Carolina Panthers at St. Louis Rams
Sunday October 31st, 2010 1:00 PM EST
Line: St. Louis -3
The 1-5 Panthers probably didn’t expect to be the underdog in this game before the season started. The 3-4 Rams may have a losing record, but their confidence is sky high, as they have already wave already equaled their win total from the last two seasons. They have dropped huge games, including one to the Lions, that have wrecked their team statistically. The stat that matters the most in any sport, however, is the win column. The Rams have the upper hand in that department and playing at home makes them favored by a field goal.
Keys to the Game:
- The Panthers need to have a quarterback who can have back to back decent games. The Panthers came away with a victory with Matt Moore under center last week. They established Moore could not get it done, so they went with Clausen, who also struggled. Now the Panthers are back to Moore and had better stay with him for the remainder of the season. Nothing is more frustrating for a team than having inconsistency at quarterback. When both quarterbacks are playing with a fear of losing their job and no continuity with their offense, the entire team is going to struggle. Moore is the guy, so Carolina needs to allow him some freedom to open up the playbook. Steve Smith is banged up and weapons are limited, so Moore will likely struggle in this one. John Fox needs to show that he has faith in the quarterback and his team will likely follow suit.
- Nobody should feel comfortable playing the Rams at home. The Rams are 3-1 at home and have won their last three games in St. Louis. The Panthers are by far the worst team the Rams have played this year at home, so it is likely they will continue their winning streak this week. Despite being inconsistent this year, the Rams have been predictable all season long. The Rams have not posted a single victory on the road, losing to the Lions, Raiders, and Buccaneers. While none of those games are necessarily sure wins for the Rams, they should have come away with at least one victory out of that bunch. Maybe ownership needs to look into better travel accommodations for the team.
- Despite being terrible this year, the Panthers are solid against the pass. Part of this can be accredited to their opposition running the ball while they have a comfortable lead, but the Rams are likely to struggle through the air. This means Steven Jackson is going to have to put up big numbers and judging by Carolina’s track record against the run this season, he is going to have a monster day. Jackson broke his finger, which accounts for his questionable listing on the injury report. If Jackson doesn’t play, the Rams aren’t going to sniff a victory. Jackson had surgery Monday, but it looks like he is still going to give it a shot on Sunday. Jackson hasn’t made the playoffs since his rookie year and with his team only a game and a half out of first place, the Rams have a legitimate chance to win the division. Ball security may be an issue on Sunday, but Jackson isn’t likely to allow a finger injury to sideline him in a make or break game.
- Everyone is jumping on the Sam Bradford bandwagon, myself included, but the biggest difference in the Rams success has not been the play at quarterback, it has been the defense. In their home games, the Rams allow only 13.25 points a game. Despite giving up a 44 spot to the Lions, the Rams still rank 8th in the NFL in points allowed. This is a tremendous improvement from last year, when the Rams ranked 31st. The Rams are particularly stout in the redzone. Despite allowing 330 yards a game, they don’t allow many points. This is great news for a team who had no fight in them at all last season. The personnel is virtually the same as last year, but the attitude has completely changed. Now that the Rams are actually competing for victories, everyone is showing up on every down. The offense and defense are playing for each other, which is great for team chemistry. The defense is making it easy on the offense to remain competitive, especially at home.
- In the past few years, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have been quite possibly the best running back tandem in the NFL. Both of them could break for 150 yards in a single game. This year, neither one of them can get it done. The Panthers cut Jake Delhomme, as they saw him as the weak link on offense. Now with their dreadful quarterback play, the Panthers are giving teams the green light to tee off on Williams and Stewart. Fantasy Owners across America are cringing at Williams and his lack of production. He ranks 31st in the league rushing. Even when the Panthers have struggled through the air, Williams and Stewart have been the back bone of their offense. This year, it appears as though they cannot function with no offensive line and no passing threat to be found. The Jaguars offense may be one dimensional, but the Panthers offense has no dimension.
- Julius Peppers probably can’t help but smile. The Panthers haven’t been able to fill the Peppers void after they allowed the best player in their franchise history to leave town. Peppers doesn’t hide the fact that he left on bad terms and I’m sure he is elated to see that they have only had nine sacks on the entire year. Peppers was not only the leader on defense, he also was and still remains one of the best pass rushing defensive ends in the league. Not only did he account for over 1/3 of the Panthers sack total, he also freed up linebackers because he was double teamed on nearly every play. A player like Julius Peppers only comes around once every generation and someone needs to be fired for allowing him to leave Carolina.
Carolina showed that they can still compete, at least against a one win team like the 49ers. This week, they face a much tougher opponent. While it may seem hard to believe, the Rams are likely going to be .500 headed into their week nine bye. St. Louis can’t expect to roll over the Panthers like they expected to roll over the Lions. As long as the Rams come in and compete, they should be able to beat the Panthers by at least three. Four of the Panthers Five losses have been by 13 points or more. It wouldn’t shock me if the Rams completely blew them away on the back of Steven Jackson.
Free NFL Pick: St. Louis +3