Rams +7 @ Falcons
Here we go with another NFL Sunday matchup between the St. Louis Rams and the Atlanta Falcons. The Rams started the season on the right foot, sneaking by the Arizona Cardinals on the foot of kicker Greg Zuerlein. The Falcons on the other hand are off to a 0-1 start, losing a tough, hard fought battle to the rival New Orleans Saints. The Rams try to improve to 2-0 this coming Sunday, which would put the Falcons in a dangerous 0-2 hole, but Matt Ryan and the crew may have something to say about that. Well, let’s dive inside the numbers to see who has the edge in this matchup.
Rams: Although the Rams were able to come back from a 24-13 deficit at home last week, they did not look very impressive vs. a rebuilding Cardinals team. The Cardinals replaced their entire coaching staff this offseason and brought in veteran quarterback Carson Palmer to run the offense. With all the changing pieces, I expected the Rams and fourth year quarterback Sam Bradford to come out and make a statement, but the exact opposite happened. When the team decided to trade the #2 pick in 2012 and pass on Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III, management was standing behind the former Oklahoma Sooner star and sent a message that they believed Bradford could be something special. Well, heading into his fourth season as the full time starter, I am not seeing much improvement. He struggles to push the ball down the field with accuracy and panics when the pocket breaks down. It seems like offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is content to just throw intermediate routes most of the game and rely on the defense. The running game also struggled last Sunday, as they are clearly missing now starting Falcons running back Steven Jackson. On the other side of the ball, the Rams defense did look good at times. Defensive end Robert Quinn dominated the game with three sacks, allowing the offense the chance to win the game late. What worries me is wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Roberts got open at will and now that same Rams secondary has to face off against one of the best wide-out tandems in the NFL in Julio Jones and Roddy White.
Atlanta: The Falcons lost a heartbreaker to rival New Orleans last Sunday but I was impressed with the overall performance. With the return of Sean Payton, I knew the Superdome was going be a playoff type atmosphere. If it weren’t for a Steven Jackson drop in the end zone, the Falcons would be sitting here 1-0. Instead their backs are against the wall but expect a dominant performance in their home opener Sunday. The offense moved the ball last week but some key turnovers stalled a few drives and swung momentum. Steven Jackson in the backfield gives this team a dynamic they have not possessed in the Mike Smith coaching era. A primarily pass focused offense now adds a power back that can get the tough yards when needed. The Rams will have to pick their poison and Jackson may be the beneficiary with some wide-open running lanes. On defense, Atlanta held the potent Saints offense to just 23 points. At home, with the crowd behind them, Atlanta will look to pressure Bradford and force him into some bad decisions.
Prediction: At only -7, I am picking the Falcons. Last week was a horrible spot for them and they were just five yards away from escaping with a victory. They will be hungry for a win this week and Steven Jackson definitely wants to make up for his big drop by sticking it to his former team. The Rams, however, were lucky to beat the Cardinals. Most people believe this is an up and coming ball club but I have been hearing that for the past few years. There are no true threats and game changers on this team, and until they start adding some, they are a 7-9 team in my eyes. The public still doesn’t believe in Atlanta and felt their playoff run last year was a bit lucky. This was a team one play away from the Super Bowl last year and we are getting them at a cheap price and in a good spot, as they don’t want to fall to 0-2.
Atlanta 35 Rams 20