Sorry for the very late preview guys, but I thought I’d put it up anyways:
Three weeks ago, when I looked at the schedule, I checked Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Rams off as an automatic win. Then, their head coach, Scott Linehan, was fired, and things turned around. They defeated two powerhouses in the so-called greatest division in football, the NFC East.
Now, suddenly, rallying behind interim coach Jim Haslett, the Rams seem a lot more intimidating. Stephen Jackson is playing like his old self, the offense is moving, and the defense has stepped it up. Everyone is playing at a much higher level.
However, if the Patriots can take this game, that will make them 5-2. That is certainly a good record, and will give them the chance to make a real run at the playoffs. 4-3 however is a big…. eh….. So clearly, to be among the elite in the AFC, this is a must-win game for the Patriots.
Key Injuries – Rams
Drew Bennett, Out
Adam Carriker, Questionable
Steven Jackson, Questionable
Analysis: The big question here is whether or not Steven Jackson will play. He is their biggest playmaker on the offensive side of the ball, and it will really slow down the Rams if he cannot play. However, my hunch is that he will be suiting up.
Key Injuries: Patriots
Lamont Jordan, Doubtful
Sammy Morris, Doubtful
Lewis Sanders, Doubtful
Jarvis Green, Questionable
Analysis: Again, the biggest area of concern, like St. Louis, is the health of the runnning backs. If Morris and Jordan can’t play, its will come down to BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Kevin Faulk, and Heath Evans to carry the load. While Green-Ellis played admirably last week, it will certainly hurt to have both Jordan and Morris out of action.
Keys to the Game – Patriots
1. Get the running game going again – Last week, with some pressure taken off of him due to a fantastic ground attack, quarterback Matt Cassel really played well. If the Patriots can get him going again, I think things will be great for Cassel.
2. Stop Steven Jackson – I’m writing this assuming Jackson is playing. If the Patriots expect to stop the Ram’s offense, stopping Steven Jackson will be the key. He is their biggest playmaker in the rushing game, as well as the passing game.
3. Get out to an early lead – From what I’ve watched this year, one of the keys to the Patriots’ success seems to be getting a quick, early lead. So I think the Patriots should work to come out strong, and put up a couple of scores. Because, again, from what I’ve seen, once this team gets behind more than one score, they tend to fall apart.
Players to Watch – Rams
1. Orlando Pace, T, #76 – Pace looks to be coming back from injury for the first time this week. The future hall of famer is going to be looking to show that he’s still got something left in the tank.
2. Steven Jackson, RB, #39 – Again, I think Jackson is going to play, and assuming he does, he will be the Rams’ biggest weapon on offense and he will get the ball in his hands.
3. Donnie Avery, WR, #17 – A lot of people questioned the Rams when they made Donnie Avery the first receiver selected in the draft. However, those questions are beginning to slow down as Avery has made some nice plays this season, and figures to be a factor against the Patriots.
4. Chris Long, DE, #72 – Matt Light has been struggling a little as of late, and the rookie Chris Long has been playing solid football. Look out for this matchup, as Long will be looking to show up one of the leagues better tackles.
5. Dante Hall, KR/WR, #82 – Hall might not be what he once was, but he is still a danger every time he returns a kick. And if you know anything about the Patriots, you know that they value special teams, so stopping Hall will be a key.
Players to Watch – Patriots
1. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, #42 – The rookie showed some nice flashes last week against the Broncos. With Morris and Jordan both likely out, it will be up to Green-Ellis to shoulder the load in the running game.
2. Randy Moss, WR, #81- After a “coming out” game last week, Moss very well may build on that this week. The Rams’ secondary is beat up right now, and Moss will have his chances.
3. Mark LeVoir, T, #64 – This might be LeVoir’s second straight week manning the right tackle spot. From what I’ve seen from him so far, I think he could become a good option at right tackle.
4. Jonathan Wilhite, CB, #24 – The 4th rounder has been seeing increased action on the field. He is becoming a solid nickel back, and I think we may see a big play from him.
5. James Sanders, S, #36 – He has really played terrific football the last two weeks, and with Harrison out, he will likely be asked to take over the strong safety position. Sanders will have the opportunity to secure himself a long-term deal with continued solid play this year.
Greg’s Prediction: Patriots 34 Rams 16
I think that the Patriots will halt the Rams’ new-feel squad. I don’t think it will be close either. However, based on the way that the Rams have played as of late, you really can’t write them off.