Friday, November 26, 2010

Rams @ Broncos: Pre-Game Package

This Sunday the Rams will travel to Denver in search of their first road win. The Denver Broncos use to be a perennial playoff team, but they have found themselves gradually slipping into the slums of the NFL under head-coach Josh McDaniels.  On the other hand, the Rams seem to be heading in the opposite direction under Steve Spagnuolo. Even though the 4-6 Rams only have one more win than the 3-7 Broncos, the future projections for both teams contrast one another.

But it is really not that surprising if you think about it. The Rams have the best quarterback prospect of the last decade performing like a seasoned veteran, even though he is only a rookie. They also have a fierce defense lead by two of the best up-and-coming defenders in the NFL (Chris Long, James Laurinaitis); and they are only one game out of first place in their division.

Meanwhile, the Broncos have a head-coach that seems inclined to bench his top performers, even if their playoff hopes depend on it (Brandon Marshall, Tony Scheffler); and he decided to use a first round pick on the nicest guy in the draft (Tim Tebow), as oppose to the most talented player available. The Broncos have also lost five out of their last six games, a stretch that has crippled any playoff hopes for the team.

So if the Rams are going to figure how to win on the road in 2010, then this Sunday in Denver is probably their best opportunity...

The Denver defense is ranked 26th overall in the NFL, giving up 375 yards per game on average. This includes a passing defense that is ranked 20th in the league with 232 passing yards per game (right on par with the Rams 19th ranked passing defense); and a run defense that has been trampled for 143 yards per game, which ranks 31st in the NFL.

Given the stats, it is clear that the Rams should feel comfortable with RB Steven Jackson carrying the offense. The Denver pass defense isn't fierce, and the Rams can certainly get ahead through the air; but if the Rams do get ahead, then Pat Shurmur will certainly love the fact that Denver's poor run defense will warrant a conservative 'run-first offense' to finish the game.

Though the Broncos' defense has lost them a lot of games, their offense is another story. QB Kyle Orton and WR Brandon Lloyd have been hooking up all season, and they have made Denver's air-attack the 4th best in the NFL. Lloyd already has 1046 yards, and Orton has 3023 passing yards with 17 touchdowns.

The Rams are lucky with both FS OJ Atogwe and CB Ron Bartell returning from injury. Both received injuries during the Atlanta game, and their absence was easily noticed. Bartell will need to stay on the field for all four quarter this Sunday, because Ram fans can not bare another week of 'The Jerome Murphy Show' at cornerback.

The Broncos rushing attack ranks dead last in the NFL with only 75 yards per game. However, starting RB Knowshon Moreno just returned from injury a couple weeks ago, and their rushing attack has improved since then. But either way, Moreno's presence should not make much of a difference against the Rams' fearsome run defense; and it is clear that the Rams' pass defense will be the deciding factor towards the defense's overall success.

If the Denver run defense is as poor as it is on paper, then the Rams should be able to control the time of possession, and the game's outcome will be heavily in their favor. However, if the Denver run defense stiffens up, and the Rams face a lot of three-and-outs, then it could be a disappointing day.

PREDICTION: Rams 26  Broncos 17 

St. Louis Rams
Passing             Att   Cmp    Yds   TDs
Sam Bradford    376   228    2158   14
Rushing            Car   Yds     Avg   TDs
S.Jackson          203   811       4       3
K.Darby            27      86      3.2      1
Receiving         Rec   Yds     Avg   TDs
D.Amendola       60    493      8.2      3
B.Gibson            31    342      11       2

Denver Broncos
Passing         Att    Cmp Yds     TDs
Kyle Orton   388   241   3023   17
Tim Tebow     1        1        3      1
Rushing        Car    Yds   Avg     TDs
K. Moreno   111   416     3.7         3
Kyle Orton     20     93     4.6         0
Receiving     Rec    Yds  Avg     TDs
B.Lloyd          54     1046   19.4       7
Jabar Gaffney 51       606   11.9       2

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