I'm going to try to write this with a shred of optimism concerning the fate of this franchise. As I write this, Linehan is still the head coach, Zygmunt is still the GM, and Trent Green is our starting QB. I hope all three of these change soon.
In any case, if you need some nostalgia to restart your optimism engine (or maybe just a good laugh), VanRam provided us with some of Bodog's preseason odds here. It's either funny or sad, depending on what kind of person you are. For me, it's sadly funny.
In spite of the past and in spite of the first three games and out of pure spite, the 3k series rolls on. Game breakdown after the fold.
For Bills news leading up the game, check out Buffalo Rumblings, our SBN brother here)
St. Louis Rams, 0-3, 4th - NFC West
Buffalo Bills, 3-0, 1st - AFC East
Parentheses include NFL rankings in that area.
STL pass - 52/89, 146 yds/gm (27th), 2 TD, 2 int, 73.2 rat (21st)
BUF pass D - 43/88, 153.7 yds/gm (5th), 2 TD, 2 int, 8 sacks, 65.1 rat (4th)
This should be fun. Trent Green comes in to lead one of the weakest pass offenses in the NFL against one of the stingiest pass defenses in the NFL. To be honest, I didn't think the Bills would be this strong against the pass, and it should be mentioned that the Bills first three games have been against the Seahawks, Jaguars, and Raiders... not exactly passing powerhouses. Nevertheless, the Rams just haven't shown the ability to pass the ball effectively for four quarters. I've called for Linehan to be let go at the end of this game. Maybe, with that kind of speculation, he and offensive coordinator Al Saunders will get a little wacky with the roster and playbook. The Trent Green move certainly suggests this is the case. Green has a significant history with Saunders so the thinking might be that he can operate under Saunders' scheme with some efficiency. They'll have their hands full with this CB group. The Bills have a solid starting duo in Terrence McGee and Jabari Greer, with a great young duo behind them in Ashton Youboty and rookie standout Leodis McKelvin. McGee and McKelvin are both ridiculously fast which will not only make for a good matchup if Donnie Avery can get some time at WR, but also on special teams since McKelvin has become the primary kick returner. Last week against Oakland, McK returned 5 kicks for 137 yards. Oh Coach Linehan, if only we had a rookie with some speed to return our kicks... and if only his first name was Donnie and his last name started with an 'A' and ended with 'very'...
STL run - 55 rsh, 56.3 yds/gm (32nd), 3.1 yds/carry, 0 TD, long. run 15 yds (32nd)
BUF run D - 78 rsh, 93.7 yds/gm (12th), 3.6 yds/carry, 2 TD, long. run 24 yds (t11th)
Not much to get exicted about here either, really. The O-line hasn't given Steven Jackson much to work with, and what he has gotten, has hasn't done much with it. On the other side, the Bills linebacker corps, anchored by former Penn State standout Paul Posluszny, has done a pretty solid job shutting done the run in their three games. They're young and strong, but if there's a weakness, it's in their depth. Angelo Crowell, the Bills' leading tackler from '07, is out for the season due to some drama (good rundown of that issue at ESPN's blog network here). John DiGiorgio, their second-leading tackler, hasn't made much of an impact this season with just 2 tackles. This group can be passed on, so maybe Green can use Randy McMichael to soften them up and allow Jackson to do what he hasn't done all season: run the ball effectively.
STL O-line - 11 sacks (t-28th)
BUF D-line - 8 sacks (t-9th)
Well, at least we only gave up one sack to Seattle. Honestly, that's all I want to say about our O-line except that I hope it gets better. Personally, I'd rather draft a MLB than an OT, so hopefully our O-line can play itself into the 2nd/3rd round need area. As for the Bills, picking up Marcus Stroud was a great move, and thus the kind the Rams don't make. After five full seasons, Stroud only played 20 games in his last two seasons at Jacksonville before moving to Buffalo this offseason. He's powerful, and that strength helps LSU-grad Kyle Williams use his technique. It's already paying dividends: after no sacks in his rookie season and 2 sacks in his sophomore effort, Williams already has a sack (ironically against his linemate's former team, the Jags), not to mention 9 tackles in his last two games. While DE Chris Kelsay is more of a run-containing end, he provides a counterbalance to Aaron Schobel who has to be one of the lightest DE's in the league at 243 lbs. With the advent of the modern DE, the Bills would be wise to bring in a top-tier pass rusher if they want to be more than a 1st-round playoff team. Although when you play against the Rams, anyone can look like a Pro Bowler. The Seahawks were forced to play a guy named Bumpus and he made us look bad. For shame.
