Thursday Night Football was surprising interesting last night, with the wide receiver-less New England Patriots holding on in the pouring rain to beat the quarterback-less New York Jets. Now, the focus has shifted to Sunday, where the schedule is packed full of marquee bouts between “conference favorite” and story-line matchups between siblings and ex-players. The Atlanta-St. Louis game undoubtedly falls in the latter, with the Rams set to face-off, for the first time, against their franchise leader in nearly every rushing category, Steven Jackson. Predictions for this game should be interesting with the under-the-radar Rams winning and the NFC-favorite Falcons losing in their season openers. However, analysts tend to be blind to the realities of a “new” season, usually basing their opinions on the team’s overall perception, instead of their actual recent performance on the field. So, how will the St. Louis Rams fair this week in the world of bold predictions?
If there’s one potential true upset pick of the week with which you could impress your friends, taking the Rams here might be it, as most are expecting the Falcons to be fired up to get back on track. Too bad I don’t have the guts. This will, of course, be an interesting affair for veteran Falcons running back Steven Jackson, who ran for over 10,000 yards and caught 407 passes in a Rams uniform. He should be relied on often by Atlanta, both through the air (five catches for 45 yards against the New Orleans Saints in Week 1) and on the ground. Going to the run will be the most appropriate way for the Falcons to keep Matt Ryan off his back, considering how effective the Rams’ front four can be — after all, Robert Quinn had three sacks against the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday by himself. The feeling here is that Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez will present matchup problems in the red zone. … Oh, and Sean Payton doesn’t coach the Rams. So that just upped the Falcons’ chances of winning by about 350 percent. #STLvsATL 30-24, Falcons
The Falcons usually stop the bleeding very quickly, posting an 18-3 record after a loss in the Mike Smith coaching era. The Steven Jackson Bowl will not be an easy win for Atlanta, because the Rams defense is legit. But the Falcons play with supreme confidence at home, and Matt Ryan is an expert at the fourth-quarter comeback if one becomes necessary. Atlanta’s urgency to avoid the 0-2 hole should be the difference in this one. 26-20, Falcons
The Falcons are back at home and will be completely focused on winning their home opener and the second game of the 2013 NFL season. I expect both football teams to compete and play great football but Atlanta will continue their dominance at home. I’m also expecting 100 yard games from Steven Jackson and Julio Jones. Tony Gonzalez will also have a great afternoon and will do enough for the Falcons to earn a home victory on Sunday afternoon.
Until next week, RISE UP and Beat The Rams!!!
FALCONS 31 RAMS 17
The game every St Louis Rams fan circled when the NFL released the schedule is here. The Rams will travel to take on the Atlanta Falcons and Steven Jackson. SJ39 only had 11 carries for a healthy 77 yards, but 50 of those yards came on one beautiful run. The Falcons offensive line struggled to protect Matt Ryan all day, and Roddy White’s high ankle sprain isn’t helping with Ryan’s comfort level. If the Rams can manage to contain Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez (no small task) they will have a solid shot at springing the upset. The Falcons are very tough to beat at home in the Matt Ryan era though, so I will wait at least one more week before picking the Rams in an upset. Falcons win 30 – 28.
Some sites prefer to merely throw out their picks, instead of outlining boldly predicted scores. In USA Today, seven out of seven analysts picked the Atlanta Falcons over the St. Louis Rams. In the Week 2 “expert picks” for ESPN, 12 out of 14 picked the Atlanta Falcons to win, with only Chris Mortensen and Mike Ditka choosing against the presumed favorites. In CBS Sports’ “Against the Spread” predictions, the vote is split 50/50, with the Rams sets as a -6.5 point underdog on Sunday. However, in their “Straight Up” picks, all nine voters took the Atlanta Falcons as the victor.
Looks like the odds are stacked against the St. Louis Rams this week… unless you are betting on the game in Vegas! The Rams have mad a pesky habit lately of surprising teams that the media perceives as superior. Hopefully, they can slay this winged-giant and add another win over a “favorite” to this Jeff Fisher-era squad.