After 20 years, the NFL are returning to Los Angeles. The Rams, who have the longest history in the City of Angels, have left Missouri and returned to the place that for many years they called ‘home’. The team are hoping that having Jeff Fisher in place – who was the head coach of the Houston Oilers when they relocated to Tennessee – will allow the team to have a smooth transition as they relocate. Fisher will also try to finish with more than seven wins for the first time since taking charge of the team. So, what will the 2016 season hold in store for the Los Angeles Rams?
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Nice and Easy
For whatever reason, this franchise has had Tampa Bay’s number as of late. The Rams have faced the Bucs in each of the past four seasons, twice on the road, twice at home, and have beaten them each time. Of course, things may change in Tampa now that they’re under a new head coach in Dirk Koetter, but still – the Bucs haven’t found a way to beat the Rams since 2010. The Bucs’ still-young quarterback will be facing a defensive line that harangued him on Thursday Night Football last season – despite not getting a sack, the Rams still notched up twelve QB hits on Jameis Winston that game. The Rams have one of the hardest schedules in football, but recent history suggests that this is one opponent that the Rams simply know how to beat.
As mentioned above, the Rams have one of the hardest schedules in 2016, with a strength of schedule (based on 2015 records) of a whopping .551, bested only be the 49ers and the Falcons on the difficulty ranking. With a lot of tough battles to choose from – including three of the four teams playing in the Conference Championship games this weekend, as well as the Seahawks – it might be surprising that the game that may be the toughest for the Rams is against a team that finished 6-10 – the New York Giants. The issue is not so much the Giants, who have had chronic depth issues for years and will be operating under a new head coach for the first time since 2004; but rather, where the game is taking place. Yes, this ‘home’ game for the Rams will be played in London – not in Wembley, as every other International Series game has been, but at Twickenham, the home of English rugby. The last time the Rams played in London, they were on the receiving end of the most one-sided beat down in International Series history, losing 45-7. Now, they have to return to London, to play on a completely different field, in what will already be an incredibly disruptive season. Having to relocate and play an International Series fixture will put a lot of strain on the team, so this may be the hardest game for the players, even if it’s not necessarily against their strongest opponent on paper.
There’s every chance that the Panthers will be the defending Super Bowl champions by the time the Rams face them. Even if they’re not, they still went near-perfect in the regular season, and have one of the most electric, controversy-attracting, and above all, marketable stars in the NFL in Cam Newton. When one of the league’s brightest stars is playing in the second-largest media market in the US, you know that the NFL are already grinning ear-to-ear over the potential viewing figures. In a money-driven league, there’s no question that this game is the best candidate to be played out in prime time.