Week 14 vs St. Louis-- Pretender or Contender? Stats & Pick-Em (1 Viewer)

St. PJ

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Scrappy. That's how I would describe the St. Louis Rams in one word. Their rookie QB, Sam Bradford, is playing better than Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, and Mark Sanchez all did in their rookie years. He has less talent around him-- his defense isn't exactly a Ravens/Jets mirror image, and his WR's... well, name one. Yet he has his team at 6-6, his TD to INT ratio are very good, and he's completing over 60% of his passes. He doesn't get fazed that easily. I saw his first game of the year, against Arizona, and he looked very good and almost won it at the end. No one expected Arizona to be as terrible as they've been (ok, maybe a few people did), but surely, no one expected St. Louis to be as competitive as they are.

Yet even last year when the Saints played the rams, they had their hands full, despite the fact the Rams didn't have enough WR's and TE's to fill out their roster. Part of this was due to missing a few defensive starters. Part of it was due to the fact that Stephen Johnson is a damn good running back, even when you have all your starters. If any part of the Saints minimized the Rams chances of beating them last year, no one is doing so this year. I don't expect the Saints to blow out the Rams; I don't even expect them to look awesome. But I do expect a tough fought win by double digits-- a win where the score doesn't tell of how close the game was, a game where we had many missed opportunities to win easier. Why? Because that's how the Rams play. The cause that. They fight and leave everything on the line, and now they have incentive. They could actually make the playoffs. And for the record, I think they will.

So how do the Saints breathe a little easier and build a good lead? I think it starts with the running game. I don't think the Saints need to have 150 yards rushing, but they need to establish the threat, or at the least make it appear plausible enough that we can and will run so that the play action will work as beautifully as it did against Cincinatti. It's not quite that easy though, because the Rams have a very good Safety in OJ Atogwe (whom I really wished the Saints would have signed), whereas the Bengals and Cowboys had garbage at Safety. I do think that in conjunction with a viable running game, we will see big passing plays thanks in large to the mismatches a fully acclimated Reggie Bush and a fast learning Jimmy Graham will help create. I think this is where Reggie loses the rust and catches a good 8 passes or so. And as the Rams adjust to Reggie, you will see Meachem and company make them pay down the field. I also think in an effort to pick their poison, Jimmy Graham will have his best game of his short career. Thanks in large part to the Rams losing LB Diggs on defense for the year.

Until the Saints get to that point, the Rams can play it close, much like the Falcons, and slow down the game, being pretty well balanced. The thing that worries one about Bradford is that he is very patient for his age, and he has the athletic ability to get out of the pocket and throw on the run/ run for a first down. Its not smart to blitz him as often as you would any other rookie QB. Gregg Williams will probably have a lot of faux pas blitzes. Even so, I think the Saints can still sack Bradford a few times. Jackson doesn't fumble much, and Bradford doesn't make many bad decisions, but he does fumble when getting sacked, and those WR's a prone to the strip. He takes a sack rather than forcing a bad play- mature beyond his years. But Bradford's game is dink and dunk, so we really need to get good LB and S play. Because with Stephen Jackson, they surely can hurt us in the run and with play action. Also, the Rams are getting good sack production and pressure from their defensive line-- specifically their defensive ends. So Drew might have to play the patient game a bit longer than we as fans would like to see (which he is more than capable of).

I think this game is close until the 3rd quarter. I think the Saints eventually pull away. I hope they get a few adventageous match-ups early, and I hope Drew is getting the ball out quick. The Rams don't turn the ball over that much, and they are +5 in the turnover margin. They can play like the Falcons if we turn the ball over a few times. When they are keeping it close, it's hard to tell if they are going to run or pass. The Saints can win and get separation, but at some point in this game they have to have a few perfect drives to gets some separation and make the Rams more predictable. Jumping out to a quick two score lead won't faze the Rams, especially if we start turning the ball over. This team doesn't quit, so if we have the chance, we need to keep the pedal to the medal.

Saints 35, Rams 19.

