The Rams better get off to a good start this season because the middle of their schedule is savage.
Year 3 of the Jeff Fisher Regime opens with a home game against Minnesota, a game at Tampa Bay and a home game against Dallas. The Rams will have every chance to win early.
Then comes an early bye week, probably too early to be of value.
And then comes serious trouble: Games at Philadelphia, at home to San Francisco (on Monday night), at home to Seattle, at Kansas City, at San Francisco, at Arizona -- three in a row on the road! -- and then back home against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
If the Rams are still in one piece at playing at San Diego next, things ease up a bit with games at home to Oakland, at Washington and at home to Arizona (on short rest on Thursday night) and the New York Giants. Then the season ends with the traditional game in the Seattle madhouse.
Whew! That schedule has "7-9" written all over it. In fact, ESPN tabbed the over-under at 7.
It's bad enough playing in the NFC West, but forcing that division to play tough AFC West teams this season is just piling on.
Based on last season's records, this schedule ranks as the third-hardest in the NFL. They play seven playoff teams during a span of eight games.
The Rams will need to rebuild their home-field advantage and beat some powerful teams in The Ed to get to the high side of .500.
Wish them well.
MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE
Questions to ponder of Cardinal hitters will ever heat up this season:
What kind of knucklehead hides pine tar on his neck?
What does your stadium food choice say about you?
Say, what's up in the Russell Wilson household?
QUIPS 'R US
Here is what some of America's leading sports pundits have been writing:
Tim Brown, Yahoo Sports: "Twenty-six men, including (Albert) Pujols, have hit 500 home runs. All kinds of men. All kinds of eras. Some, it's what they did, why they went to work; they hit home runs. Others, the home runs seemed a consequence of the rest of their game. The home runs came with the daily pursuit of the perfect swing, the reliable glove, the secondary lead, the big jump. But, maybe, mostly, the perfect swing."
Elizabeth Merrill, ESPN.com: "Blame it on the NFL for pushing back this year's draft two weeks, and the fact that there's nothing else to talk about until May 8. Blame South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who stirred the pot a bit in February when he called (Jadeveon) Clowney's work ethic just 'OK.' But maybe the only one you can blame for this whole mess is Clowney for drawing too much attention to himself. He finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting as a 19-year-old sophomore, a rarity for a defensive player. Then there was the hit, on New Year's Day 2013, that has been replayed so many times it almost seems redundant to type. Clowney exploded into the Michigan backfield in the Outback Bowl and hit running back Vincent Smith with such force that it jarred Smith's helmet off his head. From that day on, stories about Clowney's athletic prowess flowed like sweet tea at a Carolina barbecue. He was called the greatest defensive player since Lawrence Taylor; he was Superman and supposedly even wore a cape as a baby. He was projected as a lock for the No. 1 draft pick in 2013, but he couldn't declare because he was just two years removed from high school. So Clowney went back to school, and had a non-superhuman year at South Carolina in which he amassed just a fraction of his sophomore statistics, and here he finds himself, surrounded by questions about motivation. Does he really love football? Has he been skating by on talent? Did he shut it down in 2013, saving his body and bank account? Is he still worth a No. 1 pick?
Colin McGowan, Sports on Earth: "I suppose the NFL media operates this way during draft season because it works. I'm using 'works' in a loose sense here, because most everything about it is intellectually bankrupt. I mean it generates clicks and ratings because it appeals to the football fan's id. All of this fevered nothing exists because fans would like to know who their team is going to pick. This is an understandable desire, but what's concerning is that it's apparently strong enough that fans won't take an acceptable answer, which is that they can't know who their team is going to pick until it has already happened. There's a considerable gap between what we want to know and what we can know, and for whatever reason, fans fail to see it, plummeting to their psychic death like stampeding buffalo over a canyon's lip."
Tom Verducci, SI.com: "There is nothing grand about Wrigley Field. Its architectural achievement is its very lack of grandness. It's the clapboard house of ballparks, appealing to our need for a sense of home, for not just the familiar but for the familial. Grandpa Wrigley is always there for us. Wrigley Field is the most meaningful sports venue in this country. It is meaningful because of the concrete ramps and steel beams and off-kilter lines that make it resemble the first draft of a ballpark. But it is more meaningful because of the time and place those brick-and-mortar characteristics have come to define. Like the Statue of Liberty, Wrigley has grown to be identified and cherished for its patina. The longer Wrigley stands and the faster, louder and busier everything else outside its brick walls becomes, the more we need it."
Norman Chad, Washington Post: "Coaching in the NBA might be easy, but keeping your job is hard. First of all, it's not easy -- what, you want to be calling out plays for J.R. Smith eight months a year? As for staying employed, look at the precarious state of Mark Jackson, who has led the Golden State Warriors to 47-35 and 51-31 records the past two seasons and somehow is in danger of getting fired; the Warriors were 23-43 in 2011-12 The NBA is so tough, back in the day John the Baptist could've led the Orlando Magic to an 81-1 record and still been beheaded.
"I think the stock market in college football is going through the roof. Four teams is going to draw more interest, and eventually it will go to eight because of the benefits and revenue that comes from the market for college football."
Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy, anticipating a bigger NCAA playoff down the road.
Follow Jeff Gordon on Twitter @gordoszone and on Facebook at Gordo'sZone.
©2014 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Visit the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at www.stltoday.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services