St. Louis Rams vs. Washinton Redskins: 3 Critical Matchups to Watch

Brian TaylorCorrespondent IIIOctober 1, 2011

St. Louis Rams vs. Washinton Redskins: 3 Critical Matchups to Watch

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    Week 4 will be the St. Louis Rams' best shot at earning their first win of the season. The Rams (0-3) will be taking on the Washington Redskins (2-1) in St. Louis.

    Even though the Redskins come into this game with the better record, there is a very good chance that St. Louis could pull the upset.

    In the past decade these two teams have always played each other very tough. Since 2001, the Redskins have won three games and the Rams have won three. The games have been pretty close too, with the average margin of victory being just seven points.

    There are three critical match-ups that stand out as potential game changers. If St. Louis or Washington can win the majority of these match-ups that may very well determine the game. With that said, here's three match-ups to watch closely throughout the game this Sunday. 

Ryan Kerrigan/ Brian Orakpo vs. Jason Smith

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    Jason Smith was in the starting lineup last week against the Baltimore Ravens and was benched before it was all said and done. He will have a chance to redeem himself this week, but the match-up is another difficult one.

    Last week, Smith struggled handling Terrell Suggs and the Ravens exotic blitz packages. Playing against the Ravens pass rush is difficult for every tackle in the NFL, but Jason Smith's failure to slow down the rush has led to him being labeled as a bust.

    This week, the former No. 2 overall pick will have to shed the bust label.

    He will be competing against two of the most promising young pass rushers in the NFL. Brian Orakpo has been a monster in his first two seasons, collecting 19.5 sacks in that span. Opposite of him is rookie Ryan Kerrigan who is already turning heads this year with 1.5 sacks, an interception and a forced fumble.

    Jason Smith will have to keep Sam Bradford clean if he wants to keep his job. 

Sam Bradford vs. O.J. Atogwe

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    This game will mark O.J. Atogwe's first return to St. Louis in a uniform other than the blue and gold.

    Atogwe was a playmaker for the Rams secondary throughout his time in St. Louis. Coming back to the place that he called home for six seasons will definitely have him playing his "A" game. Atogwe will be trying to show the Rams organization that they made a poor decision by letting him go.

    Sam Bradford's struggles this season are far from being all his fault. One thing Bradford has been able to do well is not throw interceptions. Even with a mediocre receiving corps and trailing in most games, he has yet to try and force any passes. Playing against a ball hawk like O.J. Atogwe, Bradford will have to avoid tossing the ball in his direction too often.

Darian Stewart vs. Santana Moss

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    If Darian Stewart plays significantly again in this game, Rex Grossman will likely target him frequently.

    Darian Stewart struggled terribly last week. Rookie receiver Torrey Smith beat him deep twice to score touchdowns. Keep in mind that Smith had zero catches coming into last week. If he finds himself in the secondary this week, he will have his hands full once again.

    The speedster he will be challenged by this week is Santana Moss. Moss is not only a straight line speed guy, but he is an underrated route runner. Because players must respect his speed, he is able to get himself free on curl and crossing routes.

    Hopefully Darian Stewart has been watching a lot of tape, because Santana isn't the straight line route runner that Torrey Smith was. Moss is an accomplished receiver with a dynamic set of skills.