Projecting an 0-5 start from the St. Louis Rams before the 2002 NFL season would have been enough to call for a security alert.
That same projection, however, is reality, as the Rams get ready to host the Oakland Raiders Sunday in a battle of two Los Angeles runaway franchises. The Raiders have looked dominant in starting 4-0 and outscoring opponents 162-90. Including the exhibition season, St. Louis has not walked off the field a winner since beating Philadelphia 29-24 in the NFC title game. The Rams lost Super Bowl XXXVI to New England 20-17 two weeks later.
As far as the Raiders are concerned though, the team is taking on a club that won two conference titles in three years and not the winless team that got manhandled 37-13 by the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday. The Rams first four losses were by seven points or less.
"This is a very good football team, a championship team that has struggled," Raiders' quarterback Rich Gannon said. "It's a scary situation for us to go into, but all we can do is prepare like we have and get ourselves ready to play mentally and physically and hopefully take care of our business."
In fact, a handful of observers strongly suggested the Rams "quit" against San Francisco after falling behind but a big margin. St. Louis head coach Mike Martz admitted that his team's performance was disconcerting but did not use the term "quit."
"We do have a core of warriors on this team who will never lag; that's just what they're about," Martz said. "The Marshall Faulks, the Isaac Bruces and the Grant Wistroms, those kinds of guys. Unfortunately, there are some guys who are new to the organization or just now stepping up in the starting roles and they don't quite understand that we've got to bring it up to this level."
The Raiders, meanwhile, appear to be viewing the Rams with the "wounded animal" theory. St. Louis has taken a lot of heat from local and national media, so Oakland is assuming that the Rams will not resemble the club that took the field in San Francisco.