The St. Louis Rams will travel to Sun Life Stadium to take on the Miami Dolphins. The Rams are coming off a long week, and have to be feeling pretty good about themselves after their dominating win on the national stage against a previously undefeated division rival. In spite of the current two game winning streak and progress the Rams have made this season you would be hard pressed to find any members of the national media picking them this weekend. Of course it will take more than consecutive wins against division rivals to garner respect as the Rams recover from one of the worst stretches of football in NFL history. Well according to ESPN.com the Rams are 5 point underdogs this weekend showing just how far the Rams still have to go. So how do the Rams keep the momentum up and pick up the upset and first road win of the 2012 season? Let’s take a look at each phase of the game and how the Rams match up against the Dolphins.
Offense. When you look at these two offenses it appears as if the Dolphins have the clear advantage, they average nearly 100 more yards per game than the Rams and score 1.4 more points per game. The Dolphins also have a decided advantage in 3rd down conversion %, which in my opinion is the most underrated statistic in football. The Dolphins have faced two of the worst defenses in the NFL in Oakland and the NY Jets as well as a Cincinnati defense that is also in the bottom half of the league. They did play the Texans who are in the top 5 in nearly every statistical category. The Rams have played the Bears and Seahawks who are also top 5 defenses, as well as the Lions and Redskins that represent one upper half and one lower half defense. All around the Rams have faced much better defenses week in and week out with one common opponent in the Arizona Cardinals. The Rams have the better quarterback and running back (when healthy), with wide receivers being somewhat of a draw. The Dolphins still get the nod in the offense category especially since Danny Amendola will not be playing in this game for the Rams, although its probably only a very slight advantage.
Defense. Statistically speaking both of these teams are in the upper half of the league with the Rams being a top 10 defense and the Dolphins being a top 15 defense. Surprisingly enough the Rams have played against the better offenses thanks in large part to the fact that the Dolphins have played the Raiders and Jets this season. The Rams defense specializes in stopping the pass while the Dolphins defense specializes in stopping the run. The Rams defense has improved against the run as well as rushing the passer since Brockers returned from his injury. If the defensive line can continue to pressure the quarterback the secondary should have some opportunities to catch a few balls from the rookie signal caller. If the Rams can figure out a way to contain the Dolphins running game and force them to rely on the pass they should have a relatively easy time slowing down the Dolphins offense. The Rams hold a decided advantage on defense in this game.
Special Teams. Perhaps no phase of the game has been more impressive for the Rams this season than the special teams. Whether it is the rookie phenoms at punter and kicker, or the fake field goal touchdown against Seattle, the special teams unit has performed exceptionally well. The Dolphins on the other hand have had a few special teams let downs this season, having only converted on 6 of their 10 field goal attempts this season. Neither team has impressive statistics in the return game so if this comes down to a field position battle you have to like the Rams chances to dominate in that aspect. I can’t imagine that anyone would disagree that the Rams hold another big advantage in special teams.
Coaching. Ok so coaching isn’t a “phase” of a game, but if you are a Rams fan you are well aware of how important coaching is in todays NFL. The Rams have been on the wrong side of coaching mismatches more often than not since they lost to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI in what may be the worst coaching mismatch in Super Bowl history. Fortunately for the Rams they acquired Jeff Fisher in the offseason, and the impact he and his coaching staff have had on this team has been incredible. The Rams have competed in every game this season against teams that are better on paper, including victories against division rivals who are widely considered to be more talented. The Dolphins have a rookie head coach after failing to snag Jeff Fisher in the offseason. Joe Philbin may be a fine head coach someday but this has to be considered a huge advantage for the St. Louis Rams, especially considering the extra time the Rams coaching staff has had to prepare for this game.
Overall the Rams should have a great shot at winning this game if they continue to play the kind of defense and special teams that we have seen over the first 5 games of the season. It just may come down to a 50+ yard field goal by Legatron but expect the Rams to emerge with their first road win of the season in a low scoring defensive game. My prediction is the St. Louis Rams win 16 – 10 taking advantage of the special teams and coaching mismatches to get their first 3 game win streak since 2006. What do you think will be the final score?