The St. Louis Rams are six up and six down, sitting in first place in the NFC West. How did this team put themselves in a position to host a playoff game?
6-6 heading into Week 14? The Bellagio and Aria weren't built because people saw teams like the 2010 St. Louis Rams coming. And three quarters of the way through the season the Rams not only are even record-wise, but sit atop the NFC West standings as well.
Seriously. August-Me would have probably bet a testicle with any sort of person wanting to take action on either of the aforementioned scenarios playing out. I guess this is why I'm five years out of college and still enjoy the sweet, sweet taste of Ramen noodles and Totino's Party Pizzas.
How did we get here?
Sam Bradford. If any NFL player is worth 50 million guaranteed without taking a snap in the NFL, then it's Bradford. During the second quarter of Sunday's game I saw A.J. Feeley in a passing shot coming back from commercial break. Remember when the Rams weren't going to start Bradford because he ‘was going to get killed' and A.J. Feeley ‘gave the Rams the best shot to win'?
Bradford has not only played every snap of the season, but he's turned a group of stiffs, also-rans, wash-outs and less than talented WRs into a serviceable corps of ball catchers. Really, we could blather on about Bradford, but I think we can safely say that the Rams finally smacked a home run with No. 8.
Fred Robbins. The Rams have tried for about 300 years to get a guy on the interior of the defensive line to do something, nay, ANYTHING to disrupt the opponent's offense. Some like Ryan Pickett had talent that never came out in St. Louis. Other like Adam Carriker were stiffs. All played like they were auditioning to be a spokesmodel for McFlurry's—soft and tasty to running backs.
Robbins has come in and gotten five sacks and 22 tackles while shifting the opposition to the outside, where Chris Long has thrived. DTs will never get the love of a QB, but a good one makes things much, much easier for everyone on the defense to get theirs.
Weak Division. The 49ers were set to smoke this division when the season started. Turns out they sucked. Hard. The Cardinals have lost nine games in a row. The Seahawks have been bent over multiple times by good teams in 2010.
The Rams can't control their schedule, but have caught a break by playing six games against teams that are equal or lesser in overall talent. Chances are this team would be closer to three wins in the NFC North or AFC East. But you play the games you're given and the Rams are taking advantage.
Sammy Bradford. I really did try to come up with something here other than the rookie quarterback. But considering that the only other significant upgrade on this roster from 2009 besides Robbins is LT Roger Saffold, I don't see any reason other than Bradford why the Rams are have surpassed their win totals in 2009, 2008 and 2007... combined.
Dude is tough, mobile in the pocket, accurate, malleable to different game plans and a LEADER. It's like if everything we bitched about with Marc Bulger suddenly metastasized and transformed into awesome. Bradford is on the verge not only legitimizing the St. Louis Rams as a NFL franchise, but also convincing us that Oklahoma isn't the hellhole that we all assume it is.
Maybe the hot streak continues. Maybe the bottom falls out. But at the very least, the Rams have won six games in 2010. And that's about five more than any of us expected.