Rams vs Bills: 10 Keys to the Game for St. Louis
The Rams are coming off their most prized victory of the season—a 16-13 overtime win over San Francisco—which has them riding high and eyeing a long shot wild card appearance, which would almost certainly require an unlikely 4-0 finish.
Luckily for the Rams, they won their first away game against Arizona two weeks ago, so there's no longer an intense pressure to secure their first road victory. But unfortunately, they have only won one game against a non-NFC West opponent this season, and they have yet to beat an AFC team, which is an obstacle they'll need to overcome this Sunday.
If the Rams wish to travel to Buffalo and even out their record with a victory, here are 10 keys they must focus on.
Keep Sam Bradford Rolling
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Sam Bradford is starting to show consistent production in a way we have never seen before in young career.
His fantasy numbers are still questionable, but in the terms of real football, he has been excellent in the last two games.
He is making smart throws, avoiding mistakes, showing poise in the pocket and most importantly, we no longer see him implode at the first sign of trouble.
Even if the Rams can only win two of their remaining games, nothing will give fans more hope for the future than a strong four-game finish by Bradford.
Allow Steven Jackson to Find a Groove
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Steven Jackson was used sparingly early on this season, but lately, he has been reintroduced to his role as the workhorse.
Jackson exceeded 20 carries just once in the first eight games, but he has 20 or more carries in three of the last four games. And it's not a coincidence that the Rams have gone 2-1-1 during that time, making it one of their better four-game stretches of the season.
There's a slim chance that the Rams will win all four of their remaining games. But if that were to happen, does anyone believe it would be even remotely possible without a heavy dose of Jackson?
Jackson is still the key to the Rams offense, and that will hold true this Sunday.
Change the Pace with Daryl Richardson
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While Steven Jackson has provided the run game with a boost following his increased workload, it's a little disappointing that Daryl Richardson has been all but removed from the offensive game plan.
Buffalo ranks 30th in the NFL in run defense (139.2 yards per game), so this is a good week for both running backs to see a heavy workload.
Also, while it's surely an unpopular notion, it would be nice to see Isaiah Pead get more carries in these final games. Pead has been a disappointment, but the Rams need to truly assess what they have in their two rookie running backs, especially since there's no guarantee that Jackson will be back next season.
Keep Danny Amendola Healthy
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By all accounts, this is a game the Rams are capable of winning with or without Danny Amendola.
If Amendola is truly healthy enough to play, it would certainly be a welcomed boost for this offense. If not, there's no need to sideline him for the remainder of the season just to ensure a victory against an underwhelming opponent.
But don't tell this to Danny. He'll do whatever it takes to be on the field this Sunday.
Keep Working Chris Givens in the Short Game
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Rookie Chis Givens has been Sam Bradford's favorite deep threat for most of the season, but is beginning to contribute on short and intermediate routes in the absence of Danny Amendola.
The continued growth of Givens is vital for this offense, so let's hope that he continues to be productive in a variety of roles.
Even if Amendola can play, it would still be beneficial if Givens continues to get work on shorter routes.
Preserve Greg Zuerlein's Confidence
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In Week 6, the Rams allowed rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein to attempt numerous field goals against the Miami Dolphins on a day with crazy winds, resulting in his first three misses of the season.
The game put a sudden stop to the endless "Greg the Leg" hype and sent into a minor rut that he just recently ended.
If field goals are the only option, then there's not much the Rams can do about it. But preferably, kicking numerous field goals in Buffalo's open-air stadium is not ideal.
The last thing the Rams need down this final stretch is another confidence-killing game for their kicker.
Allow DE's to Attack
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Neither Chris Long or Robert Quinn have recorded a sack in the last two weeks, which is unacceptable for a duo of their caliber.
It makes the defense's job much easier when the opposing quarterback is running for his life, so it's time for the star defensive ends to kick up the heat and bring the pressure.
Not the mention, the Bills are just 1-3 this season when Fitzpatrick is sacked three or more times.
Keep the Turnovers Coming
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The Rams have five turnovers and three defensive touchdowns in the last two weeks, so it's no surprise that they've won their last two games.
Obviously, this is a winning formula, and it's certainly tough to be the Rams when their defensive playmakers are running on all cylinders.
Janoris Jenkins has paid his dues over the last two weeks with three turnovers, one forced safety and three touchdowns. It's time for someone else in the secondary to step up, and all eyes are on Cortland Finnegan.
After recording an interception in each of the first three games, Finnegan is currently in the midst of a nine-game interception drought. It's time for him to pickup where Jenkins left off and make some big plays.
As for the front eight, they needs to contributes some fumble recoveries, which is something they have struggled with this season.
Kill Ryan Fitzpatrick's Confidence
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This ties into the previous two slides—if the Rams create turnovers and unleash their defensive ends, then Ryan Fitzpatrick will automatically be rattled as a result.
But with Fitzpatrick in particular, it's important that the Rams provide a stressful atmosphere when he's on the field.
Fitzpatrick has gone without an interception in four of Buffalo's five wins. So clearly, if the rhythm is off, there's a chance he'll cough up the game.
Keep CJ Spiller Contained
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CJ Spiller has been rather inconsistent this season. He has surpassed 160 rushing yards, while he has also been held under 20 yards in games this season.
But regardless of the unpredictability, Spiller has emerged as a dangerous player and is finally starting to live up to his lofty draft status.
Spiller a dangerous multi-threat player who has started to find his groove again in recent weeks, making him a potential killer for the Rams.
It's important for St. Louis to shut down this aspect of Buffalo's offense and force the Bills to become one-dimensional.