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Rams’ schedule features two tough stretches that could decide their playoff fate

When the NFL schedule is released, players and coaches look at a few things that probably catch fans’ eyes right away, too. Things like where the bye week is situated, how many prime-time games there are, how many short weeks they’ll have to play.

But after the initial wave of the schedule drop, we begin to see other elements that can’t be ignored – like the tough stretches that could decide a team’s season. For the Los Angeles Rams, there are two of those: one early in the year and one later on. In the middle, there’s a gettable portion of the schedule that should yield wins.

Weeks 1-3
at Lions (SNF)
at Cardinals
vs. 49ers

The first difficult stretch comes right at the beginning of the season in Weeks 1-3. The Rams open the year with back-to-back road games against the Lions and Cardinals. Admittedly, Arizona is one of the easier opponents on the Rams’ slate, but they also have a healthy Kyler Murray and he now has Marvin Harrison Jr., the first wideout drafted this year. James Conner is still there, as is Marquise Brown and Trey McBride. They could be a handful.

After what’s likely to be a slugfest against the Lions, the Rams will face those Cardinals and then finally return home in Week 3 where they’ll host the rival 49ers. If you’ve ever seen a Rams-49ers game at SoFi Stadium, you know there won’t be much of a home-field advantage for LA.

If the Rams can just get out of that opening three-game stretch at 2-1, that should be viewed as a win. While 0-3 is unlikely, it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility. After all, the Rams are underdogs to the Lions and 49ers as of now, and only 2.5-point favorites over the Cardinals.

Weeks 12-15
vs. Eagles (SNF)
at Saints
vs. Bills
at 49ers (TNF)
at Jets

The second tough stretch comes later in the season from Weeks 12-15, a five-game span that includes two prime-time games, including a Thursday night showdown with those same 49ers again.

Things begin with the Eagles on Sunday Night Football in Week 12, followed by a road game against the Saints; the Superdome is always a brutal place to play for the road team. Then the Rams return home to face the Bills before hitting the road to face the 49ers in a Thursday night game. Only having three days to rest up and recover after facing the Bills will surely be a test.

After taking on the 49ers, the Rams will then have a road game against the Jets across the country, a 1 p.m. ET kickoff which West Coast teams typically hate. Assuming Aaron Rodgers is healthy at that point in the season, the Jets will be a hard team to beat.

Going 3-2 in these five games would be just fine but even that’s not guaranteed. The Eagles, Bills, 49ers and Jets all have better Super Bowl odds than the Rams, according to sportsbooks, so they’re viewed as better teams than Los Angeles.

The Rams have some easier games in the middle of their schedule against the likes of the Bears, Raiders, Vikings and maybe even the Seahawks. However, those stretches in Weeks 1-3 and 12-15 could decide their playoff fate because those are eight important games with no real let-ups.

Story originally appeared on Rams Wire