The 4-5 St. Louis Rams are playing a must-win game against the NFC-best 7-2 Atlanta Falcons today. The Rams have won four straight games at home. With their next three games on the road, the Rams must beat the Atlanta Falcons to have a chance to win the NFC West.
The Atlanta Falcons come into this contest with three straight wins and have been the NFL's most consistent team, with their two losses were against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles.
The Atlanta Falcons feature the big three in Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and Roddy White. Ryan is very safe with the ball and has a 16-5 TD/INT ratio. On the ground, Michael Turner is fifth in the NFC with 733 yards rushing. Through the air, the Falcons have arguably the best NFL receiver in Roddy White, who has 70 catches for 934 yards and seven touchdowns. The Falcons are eighth in points scored, and 12th in passing.
The Falcons will try to control the ball and clock with Turner. They are 12th in passing and also have a hard time getting the ball to other wideouts. People talk about the Rams and their depth, but Harry Douglas is the Falcons' No. 2 wideout with 16 catches on the season.
The Falcons go to Tony Gonzalez and Michael Turner as receivers more than their other wideouts. The Rams must find a way to get to Ryan and lock down on Roddy White and at least take the deep ball away.
On defense the Falcons are eighth in points allowed. Leading tackler Curtis Lofton and leading sacker John Abraham are both inured, and we will see if they play. If they are out, the Rams will have a much easier time moving the ball.
The Rams are coming off of a terrible road loss to the San Francisco 49ers in a game they basically gave away. The Rams must use their confidence at home to win another huge game, since they can not afford to lose.
The Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals should both lose today, so the Rams have another chance to make a move in the NFC West. A loss here will drop the Rams to 4-6, and they play their next three games on the road, where they simply do not know how to win. I do not see the Rams winning more than one road game, so it is very important for them to win out at home for a shot at eight wins.
The Rams are similar to the Falcons, but just without all the talent at the moment. The Rams also will try to control the ball on the ground with Steven Jackson and use a short and safe passing game to keep the Falcons off the field. The Rams, who are 29th in points scored, are going to need to go outside the box today and get the ball down the field to someone.
Key matchups today will be Chris Long against huge RT Tyson Clabo (6'6", 330 pounds). Long must find a way around Clabo. In the secondary Ron Bartell, who is without an interception but has played well in coverage, will need help against Roddy White. The Rams must lay some hits on White and keep him in front of them.
The Falcons are also running more no huddle, which the Rams have not seen a lot of. The Rams like to rotate in a lot of players, and they may not be able to do that today against the Falcons.
Overall I believe the Falcons are just too solid, and the Rams just have too much trouble putting up points. I think the Falcons will smother the Rams and control this game. I hope I am wrong, but I believe the Rams still need some more pieces to win a game like this. The Rams must be at least a plus-two in turnover margin to stay in this one.
Prediction: Atlanta Falcons 24, St. Louis Rams 13