NFL primetime has finally arrived at the Edward Jones Dome. Tickets have sold out, the world will be watching the Rams in the Dome for the first time since the dismal 2007 season. Both teams playing are coming off a win, both teams have elite defenses. This game screams blockbuster. The NFL world has finally realized that the NFC West is no longer a division you look forward to having on your schedule, because, more than likely, opposing teams will be walking away with a beaten up offense. Thursday night’s game at the dome will be a hard fought battle, the type of battle where teams will be scratching for the first down marker and where field goals, almost, become the equivalent to a touchdown. So, can the Rams show the sporting nation that they’re no longer a laughing stock? Can the Rams prove that they are, in fact, a serious contender for a playoff spot? Or, will the old Rams show up? This is the chance to show the NFL world that they’ve progressed from, that most annoying word, ‘potential,’ into some real results. For Rams to be a serious contender on Thursday night, these are the areas in the game the Rams must be successful:
Rams Offensive Line
In being a Rams fan, there are two worrying factors here – the Rams offensive line and the Cardinals defensive line. Last week against the Seahawks, the Rams were only a little below par against a rather dominate Seahawks defensive front. This was a team who sacked Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers eight times in the first half, while the Rams held them to only two sacks for the entire game. But, just as you can’t judge a man’s wealth by the clothes he wears, the offensive line can’t be solely graded by how many sacks are shown in the next morning’s newspaper. The truth is, there’s lies, there’s damned lies and there’s statistics. The Seahawks man-handled the Rams offensive interior line and rushed Sam Bradford too many times. This week the Rams offensive line is going up against a defense that has 16 sacks (second in the NFL), and six fumbles forced (tied third in the NFL). Cardinals have elite pass rushers and a mean interior defensive line. If the Rams are to win this hard fighting battle, Bradford must stay up on his feet for the majority of the game.
Rams Defensive Line
Against the run, the Rams have struggled for many years, and this year is no exception. Rams are ranked 26th in the league for yards allowed against the run, while also allowing six touchdowns, which is ranked a woeful 31st. The Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch destroyed the Rams in the running game last week. He had 20 carries for 118 yards, 5.9 average and a long of only 18 yards, which means he was able to punch in 8 to 10 yards consistently. This resulted in the Rams giving up too many rushing first downs. This has to stop if the Rams are to win more games throughout the season, especially in a division that consists of Frank Gore and Marshawn Lynch. A good running game allows the offensive coordinator’s play calling to be less predictable and more creative. The last thing the Rams will want is to be chasing around Larry Fitzgerald, one of the most dangerous wide receivers in the NFL. To stop this, the Rams must make their presence felt early, by hitting the quarterback and stopping the run. Stopping the run in the first quarter, will allow the already vanilla Cardinal offense to play a more predictable game. This has to happen by the Rams front four, getting into the open back field and creating havoc.
Cortland Finnegan vs. Larry Fitzgerald
Could this be Andre Johnson 2.0? Will a fight break out between the two? Or will both be ruled out of the game? We simply do not know. What we do know, is that Finnegan will make his presence felt by getting under Fitzgerald’s skin, and the battle between the two will be phenomenal. Finnegan has seen it all before as he was in a division where he would be up against Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Andre Johnson, each twice a year. Playing on a high profiled player isn’t new to Cortland Finnegan. Primetime viewers, sit back and enjoy the show.
An unbiased prediction can’t predict a winner here. The game will be low scoring and anything can happen. If it does become a field goal shoot out, everyone knows ‘Young GZ’ will destroy in that battle. When it comes to better a defensive unit, you just can’t ignore the numbers that the Arizona Cardinals have managed to produce for the season thus far. The Rams have a more balanced offense, with running back Steven Jackson, still more than capable to turn a game around by himself. Then there is Sam Bradford, who is no doubt the better quarterback between him and Kevin Kolb, but all quarterbacks are useless if they have a 300 pound man sitting on top of him. The game will come down to the trenches. What team can prevent their quarterback from a constant rush. This game will go into overtime with only a few points to decide the winner, leaving either side to walk away feeling as though they should have won the game.