The most intriguing home game on the slate for the Rams this season jumps off the page for a laundry list of reasons. They already will have had a tough first-half schedule leading up to this contest, facing Detroit, Chicago, and Green Bay, along with a couple divisional games against the Cardinals and Seahawks.
After all of that, they will square off with the New England Patriots.
With a much more manageable schedule in the second half of the season, this home contest could become a statement game for a developing Rams team. If they are keeping pace at around a 3-4 record, a win could spark a run at a possible wild card spot.
What adds to the uncertainty of the home field advantage is that the St. Louis Rams are hosting the game in London.
Playing on the pitch in Wembley Stadium, the Rams are going up against a team usually devoid of distractions. If anyone can keep the outside world out of the inside of the locker room, it is Bill Belichick.
On the other hand, many distractions are caused by a disruption of routine. Football teams plan details down to the millisecond in order to provide order, routine, and a focus on preparing for the upcoming week. With an excruciatingly long flight, jet lag, an unfamiliar setting and culture, and different practice facilities, disruptions will abound.
Rams' owner Stan Kroenke is a chronic sports franchise owner, with forays into hockey, basketball, and, more relevantly, Premier League soccer. His Arsenal club is conveniently based in London, with their home, Emirates Stadium, just 11 miles away from Wembley Stadium.
Arsenal also owns a dedicated practice facility on the outskirts of London, far enough away to not be distracted by the tourist options that the city offers. Kroenke and Fisher are probably already making preparations to keep the Rams routine as intact as possible.
If nothing else, London fans always show extra enthusiasm for kickers, so we get to experience the unappreciated become stars for a game. For all the soccer and rugby enthusiasts on hand, they will cheer on Stephen Gostowski, one of the best in football, and Rams’ rookie Greg Zuerlein, who has impressed
so far in camp.
And while the Rams averaged a home crowd of 56,000 in 2011, Zuerlein will show off his howitzer of a leg off to a much larger, in addition to appreciative, crowd in London. Last year’s attendance to see the Buccaneers and Bears was over 76,000.
While Belichick is a master in preparation, Rams head coach Jeff Fisher is an old pro, himself. By having the logistical advantage, will the Rams be able to enter the contest more prepared and less distracted? And will that overcome the talent gap that the two face?
The game will be a good barometer stick of how the Rams measure up to the league’s elite in terms of talent and preparation at their current state. Just do not count on Belichick and the Patriots showing up with anything less than their A-game.