By 5:00 P.M. this evening the NFC West could have an entirely different look, as the league heads towards the middle of the season. A win at home, and a loss by the Cardinals to the Minnesota Vikings, would shoot the St. Louis Rams into the number two slot in the division, ahead of the Cards and Seahawks with head-to-head wins against both teams. By the end of the week, the Green Bay Packers could be sitting at in the second spot in the NFC North, depending on how the Chicago versus Detroit games plays out on Monday Night Football. Both the Rams and Packers have had their fair share of ups and downs this season, losing some close games and pulling some out at the end. Both have had a win stripped from them by poor officiating or a clock managing error. Both have had trouble playing against the other’s division. Today, one team will come out ahead, likely setting themselves up with some momentum in the early playoff hunt, heading towards the midpoint in the season. Of course, we at Ramblin’ Fan think that the Rams will come out on top, and here are our 5 bold predictions for the matchup…
1. Green Bay will not gain over 300+ yards on offense
In the last three games of the season, the St. Louis Rams have only allowed 264.1 yards per game, including nearly 87 yards on the ground. With Cedric Benson out and his replacement, Alex Green, hurt, the Green Bay Packers are not going to be able to run a balanced attack against the St. Louis Rams. The last team to attempt running a one-dimensional offense was the Arizona Cardinals, a game that ended in 9 sacks, 7 tackles for a loss, and 11 hits on the quarterback.
Now to be fair, Kevin Kolb is, by no means, comparable to Aaron Rodgers. However, against the Seahawks, when Cedric Benson got only 17 attempts, Rodgers threw 26 of 29 for 223 yards, no touchdowns, and got sacked 8 times and hit 12 times. The Seahawks defense is highly comparable to the Rams defense, except that St. Louis has allow fewer passing touchdowns, less passing yards, and have more interception and more sacks than Seattle this season.
2. Sam Bradford will have as many touchdowns passes as Aaron Rodgers
Some obese Green Bay fan just had a heart attack reading that line. Do I think that Sam Bradford is a better quarterback than Aaron Rodger right now? Of course not. However, that doesn’t mean that Bradford will not have a better game than Rodgers this Sunday. The name of the game is “matchups” and the St. Louis Rams matchup extremely well with the Green Bay Packers offense. Janoris Jenkins and Cortland Finnegan could be arguably the best cornerback duo in the NFL, especially in man-to-man coverage. They have combined for 69 tackles, 1 sack, 3 tackles for a loss, 14 pass deflections, 4 interceptions, and a defensive touchdown. Behind them on the depth chart are Trumaine Johnson and Bradley Fletcher, two players that would both be starters on nearly any other team in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, Fletcher has has given up only 0.41 yards per play that he has been in the games, which is first among all defensive backs in the NFL, and “he has yet to give up more than 21 yards in a game this year. ” The secondary has given up only 4 passing touchdowns this entire season, not allowing a passing touchdown against 3 quarterbacks this season.
Now what does that have to do with Rodgers versus Bradford? Well, Bradford is going up against a defense that has allowed 10 touchdown passes this season (T-21st), and has given up 1381 yards through the air (20th) on 129 completions (20th). The Packers will also be without four starters on their defense, including the centerpiece of their defensive line, one of their starting corners, and their best coverage linebacker. We will just say that Bradford should have a much easier time getting the ball in the endzone than Aaron Rodgers, to say the least.
3. The St. Louis Rams will get at least 5 sacks
Over the past three games, the St. Louis Rams have averaged 4.6 sacks per game. A majority of those sacks came against the Arizona Cardinals, a team with amazing wide receivers, but a shaky offensive line and no running games, forcing the team into a one-dimensional offense. Sound familiar? The easiest way to prevent sacks from the Rams this season has been to pound the rock, especially on the left side of the line. Robert Quinn is not as his best in run support, and will readily get replaced by Hayes at defensive end if opposing running backs are picking up too many yards on his side of the field. However, whatever Quinn lacks in run stuffing, he more than makes up for in rushing the passer, especially when he can pin his ears back and go all-out towards the opposing quarterback. The sad part for the other teams is that, even if you find a way to block Quinn, you still have to worry about Chris Long, who has 4 sacks in his last 4 games, and Jo-Lonn Dunbar, who has had 3 sacks in his last 2 games. The Green Bay Packers will have no one to run the ball, and thus, no way to protect Aaron Rodgers once the passing frenzy begins.
4. Chris Givens will set a rookie record with his fourth straight game with a 50+ yard catch
Chris Givens is the first rookie since 1983 to have three consecutive games with a 50+ yard catch. Want to know his trick? He is faster than the corners in this league, simple and plain. Had he and Bradford been on the same page eariler in the season, Givens would likely have two or three more catches and a couple of touchdowns to add to that resume. With Danny Amendola out, the St. Louis Rams are running the wide receivers-by-committee scheme. The ailing Green Bay secondary will have trouble against the plethora of slot receivers on the Rams roster, most of whom are possession receivers that work best against zone coverage. Just when teams start adjust to the dink-and-dunk passing by playing press man coverage… BOOOM! Chris Givens is streaking up the sideline for a deep pass. Not only will the quick routes of the receivers bring the secondary players up, the fact that Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson are in the backfield should put at least eight in the box on every snap. Press coverage plus one-on-one man coverage on the outside with safeties in the box will inevitably lead to big plays, especially with a starting corner out of the game.
5. Greg Zuerlein will not miss a field goal
This is less of a prediction and more of attempting to correct a ritual that may or may not have caused the St. Louis Rams to lose last week. In the bold predictions for the Miami Dolphins, Ramblin’ Fan did not make any predictions about Greg Zuerlein, which was they first time his name was not on the list in some way. Not saying that we directly effected his performance… but, we aren’t ruling it out either. Zuerlein is a beast in the Dome, setting records against the Seattle Seahawks, while hitting 15 of 15 on the season before the “Misses in Miami.” He will bounce back, and likely be the difference on the scoreboard for the St. Louis Rams at the end of the game.