You do not have to pinch yourself Rams Nation, today the St. Louis Rams will be playing a regular season football game. The Rams will open up the evening as +4.5 point favorites against the Arizona Cardinals, marking a positive change in the overall perception of the team by the general public. However, the “point spread” is not the only number worth betting on this weekend. For more, we turn to CBS Sports’ Fantasy Football Projections, where every individual player’s stats have been predicted for their Week 1 matchup. So, instead of merely debating the “spread,” Ramblin’ Fan decided to break down a handful of individual projections, and take the “over/under” for the game tonight. Here we go…
Projected Stat Line: 21 of 34 passing for 246 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception
Over/Under Stat: 2.5 touchdowns
Tonight marks the inaugural performance of the official Sam Bradford-era in St. Louis. Yes, this is Bradford’s fourth NFL season, but with Steven Jackson on the roster, no one else can truly claim it is their team. With the new weapons in Tavon Austin and Jared Cook, a bolstered offensive line, and, most importantly, an offensive system custom-fitted for Bradford’s arm, instead of Jackson’s legs, the Rams’ signal caller should be in for the best statistical season of his young career. Tonight, the St. Louis Rams offense will face off against an Arizona defense with diminished talent in both the linebacker corps and the secondary; and, Calais Campbell also being listed as “questionable” for the game. Aside from Patrick Peterson, there is no player on the Arizona roster that can cover Chris Givens, Jared Cook, or Tavon Austin in man-to-man coverage. As a result, we are taking the over on Sam Bradford’s touchdown mark tonight, predicting that he will throw for three touchdowns before the Rams start running out the clock to milk the lead.
Projected Stat Line: 4 catches for 52 yards, with 1 touchdown
Over/Under Stat: 53 receiving yards
In the equivalent of less than a full, regular season game, Jared Cook managed 5 catches for 87 yards, with a touchdown this preseason. In fact, of tight ends with 5 or more receptions, Cook led the league in yards per catch, averaging 17.4 yards. Most of those yards came after the catch, with Sam Bradford getting his play-maker the ball in-stride, with room to run in the secondary. Against the Arizona Cardinals, Cook will be matched against outside linebackers, safeties, and nickelbacks that have absolutely no business trying to cover him. Most will likely allot a relatively large cushion, which should make Cook the “favorite” in the check-down game. We’ll take the over on receiving yards for the game tonight, projecting that Cook may, in fact, be the leading receiver on the team in Week 1. Look for Cook to blow the door off the “4 catches” projection, and haul in 5+ receptions for 80+ yards.
Projected Stat Line: 2 interceptions, 4 sacks, 380 yard allowed, 16 point allowed
Over/Under Stat: 4.25 sacks
Last season, the St. Louis Rams sacks Arizona nine times in a single game, while ending the Cardinals 4-0 record streak at the start of the year. That is unlikely to occur this season, with a handful of upgrades on the Arizona offensive line, and a definite upgrade at the quarterback position. Specifically on the line, the Cardinals will have Levi Brown defending the blindside and Eric Winston on manning the right tackle spot; two massive changes from last season. However, the interior of the line is virtually unchanged, with Jonathan Cooper sustaining a potentially season-ending leg injury during the preseason. With Michael Brockers at full health, and William Hayes likely to get his fair share of interior defensive line snaps, the Cardinals could be in for another sack fest. Moreover, with no reputable player at running back, the Rams might allow Chris Long and Robert Quinn to pin their ears back on the ends, which could be a nasty combination for Carson Palmer and the “new” Arizona Cardinals. We are taking the over on sacks, projecting that the St. Louis Rams will muster, at least, 5 sacks on the night. However, if the Rams can snag a sizable lead early in the game, that number could certainly skyrocket into the 7 to 10 sack range.