The St. Louis Rams will kick off in England at approximately 5:00 pm London time, meaning that have had plenty of time to mentally prepare for the game. Both the New England Patriots and the St. Louis Rams are in a position to take a victory, and momentum, into their bye week, which just so happens to start at the conclusion of this game. Both teams need a win to keep themselves in the playoff hunt, with this game marking the midpoint of the season. Although it is technically a “home” game for the Rams, there will not be much of a home-field crowd for either team. Here are Ramblin’ Fan’s five bold predictions for the game…
1. Tom Brady will not have as many yards or touchdowns as Aaron Rodgers
Earlier in the week, someone called the St. Louis Rams passing defense “mediocre,” seemingly after having only watched the Rams play the Green Bay Packers, and no other team, this entire season. Aaron Rodgers went 30 for 37 passing for 342 yards and 3 touchdowns. Tom Brady will not have that kind of success through the air today. If we have learned anything, it is that Janoris Jenkins can learn from his mistakes, which he had plenty of against the Pack. Moreover, two out of three of Rodgers touchdowns were the direct result of a Chris Long defensive offsides penalty, which allows the quarterback to take a shot down the field with no repercussions, allows the receiver to go up and challenge for the ball with no repercussions, and, most importantly, takes one of the pass rushers out of the play (i.e. Chris Long on both of those plays). Lastly, the Patriots do not have the caliber of wide receivers that the Green Bay Packers have, nor do they have a “specialty” playmaker on their team, like a Randal Cobb or a Percy Harvin. Their game is underneath, making quick, accurate throws to Gronk and Welker, and hoping the Lloyd can get open down the field at some point. Not saying that Brady will not have an excellent day, but it will not be anywhere close to Rodger game like some analysts have suggested.
2. Stevan Ridley (and whoever splits carries with him) will have few yards rushing than Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson
The St. Louis Rams have run for 270 yards on 49 carries in the last two games, good for 5.5 yards per carry. The combination of Richardson and Jackson has been deadly in the last two games, and Ridley and Co. have… well, they have not been that great. New England has run for 218 yards on 57 carries, only 3.8 yards per carry, most of which came against the 31st ranked New York Jets rushing defense. The St. Louis Rams are currently tied for the 15th spot with the San Francisco 49ers in total rushing yards allowed. However, over the past three game, the Rams have given up only 151 yards on 60 carries, and have not allowed a rushing touchdown since the first quarter of Week 4 against the Seattle Seahawks.
3. Chris Givens will have his fifth straight game with a 50+ yard catch
Last week, Ramblin Fan predicted that Givens would break the rookie record for consecutive games with a 50+ yards by catching his fourth long ball in as many games. So far, Givens has been able to get behind secondary players on Seattle (14th), Arizona (7th), Miami (22nd), and Green Bay (20th), which are a mix of dominating and, well, less dominating passing defenses. The Patriots have given up 2030 passing yards this season (30th in the NFL, the Bills have allowed less yards through the air), 16 passing touchdowns (T-30th, equating to last place), and have allowed a 65% completion percentage (25th). The Patriots cannot afford to stack the box against the St. Louis Rams, but when the secondary does start to creep up when Jackson and Richardson are pounding away, look for Givens to break one deep.
4. Wes Welker will not be the leading receiver for the Patriots
Since the injury to Aaron Hernadez in Week 2 against the Arizona Cardinals, the Patrios have revamped their usage of Wes Welker in the offense. Welker has been targeted by Brady on at least 10 pass attempt in 5 out of the last 6 games this season. While he has been up against some of the premier pass defenses, especially the Seahawks and the Ravens, Welker has not had to play one-on-one with any defensive back that can match him on the field. Cortland Finnegan has been lining up man-to-man against the slot receiver for a majority of the year. As a results, Finnegan has 47 tackles, 7 pass deflections, 3 interceptions, and 1 defensive touchdown this season. Moreover, he has not allowed his man to catch a touchdown this entire season. Welker will get his catches in the game, but Brady will have to look elsewhere if he plans on putting points on the board or risk having another game like he had against the Seattle Seahawks.
5. The St. Louis Rams defense will break their 3 game streak without an interception
Since picking off Russell Wilson three times in the win over the Seattle Seahawks, the St. Louis Rams have not caught an interception in any of next three games. That is especially surprising given that they have gone up against quarterbacks like Ryan Tannehill and Kevin Kolb. The real difference has been the focus on stopping the run and the ability to get the quarterback in the last couple of games, something that was not present at the beginning of the season. Brady has averaged 48 passing attempts in the Patriots four wins this year, meaning that New England will likely come out gunning. More passes will lead to more chances for a defensive secondary that loved to take risks on jumping routes.