The Rams aren't pretenders. They don't have an offense or defense that scares you, but they play like a team, and they don't quit. Most of us believe the Saints will make the playoffs. It's almost a given. If the Saints want home field advantage and that top seed, they have to win the division. To do so, they pretty much have to win out. They can win the division only two ways-- having a better record than the Falcons, or having the same record and a better NFC South record than the Falcons. In either scenario, the Falcons have to lose twice over the next 4 weeks. And unless one of those losses comes from Carolina, the Saints have to win out. In either scenario (of Atlanta losing 2 games), the Saints can't lose to Tampa. This game and the next (Baltimore) will tell us if the Saints are serious contenders this year. They really need to be sharp now, because with the cold weather and all, you want to do everything you can to get HFA. I don't think Atlanta loses to Carolina, but I could see them dropping a game to Seattle in Seattle during their 3rd consecutive road game.

Stat Time

Offense

3. Saints-- 390 yards per game, 5.9 yards per play, 24.9 points per game, 48% 3rd down conversions made, 6 fumbles lost, 32:02 time of possession, -4 turnover margin.

25. Rams-- 315 ypg, 4.7 ypp, 19.3 ppg, 36% 3rd down, 8 fumbles lost, 31:53 TOP, +5 TO margin

Passing Offense

3. Saints-- 291 yards per game, 7.5 yards per attempt, 69.5% completion, 25 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 38 20+ yard pass completions, 18 sacks given up, 94.6 qb rating.

20. Rams-- 209 ypg, 6.0 ypa, 60.6% completion, 17 tds, 10 ints, 27 20+ yard pass completions, 24 sacks given up, 81.0 qb rating.

Rushing Offense

20. Rams-- 106 ypg, 3.7 yards per carry, 6 td, 1 fumble, 8 20+ yard runs.

25. Saints-- 99 ypg, 4.1 ypc, 8 td, 5 fumble, 6 20+ yard runs.

Defense

9. Saints-- 307 ypg, 5.1 ypp, 18.9 ppg, 37% 3rd down conversions allowed, 28 forced fumbles, 11 fumbles recovered

14. Rams-- 333 ypg, 5.4 ypp, 19.8 ppg, 32% 3rd down, 22ff, 9 fr.

Pass Defense

3. Saints-- 199 ypg, 6.6 ypa, 62.7% completion allowed, 8 tds, 7 ints, 31 20+ yard passes given up, 23 sacks, 81.2 opposing qb rating.

19. Rams-- 230 ypg, 7.0 ypa, 57.8% completion, 15 td, 10 ints, 39 20+ yard passes given up, 35 sacks, 81.1 opposing qb rating.

Rush Defense

14. Rams-- 104 ypg, 4.5 ypc, 5 td, 4 fumbles, 12 20+ yard runs given up

15. Saints-- 108 ypg, 4.1 ypc, 11 td, 6 fumbles, 7 20+ yard runs given up



Pick-Em

Last Week: 13 right, 3 wrong
Season Total: 119 wins, 73 losses

This Week's Picks:

Indianapolis over Tennessee-- The Colts are favored. If I felt confident about the Kerry Collins to Kenny Britt connection, I'd pick the Titans. Peyton's back is agains the wall. This is a division opponent, and he's been embarassed the past few weeks. It can't get any worse can it? Indy is banged up and can't run the ball. I'd like to see the Titans win, but this is the one week I don't want to bet against Peyton. If the Colts lose, all bets are off for the rest of the year.

Cleveland over Buffalo-- Upset #1. I hate picking this game because I'd like to see both teams win. But I'm sold on the coaching job and defense of Cleveland. I really like how tough Buffalo has played, but I just don't know enough about their defense. Maybe it won't matter because Cleveland doesn't have a great offense and Buffalo can score points. I think I'll lose this pick, but I'm going out on a limb and sticking with the Browns.

Green Bay over Detroit-- the first game was very close. I just can't pick Detroit, maybe even for the rest of the year. I think they lost the "it" they had when they were battling in the first half of the year.

NY Giants over Minnesota-- tricky game here, but I'll roll with big blue and laugh if the Vikings start catching fire. I'm kind of hoping the Giants win their division because if push came to shove, I'd prefer them over the Eagles should we be a wild card (though it wouldn't matter in the first week because we'd be playing the 4th seed-- NFC West, assuming we don't collaspe and wind up with the 6th seed). I think Tavaris Jackson gives the Vikings a better chance of winning. Too bad Brett has some kind of streak going on.

