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September 09, 1988

DETROIT LIONS Sept. 11, 1 p.m. Anaheim Stadium

1987 record: 4-11.

Record against Rams: Rams lead series, 37-34-1.

Key offensive starter: Pete Mandley, wide receiver. One of the league's best-kept secrets, Mandley caught 58 passes for 720 yards and 7 touchdowns last season. His reception total was 24 more than the closest Lion, running back James Jones.

Key defensive starter: Reggie Rogers, end. Rogers, a first-round choice in 1987, was considered a bust as a rookie. But he made considerable progress during the off-season and training camp, enough so to earn praise from head Coach Darryl Rogers. He's fighting for a starting position with veteran Keith Ferguson.

The Rams could do without seeing . . . James Jones regain his touch as one of the league's best all-purpose players. When used correctly, Jones can give teams fits with his running ability and knack of turning simple swing passes into big gainers. PHOENIX CARDINALS Oct. 2, 1 p.m. Anaheim Stadium

1987 record: 7-8.

Record against Rams: Rams lead series, 22-15-2.

Key offensive starter: Neil Lomax, quarterback. The Cardinals may have struggled last year, but Lomax didn't. He led the league in passing yardage (3,387) and threw 24 touchdowns passes. For his efforts, Lomax was named to the Pro Bowl.

Key defensive starter: Leonard Smith, strong safety. Smith remains one of those anonymous NFL types partly because of his name and partly because of his team. The Cardinals didn't attract much attention, which caused fans to overlook Smith's fine season (109 tackles, 3 forced fumbles).

The Rams could do without seeing . . . Vai Sikahema returning punts and kickoffs. Sikahema earned his second Pro Bowl trip with a 12.5-yard punt-return average and 22.4-yard kickoff-return average.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS Oct. 23, 1 p.m. Anaheim Stadium

1987 record: 9-6.

Record against Rams: Rams lead series, 3-0.

Key offensive starter: Dave Krieg, quarterback. The mercurial Krieg threw for 23 touchdowns and had an 87.6 efficiency rating, second only to Cleveland's Bernie Kosar in the AFC. But after perennial All-Pro Steve Largent, there's a drop-off in receiving talent.

Key defensive starter: Brian Bosworth, linebacker. Bosworth, say Seattle coaches, had a boffo training camp. If you don't include the one strike game that fellow linebacker Fredd Young played in, Bosworth, a rookie in 1987, led the Seahawks in tackles.

The Rams could do without seeing . . . Curt Warner, running back. Warner has recovered from a bothersome ankle injury that prevented him from playing in last year's Pro Bowl. He just missed his fourth 1,000-yard season and finished second in the AFC in rushing to Eric Dickerson of the Indianapolis Colts. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS Nov. 20, 1 p.m. Anaheim Stadium

1987 record: 8-7.

Record against Rams: Rams lead series, 2-1.

Key offensive starter: The Chargers' season rests on the arm of Babe Laufenberg, who's been cut seven times since joining the league in 1983. He won the starting job over Mark Malone, Laufenberg being the more mobile of the two. With his offense line, minus tackle Jim Lachey, he better be mobile.

Key defensive starter: The Charger defense, once the laughing stock of the league, finished an almost respectable 15th last year, the team's highest ranking in the 1980s. The improvement was made with such acquisitions as Lee Williams, who gives the team a legitimate rusher at right end.

The Rams could do without seeing . . . Rookie receiver Anthony Miller loose in the secondary. The speedy first-round pick from Tennessee seemingly just needs experience to make it big. LOS ANGELES RAIDERS Sept. 18, 1 p.m. Los Angeles Coliseum

1987 record: 5-10.

Record against Rams: Raiders lead series, 4-1.

Key offensive starter: Jay Schroeder, quarterback. You have to assume the former Redskin will replace Steve Beuerlein, considering the Raiders gave up standout offensive lineman Jim Lachey and two draft choices for him. Schroeder will have receivers galore in Willie Gault, Tim Brown, James Lofton, Todd Christensen and Mervyn Fernandez. And don't forget Marcus Allen and Bo Jackson (sometime after Oct. 2) in the backfield.

Key defensive starter: Howie Long, defensive end. Long still attracts a lot of attention from offensive linemen, which gives Bill Pickel and Greg Townsend plenty of opportunity to pressure quarterbacks. Expect a another big season from Long.

The Rams could do without seeing . . . Schroeder setting up with enough time to throw the ball deep to Gault, Brown and Lofton.

ATLANTA FALCONS Oct. 9, 10 a.m. Fulton County Stadium Dec. 11, 1 p.m. Anaheim Stadium

1987 record: 3-12.

Record against Rams: Rams lead series, 30-10-2.

Key offensive starter: Chris Miller, quarterback. Miller is now the NFL's youngest starting quarterback--Miller is 23, Tampa Bay's Vinny Testaverde is 25. Miller finally got the benefit of a full training camp (he was a holdout for part of last season) and no players' strike. It shows.

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