BALTIMORE (AP) -``With the first pick in the 2008 NFL draft, the St. Louis Rams select ... ``
It just might come to that. As one of the league's three remaining winless teams, the Rams, who planned to be in the playoff hunt this season, are instead in contention for the top prize in the next NFL draft.
Choosing first is a privilege Scott Linehan could do without. After going 8-8 in his rookie season as an NFL head coach, Linehan's encore has thus far been a disaster.
``We're struggling as a team. We're trying to find that chemistry, that magic that we need,'' he said. ``I know this: It's a 16-game schedule. There have been teams in the past that have started slow and finished strong.''
The battered Rams (0-5) have found all sorts of ways to lose. They still haven't discovered how to win, a shortcoming they hope to rectify Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens (3-2).
``We've got to start a winning streak sometime, and by figuring out a way to get a tough road win at Baltimore, that would be just what the doctor ordered for us,'' Linehan said. ``Our expectation right now is to do what we haven't done: put together a complete team effort to get a victory.''
If the Rams are to put some separation between themselves and winless Miami and New Orleans, they will have to do it short-handed. Quarterback Mark Bulger is nursing a rib injury, star running back Steven Jackson (groin) is out and wide receiver/kick returner Dante Hall (ankle) is doubtful. In addition, their top two receivers, Torry Holt (knee) and Isaac Bruce (hamstring) saw limited practice time this week.
This does not bode well for a team that has been outscored 137-70, including 89-27 in the second half.
``Injuries are never an excuse for your lack of productivity or your lack of execution,'' Linehan said. ``Whoever steps in has to do the job.''
The wounded Ravens can relate to that. Quarterback Steve McNair has been bothered by a groin injury he sustained in the season opener, and Baltimore has been forced to do without offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (hyperextended toe), cornerback Samari Rolle (illness) and defensive lineman Trevor Pryce (broken wrist).
Injuries to Ogden, Adam Terry (ankle) and Mike Flynn (knee) could leave Baltimore with three rookie starters on the offensive line Sunday: Ben Grubbs, Jared Gaither and Marshal Yanda.
``You have to start somewhere and that's what those guys are doing,'' McNair said. ``They've got a job to do and they're professional and they're handling it well. I'm not going to be worried about it. If I worry about who's protecting me right now, it's going to take me out of my game. I've got confidence in those guys.''
The Rams can derive some optimism from last week's game, a 34-31 loss to Arizona in which Gus Frerotte threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns. Subbing for the injured Jackson, Brian Leonard ran for 102 yards and caught five passes.
``It's frustrating to not win, but we were much better in sync as a football team last week than we'd been in the previous couple of weeks,'' he said. ``Our main thing was that we wanted to put together a strong four-quarter showing, and even though we had critical errors, we played together more as a football team than we had all year.''
Under different circumstances, the Ravens might feel some compassion for the Rams. But Baltimore has its own problems, most notably an offense that has scored only five touchdowns in five games.
``It doesn't matter to us if they were 0-5 or 5-0. The bottom line is Pittsburgh is 4-1 in our division, we're 3-2 and right now we need a win,'' linebacker Ray Lewis said. ``So we're as desperate as they are. Everyone has their own drama, everyone has their own dilemmas. Right now, we're fighting through a lot of injuries, things like that. Desperation-wise, we need this game.''
The Ravens still have to face Pittsburgh twice, New England, Indianapolis and San Diego. For now, no team on the schedule is more threatening than the winless St. Louis Rams.
``This is the absolute biggest challenge we've had to date,'' coach Brian Billick said. ``First off, they are a very talented team. When you're in this league and you're in that situation, it is a desperate time. This is as dangerous a circumstance, as dangerous a team as we've played so far.''

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