Cincinatti over Pittsburg-- upset #2. Call me crazy, but there isn't a single team the Bengals hat more than the Steelers. Add to that the short week from playing a Monday night game, and the bloodletting that went on there, and Pittsburg is black and blue heading into this game. Division rival and all, I think the Bengals stop their losing streak at 9.

Tampa Bay over Washington-- Maybe is Tampa playing like you'd think they would play next year. Maybe they are too young to know better. This will be a very telling game. Does the loss to Atlanta devastate them for a week like our loss to Dallas did to us last year? I think Tampa, despite being young, sees an opportunity for the playoffs, and they win a close game.

Atlanta over Carolina-- Maybe John Fox can pull Atlanta's leprocaun out of Matt Ryan's right arm. Ill be picking Atlanta because they just refuse to lose. Last week I called on reverse ju-ju. Maybe it's supposed to be something the person applying it can't say. So I'm keeping my mouth shut and saying go Failclowns.

Jacksonville over Oakland-- this is the game I agonize about all week. I like the Raiders, truth be told, and really don't care for the Jaguars (though I love MJD). Both teams are maddeningly incosistant. Not sure if that's a word, but who knows what to call these teams. Anyways, I thing Garrard is probably more consistant than Campbell (at least this year), so I am going with the Jaguars. I even hate those commercials where that ahole sounds all snooty pronouncing it Jugewware.

Saints over St. Louis-- I've said all I care to say above.

Seattle over San Francisco-- Upset #3. Maybe Mike Singletarry thanks Seattle after this game for putting him out of his misery. He made the switch back to Alex Smith. Guess he's going all in with that guy. How many coaches have lost their jobs over that guy?

New England over Chicago-- okay, so Chicago has a defense that is for real, and Mike Martz finally discovered the benefit of using the run game and protecting Cutler with some faster developing routes. And this game is in Chicago, and New England just came off an emotional win. So why am I picking the Patriots?

NY Jets over Miami-- Miami is another team I don't think I can pick much more. Yet they always play the Jets tough. It's like their Falcons game. I just haven't seen enough reason to pick them here.

Denver over Arizona-- head coach fired? He had it coming. But Arizona is starting a QB you've probably never heard of, someone more obscure than Max Hall and equally inexperienced. I'll take Kyle Orton.

San Diego over Kansas City-- the Chargers back's are against the wall. KC plays really tough defense, smart offense, and they can pound the ball. I'm picking the Chargers because they are more desperate, but if the Cheifs win, I'd have to say they are for real. Maybe not Superbowl for real, but spoil someones chances at advancing past the first round of the playoffs for real.

Dallas over Philidelphia-- Upset #4. I would feel much better about this game if Dez Bryant hadn't broken his leg last week. But Dallas finally realized they are professionals and came to play as a team. That, and I'm not on the Vick is mr universe bandwagon.

Baltimore over Houston-- I can't wait for Joe Flacco to have a big day. He's on a few of my fantasy teams, and Houston has no pass defense. Time for the Texans to look in the mirror and realize the first month was an abberation. They are who they always were. Ravens 35, Texans 20.
 
They are scrappers, no doubt. With that said, we should just take it to them, we're too talented on both sides of the ball to lose.

I'll call it. Skins over the Bucs and Vikings over Giants. Philly over Dallas, Pitt over Cincy and the rest I agree with.
 
They are scrappers, no doubt. With that said, we should just take it to them, we're too talented on both sides of the ball to lose.

I'll call it. Skins over the Bucs and Vikings over Giants. Philly over Dallas, Pitt over Cincy and the rest I agree with.

I can't argue with your picks. I tend to hope to pick only 2 upsets and the rest favorites, but some weeks I can't make up my mind. I haven't been bad when picking 4 upsets, but when I pick more, I usually have a bad week. That said, there's only one game I really hope I lose in my picks (Atlanta).

I feel much better about picking San Diego with Brody Croyle starting over Cassel due to appendectomy.
 

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