The countdown to London is officially below the four day mark, when the Rams will face-off against the New England Patriots at Wembley Stadium just months after the conclusion of the Olympic Games. The Rams are coming off of a tough loss at home to the Green Bay Packers, pushing them into a two game losing skid after falling short against the Miami Dolphins in Week 6. The New England Patriots are coming off of an overtime victory against the shockingly stout New York Jets, after a heartbreaking last-second loss at CenturyLink in Seattle just two weeks ago. Both teams will head into the bye week after Sunday’s game. However, one will ride in with the momentum of a win to get them through the long week, while the other will have plenty of time to ruminate on the loss.
So, who is likely to be the victor on Sunday? Well, while previews of the game will start rolling out later in the week, we can take a look at how the individual players and units have performed. Here are the numbers for the key units over the past three games (sorry Patriots fans, that does not include the Buffalo Bills game):
Sam Bradford: 54 for 94 passing (57.4%) for 711 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT, 81.1 QB Rating
Tom Brady: 85 for 131 passing (64.8%) for 877 yards, 5 TD, 2 INT, 93.0 QB Rating
Tom Brady and Sam Bradford run two different styles of offense in the NFL, and that shows up in the difference in throwing attempts. In only three games, Brady has throw the ball 37 more times than the St. Louis Rams, which is more passing attempts than Bradford averages per game (31.3). However, Brady has only thrown for 166 yards and 2 TDs more than Bradford with, essentially, an extra game, in terms of passing attempts, under his belt. Doing a little bit of math, if Bradford had thrown as many passes as Brady, assuming his accuracy and ability to score were the same, his stat line would look like this: 75 of 131 passing for 987 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT. Even with an attempt to equal the playing field, Brady is clearly the better quarterback this season. However, if you needed to look at the numbers to figure that out, then maybe football isn’t your sport…
Steven Jackson / Daryl Richardson: 70 rushes for 332 yards (4.7 yards per attempt), 1 TD, 0 Fumbles, 8 catches for 94 yards, 0 TD
Stevan Ridley / Brandon Bolden: 81 rushes for 332 yards (4.1 yards per attempt), 1 TD, 1 Fumble, 2 catches for 0 yards, 0 TD
Much like the comparison of Tom Brady and Sam Bradford, you shouldn’t numbers to tell you that Steven Jackson and the St. Louis Rams have a better running game. Unlucky for the Patriots, this comparison does not include the “gimme yards” from the Buffalo Bills game… they aren’t even a real NFL team, handing Chris Johnson 10.8 yards per carry when he had averaged 2.1 yards per carry or less in 4 out of his first 6 games. Anyways, the combination of Jackson and Richardson has been deadly so far this season, combining for 4.7 yards per carry over the last three games. The duo has also been dynamic in the passing attack, and finally got the ball in the end zone on the ground against the Green Bay Packers last week.
Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden are both opportunistic backs, that fit well within the Patriots system. Neither is an elite running back, but when they play against teams with weak rushing defenses, they can definitely move the rock down the field. Ridley, as the primary back, has progressed nicely since getting the majority of snaps at the end of last season. However, he is not a “feature back” that can take 20-25 carries per game, and without a consistent complimentary back, cannot match the production of the Rams runners. He is also not a threat catching the ball out of the backfield, catching only 9 passes for 64 yards in his entire 23 game career. Daryl Richardson and Steven Jackson have each caught at least 10 passes and contributed at least 100+ through the air this season alone.
To be fair, the comparison may be a bit skewed with the injury to Brandon Bolden keeping him out of the game against the New York Jets, but the fact remains that him and Ridley have been the main featured backs in the last cluster of three games. Trust me, adding Danny Woodhead into the comparison would not have had a positive effect on the numbers. Bolden will likely also miss that game against the St. Louis Rams, not having practiced on either Tuesday or Wednesday.
Brandon Gibson / Chris Givens: 22 receptions for 393 yards (17.8 yards per catch), 1 TD, 1 rush for 14 yards
Brandon Lloyd / Wes Welker: 39 receptions for 328 yards (8.4 yards per catch), 2 TD, no rushes
I wonder if Brandon Lloyd misses being in St. Louis, where he got targeted by Bradford on every other snap in his short stint with the team. He has definitely not had the same success since following Josh McDaniels to New England at the end of last season, currently ranking as the third leading receiver on the team with only a single touchdown catch this year. Wes Welker has finally stepped up after appearing to be phased out of the offense at the beginning of the season. The two are catching balls all over the field in the New England pass-happy offense, but have not been big contributors after the catch or in the red zone.
Brandon Gibson and Chris Givens were both thrust into the spotlight when Danny Amendola went down against the Arizona Cardinals. Since then, both have made huge contributions to the offense, with 62% of their total receptions coming in the last three games of the season. Givens has been as dynamic of a wide receiver as their is in the league, having more catches for 40+ yards than any other player in the NFL, and setting a rookie record with his fourth consecutive game with a 50+ yard reception. The amassing of catches is nice, but for the lead wide receivers on the outside, you want players who can make the plays down the field and get the offense in position to score.
Rams Offensive Line: 7 sacks (against defenses ranking, on average, 4th in sacks in the league), 13 tackles for a loss (against defenses ranking, on average, 15th in rushing yards allowed), 18 hits on the quarterback
Patriots Offensive Line: 6 sacks (against defenses ranking, on average, 14th in sacks in the league), 16 tackles for a loss (against defenses ranking, on average, 17th in rushing yards allowed), 12 hits on the quarterback
The New England Patriots have noted problems on the offensive line since the retirement of Matt Light and, more recently, the injury to Logan Mankins. They have given up 6 sacks to opposing defenses that, on average, rank in the middle of the league in turns of pass rushing. They have had trouble opening up holes for the running backs since their game in Denver, and were huge contributors in the loss to the Seahawks up in the Seattle, getting mulled over by the defense’s front four. Brady isn’t known for taking many sacks throughout the course of the season, so it should be interesting to see how he handles the Rams non-stop pass rushers.
The St. Louis Rams, currently, have only two players on the offensive line that are regular starters at their positions, Harvey Dahl and Barry Richardson. The entire left side of the line is made up of second string (center Rob Turner), third string (left tackle Joe Barksdale), and fourth string (left guard Shelley Smith) players, being shuffled in and out from game to game. To make matters worse the St. Louis Rams have gone up against three of the best passing rushing teams in the NFL in the last three games, with Miami, Arizona, and Green Bay combining for 64 sacks on the season. Still they have given up only 7 sacks in three games, which is a miracle given the player-makers they have gone up against. They are playing well above the level their background would indicate, even in the run game, allowing only 13 tackles for a loss while opening holes for the backs to average 4.7 yards per carry.
Lance Kendricks: 7 catches for 52 yards, 1 TD
Rob Gronkowski / Aaron Hernandez: 27 catches for 258 yards, 3 TD
I almost didn’t even make this comparison, but figured it would only be fair to throw in the numbers for the tight ends this season. Gronk and Herdandez are the best tight end duo that the NFL has seen in recent history. Even with Herdandez nursing an ankle injury, the pair have averaged 9.5 yards per reception and caught 31.7% of Tom Brady’s completions, 29.4% of his total passing yards, and 60% of his touchdowns in the last three games. Lance Kendricks has, well… been as disappointed as he was last season. Luckily, we have Michael Hoomanwanui to jump in and contribute from the tight end spot… oh wait!