After watching a summers worth of reps in OTAs, training camp and preseason games, Ben Frederickson and Stan McNeal of FoxSportsMidwest.com are ready to tell you how the season will go. Or try, at least. Onto their season predictions:
McNeal: 9-7. This is what I came up with when I broke down the Rams schedule in June. They didnt do anything in the preseason to change my thinking.
Frederickson: 8-8. The hype in St. Louis is rooted in something real. But I'm not convinced a few new (and inexperienced) playmakers will be enough to catapult the Rams into a plus-500 season especially when they'll be playing in perhaps the NFL's toughest division.
McNeal: 3-3. I dont see the Rams sweeping any of their NFC West rivals. But I dont see the Rams losing twice to the Niners, Seahawks or Cardinals, either.
Frederickson: 3-3. Shocker! I agree with Stan here.
McNeal: It would be great to see Tavon Austin lead the way because that would mean a lot of long and exciting plays. But Ill reach in another direction and say that Zac Stacy emerges as the go-to running back in short-yardage situations, including those near the goal line. A safer call is saying that whomever leads in TDs this season will top last years leader, which was departed receiver Brandon Gibson with a whopping total of five.
Frederickson: I've been beating the Jared Cook drum since the former Titan tight end got to St. Louis. After watching the Rams backfield struggle to punch the ball into the end zone during the preseason, I'm more convinced Cook could become the go-to target in scoring situations.
Austins total yardage (receiving, rushing, returns)
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McNeal: 2,000. Considering he should touch the ball at least 10 times a game, an average of 125 yards should not be overly ambitious for the speedster who should vie for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Frederickson: 1,000. Austin might not be as much of a factor in the return game as Rams fans hope. Why not? Smart teams won't kick to him. He will provide some highlights, and some touchdowns, but he is still going to be a rookie receiver adjusting to the NFL.
Sam Bradfords passing yards
McNeal: 4,010. He ranked 15th last year with a career-best 3,702 yards. Breaking 4,000 should put him on the cusp of the top 10, which is where hes headed.
Frederickson: 4,250. As Stan points out, Bradford threw for 3,702 yards last year, and that was while he had workhorse running back Steven Jackson to feed. Bradford will be asked to air it out more often. His accuracy could take a hit, but this should be a career year for him in terms of passing yards.
Touchdownsinterceptions for Bradford
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McNeal: If hes going to have a career year, hell have to surpass last years 21 TDs and stay right around 13 interceptions. All signs point to a career year: 28 TDs and, because hell be passing more, 15 interceptions.
Frederickson: Because I question the running backs' abilities to get into the end zone, I'll take 32 touchdown passes from Bradford. Interceptions: 18.
McNeal: Jared Cook. He is ready to make the most of what he considers a long-awaited chance to be a primary target. Being 6-5 makes him easy for Bradford to spot in the middle of the field, too.
Frederickson: Chris Givens. The second-year receiver and Bradford showed some serious chemistry in the preseason.
Rushing yards for Daryl Richardson
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McNeal: Lets see, 15 carries a game at an average of 4.5 yards per would put the first-year starter at 1,080 yards. Sounds about right.
Frederickson: Richardson is the starter, and that means he will get the rock more than anyone else. But others will see time and this offense will run less than it did when it had Jackson. I'll take 13 carries per game with an average of 4 yards per touch -- 832 yards.
Rushing leader after Richardson
McNeal: Coach Jeff Fisher continues to speak well of Isaiah Pead but that could be mostly out of obligation to a second-round pick. The way Benny Cunningham ran in preseason, he looks like a guy determined to make an impact in the NFL.
Frederickson: Cunningham, absolutely. The man will run you over.
More touchdowns or fumbles for Isaiah Pead
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McNeal: Based on what he has and hasnt done in his very young career, you wonder if hell ever score a touchdown. We already know he can fumble, though. Fumbles.
Frederickson: Surely Pead will turn the corner, right? There's something Fisher and his staff see that we don't. Maybe Pead will finally show everyone else. Touchdowns.
McNeal: Chris Long again will hold off Robert Quinn but mainly because Quinn will command more attention from opposing offenses, allowing Long more room to roam.
Frederickson: William Hayes. The guy didn't start one game last year and still came up with seven sacks. He could double that, at least, this season.
McNeal: Alec Ogletree. No player on the Rams needed a stronger showing in a preseason game than Ogletree, who turned in one in the finale. His confidence appropriately boosted, hes prepared to deliver on the big-play ability that made him a first-round pick.
Frederickson: Janoris Jenkins. He had four picks as a rookie. He will be even more of a game changer with a year of experience under his belt.
Greg Zuerleins longest field goal will be ____ yards.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
McNeal: 65. If they played a game in Denver, the number would start with a 7.
Frederickson: 68. If you haven't noticed, Fisher loves The Leg. He's going to give him chances to do outlandish things. Plus, a high schooler booted a 67-yard bomb last year.
Penalties per game
McNeal: 8.25. They led the NFL with an average of 8.06 a game in 2012 and did little in the preseason to make you think that number will decline.
Frederickson: 6.5. The league average appears to be around this point, and the Rams should be able to at least get here -- especially if it was a hot topic during the preseason. (A reminder: a lot of those penalties that came in the preseason were created by guys no longer on the team).
Overunder on times Fisher pulls youth card before the halfway point.
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McNeal: 2. As steadfast as the coach has remained in not pointing to the inordinate number of rookies and second-year players on his roster (26), there will be too many youthful miscues to not point it out once in a while.
Frederickson: We will get at least one, "It's not an excuse but we are a young team" before the first half of the season has come to a close.