This will be the last game before the bye-week for the Rams. Who knew they would be 3-4 heading into their bye-week, after going 1-15 in 2009? The Rams sit a half a game out of 2nd place in the NFC West, behind the 3-3 Cardinals, and they are only 1.5 games behind the 1st place Seattle Seahawks (a team that the Rams have already beat... convincingly).
The Rams will have a chance to gain some ground in the West this week. The Seahawks go on the road to face the Oakland Raiders (and the Seahawks have been worse than the Rams on the road this year), and the Arizona Cardinals will play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Arizona. The Rams will have it easy this week, facing the 1-5 Carolina Panthers in St. Louis.
The Carolina Panthers are the team that everyone thought the Rams would be this year. Their offense has not been clicking, to say the least. They started the year with QB Matt Moore under center, but he failed to be productive, so they went with rookie QB Jimmy Clausen. In three starts, Clausen had only one touchdown pass vs three interceptions, a completion percentage under 50%, seven fumbles, and a rating of 52.2. Clausen was rightfully benched in favor of Moore last week against San Francisco, and Moore was able to get Carolina their first win of the season.
Even though they won last week, I wouldn't expect a turnaround out of the Panthers anytime soon. Their offense ranks 31st in the NFL (259.8 yards per game), and they rank 32nd in scoring (12.5 points per game). The quarterback battle has resulted in their passing game being ranked 31st in the league. Their top receiver, David Gettis (who?), has only 18 receptions on the year, and former all-pro wide-out Steve Smith has only 17 catches; both have under 250 yards.
Despite their poor passing game, you would think the one thing they are doing well is running the ball, given the deadly tandem of DeAngelo Williams, and Jonathan Stewart; but in six games, Williams has only 361 yards (although his average is a respectable 4.1), and Jonathan Stewart has been a major disappointment for his fantasy owners (I know personally). Stewart has only 148 yards on the season, is averaging under three yards per carry, and has only one rushing touchdown on the year.
Fortunately for the Rams, Williams will likely be sidelined this Sunday with a foot injury, leaving the ineffective Stewart to carry the load. Surprisingly, Stewart is averaging over 150 yards per game in his three career starts, but that is a trend that will not likely continue.
The Rams will have every opportunity to win this game. The Panthers questionable passing offense will help the Rams overcome their injured defensive-backfield (see King, Stewart, and Bartell in the injury report below), and the absence of DeAngelo Williams will take away any run threat that they might have posed. Even star running-back Steven Jackson is playing this week, despite having surgery on a finger Monday, just to make sure his team doesn't get embaressed by the 1-5 Panthers.
The most important advantage, however, is the Rams' homefield advantage. The Rams' have only one home loss this year (opening week against Arizona), and even during that one loss, they were competitive for four quarters. If there is one "sure" win for the Rams this season, then it is this game against the Panthers.
PREDICTION: RAMS 24 PANTHERS 13
ST. LOUIS RAMS
CB Justin King (Hamstring)- Out
TE Fendi Onobun (Back)- Out
FS Darian Stewart (Hamstring)- Out
OT Jason Smith (Concussion)- Questionable
WR Denario Alexander (Knee)- Questionable
CB Ron Bartell (Neck)- Questionable
RB Steven Jackson (Finger)- Questionable
DT Fred Robbins (Toe)- Questionable
DT Darrel Scott (Ankle)- Questionable
SS James Butler (Knee)- Probable
WR Mardy Gilyard (Hamstring)- Probable
LB David Vobora (Hamstring)- Probable
LB James Laurinaitis (Knee)- Probable
DE Tyler Brayton (Not injury related)- Game status unknown
OT Jeff Otah (Knee)- Out
WR Devin Thomas (Groin)- Doubtful
RB DeAngelo Williams (Foot)- Doubtful
PASSING COMP/ATT YARDS TD
STL Sam Bradford 146/260 1483 9
CAR Matt Moore 53/100 650 4
RUSHING ATT YARDS AVG TD
STL Steven Jackson 149 617 4.1 2
STL Kenneth Darby 26 85 3.3 1
CAR DeAngelo Williams 87 36 4.1 1
CAR Jonathan Stewart 50 148 3 1
RECEIVING REC YARDS TD
STL Danny Amendola 39 351 9
STL Steven Jackson 16 165 0
CAR David Gettis 18 244 2
CAR Steve Smith 17 224 2