Key Matchups: St Louis Rams vs Denver Broncos


With wins for San Francisco and Seattle last week, the collapse against Arizona left the St Louis Rams cut adrift at the bottom of the NFC West. With only the Buccaneers having fewer wins in the NFC and just four others (the Jets, Titans, Raiders and Jaguars) with two wins or less in the AFC, it now seems a very safe bet on the Rams picking in the top ten of the draft next Spring. With the team badly needing a break from somewhere, it certainly won’t come from the schedule which brings the Rams a visit from defending AFC Champions, Denver. For St Louis to claim another top scalp, here is RamblinFan’s weekly rundown of three key one-on-one matchups.

Peyton Manning vs Robert Quinn

The Dome on Sunday will be host to one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time – and I don’t mean Shaun Hill. With a league-leading 29 touchdown passes already in 2014 and an unsurprisingly high grading of +11.4 according to Pro Football Focus, Peyton Manning will have his sights on yet another Super Bowl appearance. If Manning does have a weakness to be exploited, it has to be ground speed. Now 38 years old and in his seventeenth season, his stat line in rushing yards on the season reads -5. The key to beating Manning is pressure. There are few better at reading the field, watching situations develop and picking out a pass when it seems as though a play is dead. If Peyton Manning is pressurised and denied time, his lack of mobility compared to many less advanced in their careers can cause issues. Enter Robert Quinn, currently joint 3rd in the NFC and joint 8th in the league overall among 4-3 defensive ends with 6 sacks despite famously failing to register one in the first five games of the season. As resilient as Manning undoubtedly is, he will be very aware of St Louis’ leading pass rusher seeking to get at him at every opportunity. The Denver offensive line has been effective at protecting Manning this season, allowing only 8 sacks on the 13-time Pro-Bowler. It will be essential for Quinn to have success getting to Manning to restrict the Broncos scoring and give the ailing Rams offence a chance.

Demaryius Thomas vs Janoris Jenkins

Having broken the 1000-yard receiving mark after only 9 games, Thomas is one of the main beneficiaries of having a quarterback of Peyton Manning’s quality to throw passes his way. Denver currently sit last in the league in rushing with a total of only 603 yards, the Broncos offence is all about the passing game. Thomas is PFF’s third highest graded receiver at +11.6, and the first of two Broncos in the top ten ahead of Emmanuel Sanders at number 7. The Rams secondary will have to be at its very best to stop the Denver receiving corps. Cornerback Jenkins has been very patchy this season, allowing a 67% completion rate of passes thrown into his coverage, missing 7 tackles and making just a single interception. He has, however, graded positively by Pro Football Focus in three of his 7 starts this year and has shown sporadic good play. Jenkins will need to perform consistently on Sunday to prevent Thomas from picking up big yardage. If the former second round draft pick fails to contain Thomas, St Louis could be in big trouble.

Tre Mason vs Brandon Marshall

Denver’s third year linebacker is having a breakout season, leading the team in tackles with 58 solo, 75 combined, weighing in with a sack and a forced fumble from behind the defensive line. Not to be overshadowed by star linebacker Von Miller, and highlighted this week by the Denver Post for his recent performances and hard-hitting play, Marshall has developed rapidly into a real force on the Broncos defence. Marshall will face a tough challenge this Sunday attempting to stop Rams running back Tre Mason. The rookie has taken advantage of the chance to lead the Rams ground game, averaging a very solid 4.3 yards per carry. With big changes on offence as Shaun Hill is reintroduced as St Louis’ starting quarterback, Brian Schottenheimer is likely to rely heavily on the run to move the ball down the field this weekend. If Mason establishes himself early on, he may well see over 20 carries for the first time this year. Mason’s direct, fearless approach contrasts nicely with Marshall’s take-no-prisoners tackling style. The winner of this battle could go a long way to determining whether Mason can maintain drives, put St Louis into scoring positions and keep the defence off the field. If Mason is held, it is hard to identify other likely avenues of success for the Rams offence.