|Ah, the only Monday Night Football crew worth caring about. Quite a long fall from here to the current crew. |
There was just enough hype surrounding the Rams
coming into this season that the breakdown the team suffered in week one against the Eagles
was actually noticed. By pretty much everyone. Sure, playing the Dream Team would have ensured lots of people saw the game anyway, but there had been just enough, "You know the team I'm picking as a serious sleeper? The Rams," sort of sentiment swirling amongst analysts to make the loss that much more humiliating.
Watching Michael Vick scramble for 3rd and 19 conversions and fumble recoveries going for touchdowns, I'm sure pretty much anyone and everyone who saw the game had the same thought Ken Norton Jr. once famously put into words: "Same old sorry-ass Rams."
But there's a silver lining to this. Those same old sorry-ass Rams are playing tonight, on Monday Night Football, in New York. They'll never get a better chance to make a good first impression than this.
So can they do it?
Before going any further, I would like to point out that, "Same old sorry-ass Rams," is one of those situation where you absolutely, positively cannot move the hyphen. Because, "Same old sorry-ass Rams," and, "Same old sorry ass-Rams," are not the same thing at all. Just thought I would point out for everyone that you have to careful with your grammar.
Anyhow, as for the Giants, they have something very much in common with the Rams: injuries. These are two of the most injured teams in all of football right now, and it doesn't look like it's going to get much better anytime soon for either team. Both teams have massive concerns in the secondary after seeing their initial units decimated. Which team finds the best answers to all their questions posed by using players they hadn't planned on will likely come out victorious.
The biggest question for the Rams, of course, is the availability of Steven Jackson. It's been will-he-or-won't-he pretty much since the moment the Philadelphia game ended, and the final answer for now seems to be, "He might." He'll work out before the game, and the coaching staff will make a final decision then. With an 80 percent Jackson or a 100 percent Cadillac Williams/Jerious Norwood tandem, I'm honestly not hugely concerned with the Rams' running game. The Giants are stout enough up front against the run, but not to the point they're going to shut a team down. Getting yards on the ground won't be easy, but it won't be impossible, either.
There are two matchups in this game which will likely determine whether the Rams can make that good first impression the second time around, and both will come on offense. While Steve Spagnuolo's defense did not play particularly well last week, plenty of the credit for that has to go to chasing Vick around play after play and an offense incapable of holding their own in the time of possession battle. I expect a much better showing from the Rams' D this week. The offense, though? That's a different question entirely.
Two matchups, both in the passing game. If the Rams win both of these matchups, they win. If not, well, it'll probably be another week of the same old sorry ass-Rams.
The Rams' O-line vs The Giants' Pass Rush
Steve Spagnuolo was the one who helped build that Giants' defensive line into the holy terror which put the kibosh on the Patriots' perfect season, but that doesn't mean his departure took the punch out of this group. The Giants still have one of the more vaunted pass rush units in the NFL, and the Rams' offensive line is going to have to do some serious work if they want to keep Sam Bradford vertical and ambulatory.
They'll get some help here from the injury bug, as the Giants are missing at least one key component of their defensive line in Osi Umenyiora. Justin Tuck is expected to play, but whether at full strength or not is really anyone's guess. It's still a formidable unit, but removing and/or limiting a pair of players of that caliber can go a long way toward defanging an attack. Jason Smith and Rodger Saffold must have big games against a depleted D-line and protect their quarterback.
The Rams' Receivers vs The Giants' Secondary
When the Giants spent their first round draft pick on Nebraska's Prince Amukamara in April, they did so with visions of the corner taking away one half of the field for years to come. Well, thanks to a broken foot early in the preseason, Amukamara Island will just have to wait for awhile.
This is the single biggest matchup for the Rams this week, I believe. Last week they had virtually no success in the passing game, and of course the cries went up from the masses about how terrible the Rams' receivers still are. That may or may not be true; the Eagles' secondary is, quite honestly, the stuff dreams are made of. They're going to make an awful lot of teams' passing games disappear in 2011.
This week, though, we'll get a much better read on what kind of unit the Rams really have. (Heh. Unit.) Mike Hoomanawanui is expected to play, finally giving the Rams that two tight end attack they planned on implementing, and being able to move the chains with a power passing game (if there is such a thing), will be huge in keeping Eli Manning on the sidelines where he belongs.
The real matchup to watch here, though, involves the wideouts. Virtually invisible against the Eagles last week, the Rams have had another week of work on their new offense and a much more vulnerable secondary to work on. If Sam and his receivers can't make some hay this week, then I may just jump on the wide receiver in next year's draft bandwagon too.
Danny Amendola, despite copious amounts of grit helping to magically heal his elbow, will not play this week, giving us our first real look at Greg Salas in the slot. Injuries have left the Giants thin in the nickel package, which should give Salas favourable matchups for much of the game.
Outside is where the magic has to happen, though. The Rams weren't able to work the perimeter of the field at all against Philadelphia, and that's going to have to change. At least one wide receiver needs to have a big game if the Rams are going to put a solid point total on the board. I'm going to go out on a limb and say Danario Alexander goes off tonight and has one of those big games that reminds us all why the Rams have kept him around despite a knee still waiting on a response to its application for federal disaster assistance.
If the offensive line can keep Sam Bradford standing and the receivers can actually catch a few balls, I think the Rams have a solid chance of winning this game tonight. They go fairly even with the Giants on paper, and how this enigmatic passing offense plays will, I believe, be the determining factor.
Prediction time. Rams win 27-21, DX catches 5 passes for 120 yards and a TD, Lance Kendricks adds 4 more catches for 75 and a score. Robert Quinn, in his first NFL action, collects his first NFL sack.
Nothing to do now but wait for Hank Williams Jr. It's really a shame Hank Williams the original didn't live long enough to do the Monday Night Football theme instead. Maybe not quite as exciting, but a whole lot better all the same.