After three quarters of the season, Rams enter the final stretch of the season at .500, 6-6, and presumably have the division title in their reach, adding an allure to this prime time matchup. This is the time when a team that's learning how to take the next step forward needs to bear down and simply focus on gameplanning and executing for the task at hand.
Under the lights of Monday Night Football, though, the Rams will find themselves awash in the media's story machine, full of comparisons to last year's disaster in prime time. It will be the primary storyline, and it will be Seattle's primary motivation to play spoiler before a national TV audience in their home stadium. This may be their super bowl, and as such, the biggest opponent the Rams may have to contend with is the still-formidable "12th man" in Seattle.
The Rams brought out speakers on the practice field this summer, to practice under hostile conditions. But considering I could still talk with the fans next to me while these practice sessions were going on, and my fillings were failing to rattle out of my teeth, I'm not sure that this simulation adequately prepared the offense for the challenge they'll face at the Clink.
However, by this point in the season, the Rams will have faced much more adversity than simple noise or atmosphere or bright lights. At this point, they'll know a little bit about whether they can execute their offense and defense under adverse conditions. I'm betting that they can, and if so, will easily be the better team on the field.
Derek: "Having faced tough road battles already in 2011 going to Seattle is no new feat. At this point McDaniels has the offense clicking along. Lance Kendricks has shown to be a favorite target of Bradford it again opens up the running game for Steven Jackson to break for over 100 yards."
This game will test the Rams in ways that few others on the schedule will. We don't play in the best division, but division rivalry games are always heated and tightly contested. We have only recently shucked off the "doormat" identity, and it's easy to have sympathy for teams like the Bengals that have, and let's put it nicely, very little going for them.
Marvin Lewis can't be superstoked to be leading ultra-raw (and red-headed) quarterback Andy Dalton into battle, with his own job security most certainly on the line, while his employer engages in yet another pissing match with a star player.
Carson Palmer has vowed never to play another down for this franchise, and I can't say I blame him. But essentially keeping him around in a portable doghouse chained to the back of the team bus just underscores the gulf in leadership that is plaguing this franchise, and makes December road trips like this one painfully depressing for the team and its fans.
The challenge for the Rams? Keeping that empathy off the field for the 60 minutes of gametime it will take to dispatch this clearly inferior opponent. You can shake hands afterwards and commisserate, but not until you've posted a W. Anything less will haunt this team for a long time.
Tim: "The poor Bengals come to town at the wrong time. On the day the Rams celebrate Marshall Faulk and with the Dome rockin', the Rams go out and destroy the lonely Bengals. Clinching the division and the playoffs with their 8th win."