JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 01: Danario Alexander #84 of the St. Louis Rams attempts to make a reception during a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on September 1, 2011 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
The St. Louis Rams are in Candy Land this week. But the reality of their 1st half schedule is a rude wake-up call. Can the Rams answer the bell and turn a historic pre-season into a memorable regular one?
Reality is cruel. The St. Louis Rams put a bow on a perfect preseason by beating the Jacksonville Jaguars 24 -17 Thursday night, in front of an announced attendance of 61,524 or, in other words, the entirety of the greater metro area not addicted to meth.
It was the first time since moving to St. Louis that the Rams finished the exhibition schedule perfect. And since the Cardinals are in the midst of being eliminated from post-season contention, the Rams are starting to pick up the excitement level of not only fans, but the city itself.
But let us be honest with each other. There is only one big winner this preseason. FOX.
Days from now, the Philadelphia Eagles will visit St. Louis to open the regular season. With several offseason acquisitions, the Eagles have become the most intriguing team in the NFL, a paper champion that the national media is ready to either slather in adulation or totally dismantled depending on the outcome of their games week to week.
And the Week 1 match-up against the Rams looked to be a nice introduction of this storyline for FOX. Sure, they'd treat our Rammies with kid gloves. Highlight Sam Bradford's excellent rookie season, etc. But at the end of the day, everyone expected the Eagles to pretty much manhandle the Rams.
Well now we've got THE marquee match-up in Week 1 shaping up at the Edward Jones Dome. And FOX is going to give it the big boy treatment it deserves, replete with promos ad nauseum, Joe & Troy in the booth and the lion's share of the pregame chatter with Terry, Howie and the boys. No one was happier about the Rams 4-0 pre-season than FOX.
The reality, though, for us fans is much more brutal.
Week 1 against the presumptive NFC title winners does. And Mike Vick, Nnamdi Asomugha and a whole litany of other returning stars and free-agent pickups are ready to prove that the hype was real. A win for the Rams sends them to the head of the line within the NFL hype machine and to the A block on Berman and TJ's Prime Time clips.
Well, who the hell knows.
We've said it before, but it probably bears repeating... I don't know if we're going to know much about the Rams until the midway point in the season. The first 1/2 of the schedule is absolutely a murderers row.
Philly, Green Bay, New Orleans, Dallas, NY Giants, Baltimore - all figure to be big wins if the Rams can get them. But if they lose, does that mean a ton? I don't think we really know. Because the Rams, even going through the first 8 at 3-5, will have a really good shot at winning the NFC West. And it might then prepare them for the playoffs like no other team has been prepared this season.
At least that's the hope.
The reality is that the Rams have the toughest first half of any NFL team in 2011. And that the wins against third-string QBs and teams vetting out a backup's backup are going to be in the rearview mirror very quickly.
Surly Coach Spags is reminding the team of this at this very moment.
The litmus test beings Sunday.