L.A. St. Louis Rams
In January of 2012, Jeff Fisher was hired to be the 22nd full-time head coach in Rams history. In his first two seasons in St. Louis, Fisher led the team to 14 wins, a good accomplishment considering the Rams won just 15 games in the previous five seasons before Fisher’s arrival.
However, the 2014 season saw St. Louis finish with a 6-10 record, and now Fisher is on the hot seat coming into his third year with the Rams. He's not in danger to the point a non-playoff season will get him fired, but he at least needs to get St. Louis to the .500 mark if he wants to keep his job. His team is just too loaded and too talented to not win at least eight games in 2015.
The good news is, Fisher, the head coach in Tennessee for 17 seasons before coming to St. Louis, has led his teams to winning seasons 11 times.
Recapping Last Season:
The Rams have been one of the NFL's biggest teases since Fisher took over. Just last year, St. Louis scored wins against the 49ers, Broncos and Seahawks, of whom combined to go 34-16 last year. with a little more consistency, they can be a playoff contender this year, even in a loaded NFC West.
What's really scary about this team is how good they were at times last year, despite so much youth. Rams rookies accounted for 51 starts in 2014, including 12 each from DT Aaron Donald and T Greg Robinson, the team’s two first-round picks last season and 15 from CB E.J. Gaines, a sixth-round pick. Sadly, Gaines has been lost for the year with a knee injury, leaving St. Luis without one of their top DBs for 2015.
The real story of 2014 for the Rams was the play of Donald. He was named to the Pro Bowl and earned NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors after he led all rookies in sacks (9.0) and finished second among all NFL defensive tackles.
Another stuff rookie St. Louis featured was RB Tre Mason, who finished second among all NFL rookies in rushing yards (765) and was on the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie Team. It is worth nothing that 495 of his rushing yards came over the final seven weeks of last year.
Defensively, the Rams had a lot of promise going into the season, but a poor start by that unit was a big reason why they started the year 2-5. However, they became one of the league’s best defenses over the second half of the season. In the team’s last eight games, the Rams ranked fourth in rushing yards allowed per game (84.4), fifth in points allowed (16.8), were tied for fourth in sacks (26), and forced the sixth-most turnovers (15) over that span.
However, their strong defensive play could not always help the Rams overcome their offensive deficiencies as they 4-5 down the stretch. If they can establish a more stable offense, St. Louis could be a very dangerous team in 2015...
History with Cincinnati:
Cincinnati owns a 6-5 record against the St. Louis and Los Angeles Rams. The Bengals owned a 5-2 record against the Rams when they resided in L.A., but are just 1-3 against them since they moved to St. Louis.
The Bengals and Rams have a history of offensively-challenged matchups. In their 11 meetings, both teams failed to break 20 points five times. In fact, Cincinnati has scored over 20 points in just two of those 11 games.
It gets worse. In their last five games vs the Rams, the Bengals have scored an average of 14 points. Their two wins over the Rams since their move St. Louis featured final scores of 15-3 and 19-10.
With the Rams having a possible top-10 defense this year, the potential is there for another low-scoring affair in this year's matchup.
2015 Season Outlook:
Don't let the Rams' 6-10 record from a year ago fool you. Had they gotten just above-average play at QB, we'd probably be talking about an eight or nine-win team. They'll have that now with Nick Foles at the helm and the oft-injured Sam Bradford in Philadelphia now. Four of their losses last year were by six points or less. Had they had a stable QB situation, they probably would have won at least three of those and now we're talking about a 9-7 team bringing pretty much everyone back this year.
The big issue with this team is their offensive line. They cut starters Jake Long and Scott Wells this offseason after they'd clearly reached the end of their careers. St. Louis will be counting heavily on Greg Robinson to become a force on the line this year after being the No. 2 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
As long as the offense can be just average, the defense should be lights out and be enough to get this team to 8-9 wins. If the Bengals don't come ready to play in this one, they'll be one of those wins.
Cincinnati Game Date:
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 29 at 1:00 p.m. EST
Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio
Odds of a Bengal Victory:
Very Early Outlook:
This game is shaping up to be a battle of playoff contenders if the Bengals can remain what they've been the past four years, while the Rams make the jump everyone is expecting them to make. Looking at the Rams' schedule, I could see them being 6-5 coming into this game with playoff aspirations still high.
If nothing else, I believe they'll have a good enough record to be ready for a battle and will give the Bengals all they can handle and then some. In the end, I see the home team squeaking by with a close win in this matchup.
Prediction: Bengals 23, Rams 16