Friday, November 19, 2010

Rams vs Falcons: Pre-Game Package

Things won't be getting easier for the Rams anytime soon. They are coming off another devastating loss on the road, against the San Francisco 49er's, and this week they will be playing the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta is likely the best team that the Rams have seen all season. The Falcons are one of three teams that boast the best record in the NFL at 7-2 (the other two being the New York Jets, and the New England Patriots). They are ranked number two in the Fox Sports power rankings, and they are ranked number one in both the Yahoo Sports power rankings, and ESPN's power rankings.

It won't get better for St.Louis after this game. This is the last game before the Rams leave for their three game road trip, which first takes them to the Denver Broncos (who are coming off a 49-29 victory over a solid Kansas City Chiefs team), then to the Arizona Cardinals, and then to New Orleans to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Saints for the road trip finale.

Given the Rams' inability to win on the road, it is clear that the remaining home games this season are all "must win" games if they want a shot at the division. If the Rams are capable of winning all of the remaining home games, then their playoff hopes will likely be determined by their performance on the three game road trip.

The Rams have already shown an ability to beat solid teams at home. The San Diego Chargers, despite their record, entered St.Louis with the top ranked offense and defense in the the NFL, but the Rams pulled out a victory (San Diego still has the top ranked offense, and the second ranked defense).

The Atlanta Falcons will enter the game with the 8th ranked offense, which is averaging 369.2 yards per game, and they are also putting up 24.7 points per game (8th in the NFL). Their offense is led by third year quarterback Matt Ryan, who has thrown for 2,265 yards this season (10th) for 16 touchdowns (5th), and has a superb 91.9 rating (12th).
Roddy White vs Ron Bartell will be a key match-up.

Ryan's primary target is Roddy White. White has been underrated in the past, but he is clearly one of the elite receivers in the NFL. White has 70 receptions (1st) for 934 yards (2nd) and 7 touchdowns (5th). Tight-end Tony Gonzalez is Ryan's second favorite target; Gonzalez has 41 catches for 402 yards and 3 touchdowns.

As if the receiving threats of White and Gonzalez were not bad enough, the Falcons have a solid run game to compliment their air attack. Michael Turner and Jason Snelling make up one of the more solid backfields in the league. Turner is the feature back with 733 yards and 5 touchdowns, whereas Snelling has 291 yards and 2 touchdowns; both are averaging over four yards per carry.

The Rams defense has been playing very well against the run all year. They have the 6th ranked rushing defense in the NFL, and they are tied for most sacks in the NFL with Green Bay. Given the Rams' ability to stop the run and get pressure, the real key will be cornerback Ron Bartell's ability (or inability) to minimize the inevitable problems that Roddy White will cause.
Rams' WR Danario Alexander is questionable for Suday's game.

The Rams have to be creative with their aerial attack. The Falcons' run defense is ranked 7th (right behind the Rams), so the team can not depend on Steven Jackson carrying the team to a victory. However, the Falcons' pass defense is ranked 23rd (Rams are ranked 18th, just to give you an idea), which means that the Rams are going to have to win this game through the air.

Danario Alexander returned to practice this week, but his availability for the game is questionable. Danny Amendola will lead the receiving core, just like he does every week, but someone else needs to step up. Mardy Gilyard has very little playing time this year, so that means that either Brandon Gibson or Laurent Robinson have to make an impact. The tight-ends Daniel Fells and Mike Hoomanawanui will provide some relief, but in the end, one of the receivers will need to get it done.

The Falcons are playing some very good football, but the Rams are a tough team to beat at home. If the Rams can create turnovers, cover Roddy White, and get creative with their passing game, then they might actually pull out a victory.

PREDICTION: Rams-24 Falcons-20


St.Louis Rams
Passing Att Cmp Yds TDs
Sam Bradford 334 201 1925 12
Rushing Car Yds Avg TDs
Steven Jackson 192 757 3.9 3
Kenneth Darby 27 86 3.2 1
Receiving Rec Yds Avg TDs
Danny Amendola 52 430 8.3 3
Steven Jackson 25 236 9.4 0

Atlanta Falcons
Passing Att Cmp Yds TDs
Matt Ryan 338 212 2265 16
Rushing Car Yds Avg TDs
Michael Turner 172 733 4.3 5
Jason Snelling 69 291 4.2 2
Receiving Rec Yds Avg TDs
Roddy White 70 934 13.3 7
Tony Gonzalez 41 402 9.8 3

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