2018 Los Angeles Rams game-by-game predictions

The Los Angeles Rams will finally experience what it means to play a first-place schedule. They'll play five prime-time games in 2018, all of them against teams that could wind up in the playoffs. But they'll also travel very little in the first five weeks, giving them a real chance to get off to another good start. Here's a look at how it could shake out for each game.

Week 1: Monday, Sept. 10, at Oakland Raiders, 10:20 p.m. ET

This will be fun. Sean McVay will be facing off against his mentor, Jon Gruden, who will make his return to the Raiders -- and to coaching -- under the bright lights of Monday Night Football. McVay probably isn't looking forward to facing an offensive mind he holds in such high regard. But his Rams are the better, more complete team. And they'll once again get off on the right foot. Record: 1-0

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, vs. Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 p.m. ET

The Cardinals are undergoing a pretty major transition period, with no Carson Palmer, no Tyrann Mathieu and no Bruce Arians. Look for the Rams' menacing defensive line to get after a familiar face in Sam Bradford, who is coming off knee surgery. Record: 2-0

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23, vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m. ET

This smells like a trap game. The buzz at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum should be electric for what will be the first regular-season Chargers-Rams game since the teams moved to L.A. The Chargers have the talent to compete for a division title this season, and they'll get the better of the Rams in this one, even though they'll be coming off a cross-country trip. Record: 2-1

Week 4: Thursday, Sept. 27, vs. Minnesota Vikings, 8:20 p.m. ET

Here it is -- the first signature win of the season. The Rams lost a tough one on the road against the Vikings last year and were badly looking forward to seeing them in the playoffs, confident that they would come out on top if given another chance. Kirk Cousins has since replaced Case Keenum, and the Vikings might be even better than the team that went to the NFC Championship Game last year. But the Rams will be ready. Record: 3-1

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 7, at Seattle Seahawks, 4:25 p.m. ET

This isn't the Seahawks the Rams are used to playing. Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson are still there, but so many of Seattle's key defensive pieces are gone now. The last time the Rams played at CenturyLink Field, they all but clinched a division title with a 42-7 annihilation. They know they can win there, and they'll do so again. Record: 4-1

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14, at Denver Broncos, 4:05 p.m. ET

When Keenum faced his former team last year, he went 27-of-38 for 280 yards and a touchdown, constantly scrambling to keep plays extended. Now he'll be steering a Broncos team that isn't as good as last year's Vikings, and facing a Rams defensive line that will make it a lot tougher for him to slither away. Welcome back, Wade Phillips and Aqib Talib. Record: 5-1

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 21, at San Francisco 49ers, 8:20 p.m. ET

It's a small sample size, sure, but it seems as if Kyle Shanahan has a pretty good feel for McVay (or, perhaps more accurately, Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips). Shanahan's 49ers gave the Rams all they could handle on Thursday Night Football last year, even though they were still so uncertain at quarterback. With Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm for the regular-season finale, they routed a Rams team that played mostly backups. Back at home, Shanahan will find a way to sneak past McVay's starters in this one. Record: 5-2

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 28, vs. Green Bay Packers, 4:25 p.m. ET

Here's a fun matchup between two former Cal quarterbacks in Jared Goff and Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers will be playing at the Coliseum for the first time since completing 23 consecutive passes during a dramatic loss to No. 1 USC in October 2004. Rodgers' team, now the Packers, will come up short here once again. Record: 6-2

Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 4, at New Orleans Saints, 4:25 p.m. ET

There's a case to be made for the Saints being the NFC's most complete team, now that Sean Payton and Drew Brees have a dynamic running game and a solid defense. One of the Rams' most impressive wins last season came against the Saints. But this one will come at Mercedes-Benz Superdome, which, you know, changes things. Record: 6-3

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 11, vs. Seattle Seahawks, 4:25 p.m. ET

The last time the Rams hosted the Seahawks, they outgained them by 134 yards and still lost. Not this time. Record: 7-3

Week 11: Monday, Nov. 19, vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 8:15 p.m. ET

This one will take place from Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, which is a whole lot closer than Twickenham Stadium in London. The Rams will be thrilled about that. Marcus Peters, the former Chiefs cornerback, will probably spend a lot of time covering Sammy Watkins, the former Rams wide receiver. When Peters isn't covering him, it will be Talib. In other words: This will be a very tough test for second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Too tough. Record: 8-3

Week 12: Bye.

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2, at Detroit Lions, 1:00 p.m. ET

The Rams' most impressive showing last season came off their bye week, when they beat the New York Giants 51-17. The Lions should offer a more difficult test, but the result will be the same. Record: 9-3

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 9, at Chicago Bears, 1:00 p.m. ET

Mitch Trubisky still has some growing to do. Facing Talib, Peters, Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald is not the ideal way to go about it. The Bears still aren't a very good team, and the Rams should win easily. Record: 10-3

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 16, vs. Philadelphia Eagles, 8:20 p.m. ET

Goff-Wentz, Part II. Carson Wentz injured his knee in last year's game from the Coliseum, then Nick Foles -- the eventual Super Bowl MVP -- led his team to victory. Wentz will, hopefully, be fully healthy by the time these teams meet again. The Eagles are just as good, if not better. And they'll prevail again in what should be another very close game. Record: 10-4

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 23, vs. Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 p.m. ET

Here's one thing we learned about McVay's Rams in 2017: They bounce back well from losses. They'll do so again in a rout of the Cardinals, who could be at the bottom of the standings by this point. Record: 11-4

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30, at San Francisco 49ers, 4:25 p.m. ET

If given another chance, one has to wonder if McVay would've handled the last week of last year's regular season differently -- if he would have played his starters a little bit more, or perhaps given them more practice time, so that they wouldn't have come out as flat as they did in the ensuing playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Regardless, this game could have serious ramifications. The 49ers could be that much better. Given that, McVay will get the best of Shanahan to split the season series. Record: 12-4