This is the week that all NFL fans have been waiting for, especially us St. Louis Rams fans. There’s a whole new buzz out in St. Louis and this is the first time in a while we’ve seen so much excitement about this football team that Jeff Fisher and Les Snead have assembled in the past couple of years. A year ago, the Rams finished with a 7-8-1 record, however they were competing in every game except, minus the embarrassment in London when they got blown out by the Patriots 45-7. With the solid defense, the Rams will go as far as Sam Bradford can take them. There’s a lot to look forward to this season, but let’s not get to ahead of ourselves. Let’s just take it week by week and prepare for this week’s anticipated match up with the Arizona Cardinals. Now, here are Ramblin’ Fan’s 5 bold predictions for Sunday’s game.
1. Zac Stacy will score a goal line TD
With the 1 game suspension for Isaiah Pead there is a good chance that we may see a good amount of Zac Stacy at the running back position. The 2013 5th round pick out of Vanderbilt has some comparisons with Doug Martin and Ray Rice. Standing 5’8 and 216 pounds, Stacy is the all-time leading rusher at Vanderbilt posting 3,143 yards and 30 rushing touchdowns in 4 years. This man may not be very tall, however he is built like a monster. Daryl Richardson, the starter, may see the bulk of the carries, but the Rams may be going towards a running back by committee this year, and without Pead for the first game, Zac Stacy will handle some of that load. With his large stature, we might expect Stacy to run the ball in goal line situations, and with Steven Jackson now gone to the Atlanta Falcons, Brian Schottenheimer can create a package special for Zac Stacy. Expect the Rams to feed Zac Stacy the ball when it comes down to it on Sunday.
2. Janoris Jenkins will record his first interception of 2013
With a year of experience, along with a solid rookie campaign, cornerback Janoris Jenkins will have a breakout year in 2013. The Rams drafted Jenkins with the 39th pick of the 2012 draft and right away had high hopes for him. Despite, all his off the field troubles, the Rams took a risk by even drafting Jenkins. He was immediately inserted into the starting lineup playing opposite of Cortland Finnegan. Last year, against Arizona, Jenkins had two memorable games. The first game was that week 4 Thursday night game when the Cardinals came into St. Louis with a 4-0 record. Janoris Jenkins had the tough assignment by guarding one of the best receivers in the league; Larry Fitzgerald. Matched up with him all game he almost completely shut him down, although you need to give some of the credit to the Rams defensive line, as they had 9 sacks. In week 12, The second match up has to be Janoris Jenkins best game, thus far, in his young career. He picked off Cardinals quarterback twice, returning both for touchdowns. He has had some success against Arizona in his career, however the Cardinals now have Carson Palmer throwing the ball. Palmer will target Larry Fitzgerald all game, which could certainly lead to Janoris Jenkins stepping in front of one of his passes this week.
3. Rams defensive line will record 5+ sacks
Last year, the Rams tied for the lead league in sacks last year with 52. With 75% of the Rams defensive line composed of first round picks, they have dealt with those expectations. From left to right the starting lineup is: Chris Long, Kendall Langford, Michael Brockers, and Robert Quinn. These 4 combined for 28 sacks last year and purely dominated the pass rush against opposing teams. The thing that scares other teams is the amount of depth on the defensive line rotation the Rams have this year. Every single one of the linemen are under contract through 2014 and still have room to grow. William Hayes, Eugene Sims, and Jermelle Cudjo get consistent playing time as backups. In fact, William Hayes could likely start for any other team out there in the league, but decided to stay with the Rams. The Rams tied a franchise record last year with nine sacks in Week 4 against the Cardinals and we could see them getting around that number in Week 1 at home with domination from Robert Quinn and Michael Brockers. With the injuries to Jonathan Cooper and the struggles of Levi Brown, the Rams can have a field day in terms of pass rushing.
4. Sam Bradford will throw 3 TD passes
Jeff Fisher and Les Snead kept their promise by providing multiple weapons and play makers around franchise quarterback Sam Bradford. This is the year Bradford will post his career numbers for yards, touchdown passes, and completion percentage. The Rams have finally given Bradford a solid offensive line to protect from hits and hurries which will boost Bradford’s confidence in staying in the pocket. With the addition of LT Jake Long , the St. Louis Rams were able to move Rodger Saffold to RT, another area of concern this offseason. With the great protection, Bradord will feel very comfortable in the pocket and will find time to throw to his receivers. The Rams offense has potential to be a great one with all the youth and athleticism, and the added weapons to this offense will definitely help open up the field against Arizona. With Chris Given’s speed and Brian Quick’s size the field will open underneath for Jared Cook and Tavon Austin as they are both exceptional with YAC (yards after catch). With Arizona on the verge of being a Top 10 defense in the NFL, we can believe Bradford will come out and make statement game in Week 1 to prove everyone wrong. Bradford will throw a touchdown each to Chris Givens for at least 40 yards, Jared Cook, and one to Tavon Austin.
5. Tavon Austin will have 150+ all purpose yards.
Not only in St.Louis, but within the whole NFL, there is a huge buzz about Rams rookie receiver Tavon Austin. You can easily say he was the most exciting player in college football last year, and Rams took a chance to trade up in the first round of the 2013 draft to steal the receiver from West Virginia. We saw a little glimpse of what Tavon Austin can do with the ball in his hands in the preseason, shown on a couple of punt returns at Denver. However, with Week 1 coming in a few days the Rams are prepared to “unleash” Tavon Austin. It’s been a light work load for Austin in the preseason and the Rams didn’t want to show the rest of the league what exactly his role will be during the regular season. Expect to see Austin get the ball in a number of ways, whether that be punt returns, kick returns, receptions, or rushing attempts. However he will get the ball, it is sure to be pretty exciting…