NFL schedule 2021: Here are some challenges that await the Rams

Los Angeles Rams players warm up before an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Inglewood.
Rams players warm up before a game against the Arizona Cardinals in Inglewood on Jan. 3. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

After advancing to the divisional round of the playoffs last season, the Rams retooled the offense. They traded for veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford, added receiver DeSean Jackson, and then used their first pick in the draft to select receiver Tutu Atwell in the second round.

The Rams drafted five defensive players to help new coordinator Raheem Morris replace key losses and maintain or improve upon the performance achieved last season under Brandon Staley.

Will the Rams be good enough to make a run to a Super Bowl that will be played at SoFi Stadium?

Here is a deeper look at a few highlights from the Rams’ 2021 schedule:

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For openers…

The Rams and the Chicago Bears compete in different NFC divisions, but they have become annual opponents.

Their first game of the season — on “Sunday Night Football” — marks the fourth consecutive year that Rams coach Sean McVay will face Bears coach Matt Nagy, including a third consecutive game in Los Angeles.

In 2018 at Soldier Field, the Bears overwhelmed the Rams’ offense en route to a 15-6 victory.

But the Rams won, 17-7, in 2019 at the Coliseum, and 24-10 last year at SoFi Stadium.

Two things are certain: It will be fun to again watch two of the NFL’s most disruptive defensive players — the Rams’ Aaron Donald and the Bears’ Khalil Mack — and transplanted Bears fans will be out en masse for the opener.

Potential Texas trap game?

Houston Texans tight end Pharaoh Brown catches a pass.
Houston Texans tight end Pharaoh Brown catches a pass before a game against the Tennessee Titans on Jan. 3 in Houston. (David J. Phillip / Associated Press)

In 2020, the Rams suffered an embarrassing late-season defeat by the then-winless New York Jets at SoFi Stadium.

The controversy-stricken Houston Texans will probably open the season as the favorite to finish with the fewest victories and claim the top pick in the 2022 draft.

The Rams play the Texans in Houston on Halloween.

Thursday night in Seattle

Rams edge rusher Leonard Floyd pursues Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
Rams edge rusher Leonard Floyd pursues Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

The schedule-makers did the Rams no favors with their Thursday night game against the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 7.

In four seasons under McVay, the Rams played a non-division opponent before playing a Thursday night game four days later. They are 3-1 in Thursday night games.

This season, the Rams play the Arizona Cardinals in an NFC West game on Oct. 3 before traveling to Seattle.

Welcome and well-timed break

The NFL expanded the schedule to 17 games, and the Rams will not have an open date until after they play their 10th game.

But it comes at a potentially opportune time.

The Rams play the San Francisco 49ers on Nov. 15 on “Monday Night Football” and then will have time to rest and prepare for a road game against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

It won’t be home for the holidays

The Rams play the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium the day after Christmas and the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium the day after New Year’s Day, so they will be traveling on holidays.

Those two trips for the 15th and 16th games come sandwiched between what could be very important NFC West home games against the Seahawks and 49ers.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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