I love the first week of the NFL season, if for no reason other than the “unknown” factor. The Rams have been terrible for the last several years, but there is hope for all of us here in Rams Nation that this season will be different. Will it be different? That remains to be seen. But the important thing is that we can believe.
Moving to the game. I think we all know to watch Sam Bradford, so I won’t go any farther than that. I am interested to see how Mark Clayton factors into the game plan. According to most reports, Clayton has impressed everyone at Rams camp with his ability to pick up the playbook, and apparently he he believes he is ready to go. I thought when we signed him that he might get a few special packages this week, but now I have to wonder if he will be a bigger factor than that. Keep an eye out to see how many series he plays.
It looks like Beanie Wells will be unable to go, so watch to see how the Rams run defense works. Tim Hightower will get most of the work for the Cards, and the defense will need to keep him from going off. I expect the Cards to rely heavily on the running game, but we have to be able to contain Hightower without leaving Ron Bartell and Bradley Fletcher on an island against dynamic receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston.
Speaking of the secondary, I would very much like to see guys like Bartell and OJ Atogwe make some big plays on Derek Anderson. Anderson is well-known for throwing the ball to the opposition, and we have to take advantage when he makes those mistakes. Winning the turnover battle will be huge, and and considering we have a rookie under center, we can’t afford to let those opportunities pass by.
I know Steven Jackson didn’t get much work in the preseason, but the offense looked completely different on the few snaps he was on the field. Establishing our ground game is huge for Bradford, especially considering that the Cards have a pretty formidable pass-rush. Look for Jackson to get a ton of touches, and the offensive line will likely determine how much he takes advantage.
There aren’t many people out there giving the Rams a chance, but I have to say that I’m mildly optimistic. The Cards certainly aren’t the force they have been recently, and I think this team is riding a nice wave of confidence after the last two preseason games. I don’t want to sound like a homer, but I’m going 21-17 St. Louis for my prediction. Gotta keep that hope alive, because we might not have much after Sunday’s contest if this team hasn’t moved forward like we think they have.