Friday, October 8, 2010

Rams @ Lions- Preview

The Rams are currently sitting at a respectable 2-2 record. They are in 2nd place in the NFC West, and they're tied with Arizona, and Seattle, for the best record in the division. The preseason division favorites, the San Francisco 49er's, are nowhere to be found, as they hold an 0-4 record. So therefor, for the first time since 2006, the Rams' season is not over in September.

The last time the Rams possessed a winning record was November 5th, 2006. After starting the 2006 season with a 4-1 record, the team then lost two games in a row, and they held a 4-3 record as they entered the Edward Jones Dome to take on the Kansas City Chiefs; they lost the game 31-17, which put their record at 4-4. They ultimately finished the 2006 season at .500, with an 8-8 record, but the Rams haven't had a winning record since entering that game against Kansas City.

The Rams will have a chance to once again posses a winning record this Sunday on the road, against the Detroit Lions. So far, the Rams have lost their only away game (at Oakland), and have not had a chance to demonstrate what kind of team they can be on the road. If they demonstrate an ability to play good football on the road, then that might be the key to winning the NFC West.

It won't be an easy road game for the Rams. Surprisingly, the Lions may be the best team the Rams have seen so far. Yes, the Lions have an 0-4 record, but those losses have come against opponents with a combined 9-7 record (Rams' opponents have a 7-9 combined record), and the Lions have been losing very close games, to playoff caliber teams.

The Lions lost to the Chicago Bears during week one, with the final score of 19-14. As most people realize, the Lions should have won that game, but a last-second touchdown catch by Calvin Johnson was ruled incomplete, which sparked a lot of controversy.

During week two, the Lions lost a very close game to the competitive Philadelphia Eagles, with a final score of 35-32. Their only convincing loss came on the road, against the Minnesota Vikings, with a final score of 24-10. But last week, the Lions played well against the NFC North favorites, the Green Bay Packers, but lost 28-26.

The Rams have not yet seen an offense like Detroit's. Rookie running-back Jahvid Best won the Rookie of the Month award for September, and has been a home-run threat for the Lions. Best has 391 yards from scrimmage, and 5 TD on the season. Quarterback Shaun Hill is filling in for the injured 2009 number one overall pick, Matthew Stafford. Hill has just under 1000 yards passing, and 5 TD passes. But the real threat is wide-receiver Calvin Johnson. Johnson is possibly the most talented receiver in the league; he has 237 yards and 3 TD so far in 2010. Rams' cornerback Ron Bartell has historically been able to cover elite receivers, such as Larry Fitzgerald, very effectively; but he will still have his work cut out for him on Sunday.

The Rams defense should focus on shutting down Johnson, possibly by using double-teams for a good portion of the game. They also need to contain Jahvid Best, and prevent him from making big plays. It might be true that the Rams haven't seen an offense like Detroit's yet, but it might be safe to say that the Lions have not faced a defense like St. Louis' yet.

The Rams are ranked 4th in the league in average points allowed per game, which makes them ranked higher (in that category) than three out of the four teams that have won against Detroit this season (the exception being Minnesota, who is ranked 2nd). The Rams, so far, have a better run defense (20th) than Philadelphia (27th), and Green Bay (24th). They also have a better pass defense (21st) than Chicago (27th).

The Rams offense shouldn't hit any road bumps, as the Detroit defense is not any better than the defenses they've already faced this season. The Lions have a solid defensive-line that is led by rookie #2 overall pick, Ndamekong Suh; as well as veteran defensive-end Kyle Vanden-Bosch. But other than the front four, and second year safety Louis Delmas, the Lion's defense is suspect, and has plenty of holes. Even though the Lions have a promising defensive line, it is hard for me to believe that Detroit's front four is more intimidating than Washington's pass rushers that the Rams faced in week three; which featured Albert Haynesworth, Andre Carter, and Brian Orakpo.  

If the Rams' offensive-line can contain Suh and Vanden-Bosch, then the offense should be just as effective, if not more effective, then they've been all season. Steven Jackson will be healthy on Sunday, and it would be a great time for him to have a break-out game; he has yet to have a 100 yard game in 2010, but he will have a chance this Sunday, as Detroit ranks 25th in run defense. If the Rams can establish a solid run game, then Bradford should be able to throw the ball with ease.

In 2009, the Rams got their only win at Ford Field, against the Lions. Last year, it was the Lions' game to lose, and they lost it. But this time around, the Rams should be the favorites, making it their game to lose. In my preseason prediction article, where I predicted the outcome of each game on the schedule, I had the Rams losing this game (I predicted a 7-9 total record, and I am 75% accurate on my predictions so far), but with the possibility of Rams being in first place in the NFC West by the end of Sunday, and the fact that Detroit is winless, I think the Rams will be motivated enough to take this game away from Detroit.

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