Rams-Redskins: How St. Louis Will Win in Week 3
Close but no cigar has been the pattern for the Rams in the first two weeks.
The Rams need to learn to turn opportunities into points. Until they do, the frustrating outcomes will continue.
On the bright side, the NFC West currently consists of two 1-1 teams and two 0-2 teams. If the Rams can find a way to win a couple of games in the next few weeks, when the schedule is somewhat favorable, they could hang around the division race at least until midseason. That would be major progress.
Up next is a home meeting against the Washington Redskins. This is the third year the teams have met. The Rams pulled out a 19-17 victory in 2008, while the Redskins edge the Rams in 2009, 9-7.
Of course, that was then (Jason Campbell, Marc Bulger) and this is now (Donovan McNabb, Sam Bradford).
The Rams desperately need a win. Here's how they can get one in Week 3.
The Story: The Hangover
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The Rams are not the only team burden by a plethora of "what ifs."
Washington is coming off a tough home loss to the Texans in which they saw a large lead evaporate into an overtime defeat.
The manner in which the two teams put the past behind them will go a long way to dictating the outcome of this game.
The Rams need to put aside thoughts of missed opportunities and trust that their offense, the main culprit in the two defeats, will start clicking. Impatient fans tend to forget that the offense features a rookie QB, rookie LT, and a WR who was with another team in training camp. These can't be excuses, though. The time to produce is now.
The Redskins must be feeling a bit shaken by last week, particularly with respect to confidence in their defense. Of course, the Rams don't have an offense that resembles Houston's, but if St. Louis can move the ball early, will the defense's doubts grow?
In light of the hangover effects of last week, I believe playing at home is a big plus for the Rams. The crowd will get behind the team and help erase the memories of weeks one and two.
The Subplot: Old Dog vs. New Tricks at QB
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Last offseason, both the Rams and the Redskins recognized the need to obtain a new quarterback.
The Redskins went the veteran route, trading for Donovan McNabb (as an aside, I still can't believe the Eagles traded him to a divisional rival). The Rams went with a youth movement, drafting Sam Bradford first overall.
So far, the results are not surprising.
McNabb has stabilized the quarterback position for the Redskins and is clearly more of a threat than Jason Campbell ever was. The only negative has been a nagging ankle injury, though it has not seemed to have impacted McNabb's play. The real question for Washington is whether the team has enough talent around McNabb to contend before he starts to break down with age.
Bradford has "played well for a rookie." At times, he has demonstrated flashes of greatness. He has also made "rookie mistakes." A breakout performance is inevitable.
Will it be this week?
The Key Matchup: Resistible Forces vs. Movable Objects
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Its a battle of weakness vs. weakness on Sunday.
The Redskins have been the worst running team in the league thus far (surprising for a Mike Shanahan team), while the Rams are No. 30 against the run.
Similarly, the Rams passing attack, lead by a rookie and a subpar WR corps, faces the a Redskins pass defense that is ranked 31st in the league.
Looking at these numbers more closely, they are, perhaps, not as dramatic as they seem.
The Rams run defense has started games fairly well, only to wear down in the second half as the offense failed to provide a cushion.
The Redskins pass defense stats are clearly skewed by the Texans game in which they faced the best WR in the game (Andre Johnson).
Will the Redskins run the ball effectively against the Rams? To an extent. If the game is close, they may find success in the second half. However, if the Rams can get an early lead, they may be well below 100 yards rushing again.
Will the Rams be able to move the ball through the air? If they can control the Redskins pass rush, particularly Brian Orakpo, I believe they will. The Redskins secondary is ripe for the picking.
The Forecast: Rams 27, Redskins 21
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-This will be the breakout week for the Rams offense, and the team as a whole.
-I believe that the Rams will be fired up to get their first win with the home crowd behind them.
-Sam Bradford will have his best performance as a pro, despite taking a few hits along the way.
-The Rams will get out to an early lead, and Steven Jackson will work the clock once they do.
-The Redskins will make a charge, led by McNabb, who will find an open Chris Cooley all day.
-Mardy Gilyard will be the wild card and make at least one big play on special teams and one on offense.
-By going to 1-2, and looking forward to a Week 4 home matchup against the Seahawks, the Rams will have something they have not had for years.
That's how I see it happening.