The 49ers enter this Sunday's game as a fairly sizable favorite over the Rams. The Rams are in a rebuilding process and it shows in the fits and starts of the current season. The Rams opened the season at 3-2, winning three games in the Edward Jones Dome over the Redskins, Seahawks and Cardinals, while dropping road games at the Lions and Bears.
Things were looking good, but they have taken a turn for the worse, as the Rams have dropped three straight games including at the Dolphins, home against the Packers and on a neutral site against the Patriots. They are still looking like a tough team at home, hanging with the Packers for much of the game, but on the road they are struggling mightily.
The Rams do have some winnable games the rest of the year, but with five of eight on the road, it's tough to see too many wins the rest of the way. If the can get to 7-9, I have to think that would be considered a pretty big success moving forward.
I spoke with Joe McAtee of Turf Show Times and while we focused on this weekend's matchup, I also threw in a question about the Rams bigger picture. After all, the NFC West has tightened up a bit this year, and the Rams in a great position moving forward where they can use the Redskins picks acquired in the RGIII trade to really build something. Here is what Joe had to say:
Well after five weeks with the Rams at 3-2, everything looked great. A mistake-filled loss to Miami, another loss to Green Bay who simply outplayed the Rams and the embarrassment of the Patriots loss three games in a row brought Rams fans back to Earth.
I'll say this - the team is better because of Jeff Fisher, both in terms of their play and their attitude. The Rams have won three games or less in five of the last six seasons. So even putting forth a mediocre season would be no small achievement. This year, it's going to be interesting to see if this is a mediocre team who's going to have stretches of poor play or if it's a poor team that just eked out some lucky wins early on. Personally, I favor the former, but I'm a bit biased yanno.
More important is the long-term prospects. As we talked about in the hangout on Wednesday, the Rams have four first round picks over the next two years - that's their path to annual playoff contention. With the success the Rams found beyond the second round in this year's draft coupled with some key free agent moves, there's no reason to be optimistic.
It's worth noting for Rams fans, though, that they set the bar insanely high by hitting on so many rookies and turning the offensive line into a workable unit. Jeff Fisher and GM Les Snead took a very, very talent-thin roster and turned it almost entirely on its head in a year. Now that they've taken, IMO, a poor roster and taken the next step, they'll have to make the next jump. And as we see every year, that's the hardest step of all for managers and coaches.
The big story line for Joe's Rams has to be those two first round picks. With the Redskins hitting a bit of a rut having lost three straight games, the Rams could be looking at a pair of high first round picks. If the season ended today, the Rams would have the No. 5 and No. 11 picks in the draft. Given the overall needs, they could grab two impact guys with those picks, or they could potentially deal one of the first rounders to pick some extra later round picks.
Whatever they decide to do, they are in a position to add impact players and depth in the next two drafts. This really is a make or break time for the Rams, and their status in the NFC West could change drastically in fairly short order. Although I am perfectly fine with the 49ers rolling through the NFC West, it will make things a bit more interesting if the Rams make a return to legitimate relevancy.