|Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press|
|2010 Offensive Rookie of the Year Sam Bradford almost led the Rams to the playoffs. Progress in 2011 could be tough.|
NFL schedule-makers are resigned to the fact that they can't make everyone happy, and this year is no different.
But did they have to be quite so harsh to both Missouri teams?
Thanks to some extremely difficult stretches of games, the St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs -- both of whom fall under the up-and-coming category -- might have a hard time showing just how much more competitive they are than last year.
The Rams were a terrific story last season, with 2010 top overall draft pick Sam Bradford nearly leading them to the playoffs. Whether Steve Spagnuolo's team can show more progress in 2011 is likely to depend on how it handles a schedule that opens with a highly challenging seven-game stretch.
In Week 1, they face the Philadelphia Eagles at the Edward Jones Dome and then they travel to the New Meadowlands to face the New York Giants on "Monday Night Football." After that, they return home to take on the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins. The Rams' bye falls early, in Week 5, although it does allow them to get some much-needed rest for back-to-back road encounters with the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys. Finally, they return home against the New Orleans Saints.
The Chiefs reached the postseason as the AFC West winner, only to be quickly bounced by the Ravens. But if they have any hopes of returning to the playoffs, they'll need to survive a brutal five-game stretch from Weeks 11 through 15 that has them taking all four teams from the conference title games, as well as the New England Patriots.
The stretch begins in Week 11 at New England, on "Monday Night Football." After that, the Chiefs face the Pittsburgh Steelers at Arrowhead Stadium on "Sunday Night Football," then have road games against the Chicago Bears and New York Jets. The task concludes at home against the Packers in Week 15.
Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci.