The Teams: St. Louis Rams (2-4) At New England Patriots (4-2)
The Terms: Regular Season Week 8
The Place: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass
The Time: 1:00pm
The Channel: Fox
3 Burning Questions:
- Will the Patriots beat an inferior team without trouble? The Pats have defeated the Chiefs, Jets, 49ers and Broncos so far this year, none of which anyone would call world beaters. If New England wants to be considered the favorite to win the AFC East and make another run in the playoffs, these are the types of games they need to win, and win convincingly. Playing against inferior teams are a great way to find rhythm on both sides of the ball and St. Louis provides the perfect opportunity for Matt Cassel to gain some consistency with the receivers which started last week. Yes, the Rams just beat the Cowboys convincingly, but we’re seeing more and more cracks in “America’s Team”, plus with Tony Romo out the ‘boys threw out a worse backup QB than our own! Besides quarterback and running back the Patriots have positional advantages at nearly every important position which should allow the Pats to control the game. The key will be ball control and the running game for both teams, which leads me to my next question…
- Who will run the ball for the Patriots and how will they stop Steven Jackson? Laurence Maroney is out for the year. Lamont Jordan is listed as doubtful. Sammy Morris – last week’s fantasy darling – is doubtful. That leaves the load to Kevin Faulk – dynamic for sure but not an every down running back – and BenJarvis Green-Ellis – the most ridiculous name combination in the NFL. Green-Ellis ran pretty well last week (13 carries, 65 yards, TD) in taking over for Morris in the second half against the Broncos. While Denver is widely considered to have a sieve-like defense, St. Louis isn’t much better. In fact, heading into week 8 the Rams have the 29th ranked defense and 30th against the run, even worse than the Broncos. Green-Ellis and Faulk must do what the Patriots did last week and keep control of the ball. The excellent run blocking by the offensive line last week must continue so the Patriots can control the time of possession and allow Cassel to pick his spots to go deep. On the other side of the ball, Steven Jackson is a beast (as I found out first hand last week when he torched my fantasy team for 29 points) and could run effectively against the Pats, who are allowing almost 120 yards a game on the ground. Controlling Jackson will force Marc Bulger to make plays, and while the Pats secondary is hurting there were some strong signs last week that the front seven may be able to put pressure on the quarterback. I think Jackson will have a good game, but as long as New England keeps him out of the end zone they should win.
- Who will step up in Rodney Harrison’s place? With Harrison done for the year and possibly his career, it’s going to be up to James Sanders and Brandon Meriweather to fill the void. Remember now that Tank Williams was signed before the year just in case this happened, but he was also lost to the year due to injury. Meriweather is progressing well and now finally is catching the interceptions he dropped last year. He is a ball hawker who can make big plays and has the skills to play cornerback. It seems like James Sanders has been around forever but he’s only 24 years old and hasn’t been asked to be ‘the man’ to lead the secondary. It’s time to throw him into the fire to see what he’s got. Two weeks ago the safeties blew deep coverage and Philip Rivers ate the secondary for lunch. The Pats will see a heavy dose of Jackson, but Bulger can still throw the ball over the top so they must be wary of that threat.
It’s tough to get down on this team after last week’s dominating win, but as I said earlier in the week, a lot of the win had to do with the Broncos’ terrible play. St. Louis is coming off a big win over the Cowboys so they’ll come in confident and the Patriots have to shatter that early on. In front of their home crowd (me included) the Pats need to either take the ball first, go down and get six points or stop the Rams from getting anything on the first drive to set the tone for the game. I see the Patriots jumping out early in this one, it’ll tighten up by halftime but the Pats will pull away in the second half thanks to the ground game. The Rams can’t stop the run, plain and simple and we may see BenJarvis Green-Ellis – a former practice squad player – eclipse the 100 yard mark. Cassel will further develop the on-field relationships with receivers and don’t be surprised to see Randy Moss in the endzone two more times.
Patriots 34, Rams 20
Tags: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Brandon Meriweather, James Sanders, Kevin Faulk, Laurence Maroney, Marc Bulger, Matt Cassel, Randy Moss, Rodney Harrison, Sammy Morris, Stephen Jackson