Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rams vs Chargers: Pre-Game Package

The San Diego Chargers will enter the Edward Jones Dome, on October 17th at noon, to take on the St. Louis Rams. Both teams will enter the game with a 2-3 record. The Rams are coming off of a devastating loss (to say the least) against the Detroit Lions; St. Louis lost that game 44-6, and it was the Lions' biggest victory (as far as point differential) since 1995. The Rams entered the game against Detroit with a 2-2 record, after beating the Seattle Seahawks and the Washington Redskins back-to-back. So the fact that they weren't even competitive was very disappointing to Rams fans.

Meanwhile, the San Diego Chargers, the AFC West favorites, have been disappointing so far. It is funny how a 2-3 record can be a solid start for some teams (Rams), and at the same time it can be a slow start for others (Chargers). They're coming off a 35-27 loss to the Oakland Raiders. The Chargers were also beat by a mediocre Seattle team, and their third loss came against the Kansas City Chiefs.

If previous games are any indication, then Sunday's game should be a close one. The Chargers lost to Seattle, a team that St. Louis beat (convincingly); and St. Louis only lost to Oakland by two points, whereas San Diego lost by eight. However, San Diego beat the Arizona Cardinals 41-10, while the Rams lost to Arizona 17-13.

The Rams' defense will have their work cut out for them. San Diego has the top ranked offense in total yards, as well as the top passing offense in the NFL. Although San Diego is known for their passing game, their rushing offense has been in good shape, despite the fact that their highly touted rookie running-back, Ryan Matthews, has been out of action with an ankle injury. Back-up running-back Mike Tolbert has been a solid substitute. Tolbert is averaging 4.6 yards per carry, with 292 rushing yards, and 4 touchdowns on the season. 

St. Louis' defense is ranked 20th in total defense (yards per game); their defense was ranked in the top ten in total points allowed, but after the game against Detroit, they slipped to 15th. The defense will get a little healthier this week, resulting in some players returning from injury. Starting defensive-tackle Gary Gibson will return from his shoulder injury this Sunday, and defensive-tackle Clifton Ryan will also return after being held out since week one due to migraines. The production from the defensive-tackle position should improve this week, as Gibson and Ryan were two solid members of the rotation.

San Diego's defense is ranked 23rd in total points allowed, but they rank 2nd in average yards allowed per game. Though the stats contradict each other, it doesn't matter. The Rams offense will be climbing an uphill battle either way. The absence of their top wide-receiver, Mark Clayton, will surely be noticed. The Rams have activated rookie wide-receiver Denario Alexander to the 53-man roster. Alexander has the size that the Rams crave, but has knee issues. Mix the knee issues with the inexperience, and that makes it likely that Alexander will be a non-factor. It will be up to Brandon Gibson or Laurent Robinson to step up, and to fill the void.

Rookie tight-end Mike Hoomanawanui fully participated in practice this week, after receiving a high ankle sprain toward the end of the preseason. Hoomanawanui caught quarterback Sam Bradford's first two touchdown passes of the preseason, and had three touchdown catches total during the preseason (all of them thrown by Bradford). Hoomanawanui was clearly Bradford's favorite target during the preseason, and his return certainly helps; it may even partially fill Clayton's shoes (Clayton was very good for the Rams so far, but remember, he was not an elite receiver by any means).

My season prediction article had the Rams losing this game; simply because the Chargers are a play-off caliber team, and the Rams are not on the same level (at least it didn't seem that way at the time of the prediction). But despite that, if you mix the Rams' home-field advantage, and look at some of San Diego's losses this season, then it is clear that this game could go either way.


St. Louis Rams
LB Chris Chamberlain (toe)- Did not participate in practice
DT Gary Gibson (shoulder)- Full participation
WR Mardy Gilyard (thigh)- Full participation
TE Mike Hoomanawanui (ankle)- Full participation
CB Justin King (calf)- Full participation
S   Darian Stewart (hamstring)- Full participation
TE Billy Bajema (knee)- Limited participation
CB Ron Bartell (calf)- Limited participation
OG Jacob Bell (head)- Limited participation
RB Kenneth Darby (ribs)- Limited participation
CB Kevin Dockery (hamstring)- Limited participation
DT Darrel Scott (ankle)- Limited participation
LB David Vobora (hamstring)- Limited participation

San Diego Chargers
LB Larry English (foot)- Out; will not play
LB Brandon Siler (foot)- Did not participate in practice
WR Legedu Naanee (hamstring)- Did not participate
RB Ryan Mathews (ankle)- Did not participate
WR Craig Davis (ribs)- Did not participate

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