25.32 years of age. The Rams were closer to the middle of the pack in 2010 once the season got underway (I apologize, but I can only find the average age prior to training camp that depicts a much younger team than they actually were that season).
Rookies Janoris Jenkins, Michael Brockers, Chris Givens, Johnny Hekker, and Greg Zuerlein all had great seasons as starters on the team. Other rookies like Trumaine Johnson, Brian Quick, and Daryl Richardson also showed some great ability when they got the chance to play. Several other second and third year players also had good seasons for the Rams and showed signs of improvement.
In particular, Sam Bradford showed a lot of improvement this season. One of his biggest criticisms was his pocket presence. Sam looked much more comfortable in the pocket as the season progressed and even showed the ability to scramble at times and extend plays.
Although strength of schedule and age were two huge differences between the two teams, the 2012 Rams biggest difference between their counterparts is heart. Jeff Fisher has completely changed the culture in St. Louis. This team gave everything they had on every play and left it all on the field every week.
This was not a Rams team that came into a tough matchup expecting to lose. Even against the toughest of opponents, the Rams expected to win. Look no farther than the two San Francisco games for proof. Even when they were overmatched, they refused to be outplayed.
So what does this all mean for the Rams heading into 2013? Well, you should expect this team to be in the playoffs next season. They were close this season and should only get better as their young players progress.
Also, the Rams have some flexibility to look for upgrades in free agency. Not only flexibility, but they are an attractive spot for players looking to be a part of an up and coming team. They also hold the sixteenth pick in the draft along with Washington’s first round selection which could be as high as eighteen if Dallas knocks off Washington tonight (Teams are currently tied at seven in the third quarter).
Things are looking good heading into this offseason. These Rams are rebuilding the right way this time around. Jeff Fisher and Les Snead will continue to make this team better. The same could not be said about the 2010 regime of Spagnuolo and Devaney.
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