BUF pass - 64/95, 234.7 yds/gm (11th), 4 TD, 1 int, 100.9 rat (8th)
STL pass D - 58/88, 272.3 yds/gm (30th), 7 TD, 0 int, 123.6 (32nd)
Trent Edwards has had a very bright start to his '08 campaign with just one interception so far. The issue going forward (and even skipping the Rams game) is how he'll be able to overcome a deficit with his receiving options. Lee Evans is a legit downfield threat and Josh Reed makes for a nice depth option, but without a heavy possession build-type (see Anquan Boldin), I'm definitely not sold on this group. In any case, the Rams secondary is in enough disarray where I'll be shocked if we can limit the Bills success in the air. With Fakhir Brown out and Jason Craft in, this group has a lot of question marks. Hell, it's all question marks. Expect Lee Evans to have a couple serious plays deep downfield.
BUF run - 85 rsh, 99.0 yds/gm (23rd), 3.5 yds/carry, 4 TD, long. run 21 yds (t-26th)
STL run D - 109 rsh, 184.3 yds/gm (29th), 5.1 yds/carry (27th), 6 TD, lr 32 yds
Surprisingly, Marshawn Lynch hasn't blown up the way I thought he would have to open his sophmore season. He hasn't gotten a ton of work, though; the last game was his first with at least 20 rushes. Fred Jackson has seen some significant time as Lynch's backup averaging 7 carries per game. This tandem should be able to continue St. Louis' defensive woes when it comes to stopping the run. Another defensive shakeup saw Quinton Culberson replaced by Chris Draft. Will it help? Who the hell knows. It will be hard to do much worse.
BUF O-line - 7 sacks (t-17th)
STL D-line - 3 sacks (t-27th)
For me, this has been the most disappointing unit. I had high hopes for the right side of the line with Adam Carriker and Chris Long. To their credit, they might be some of the only guys on the entire team going at full speed the entire game. Long had 7 tackles last game whie Carriker had 6. The real problem has been the other two positions on the line. Leonard Little has been out the last two games which has seen James Hall log a ton of time at DE without being very effective on the corner. Again, the defensive overhaul has promised Victor Adeyanju will start instead of Hall. Adeyanju is younger and bigger, so hopefully he'll add a threat that has been lacking in Little's absence. At DT, La'Roi Glover will be replaced by Clifton Ryan. The fact that this move took three weeks to figure out is a prime example of why Linehan should be let go after the game. Regardless, they need to step up their game as a unit against the Bills who have looked vulnerable at times. While Rams fans have been upset at Steven Jackson's inability to explode after a preseason holdout, Bills fans should be feeling the same about Jason Peters. The left tackle's holdout was a bit more difficult to resolve, and he's looked very awkward at times so far. Nevertheless, he has the talent to be dominant. Aside from Peters, the Bills don't really offer a huge blocking advantage, so hopefully the changes on the Rams D-line can inspire some pressure on Edwards.
This week's top 3 storylines brought to you by quotes from my mama about America's economy:
1.) "I don't know what they're thinking. I hope they all lose their jobs.": If only my mama cared about the Rams as much as other peoples economic futures. Really, though, I suggested about two weeks ago that Linehan needed to be let go after this game and I still feel that way. Anyone else care to agree?
2.) "What were they waiting for? Where they expecting a letter in the mail telling them what was going to happen?": The current issues with the Rams stem from an inability to acquire meaningful free agents coupled with consistenly poor ineffective draft picks. Without a new philosophy that could only be brought in by a new GM, any cosmetic changes (i.e. firing Linehan) will only be a band-aid on gunshot wound to the chest. This team needs a new front office that puts a football team together differently.
3.) "It's going to get worse before it gets better.": Have we hit rock bottom as a team? Are we at the point where we're ready to commit ourselves to rebuilding and offer up any player of significant trade value to improve the long-term health of the team? I'm not sure. Granted, we're not at a point in the season where you could try to guage that from anything coming out of the front office (not to mention they're more preoccupied with trying to keep their jobs than trying to improve the team). But there was some optimism about this team in the preseason. That optimism died a grisly death over the month of September and for good reason: the current St. Louis Rams roster doesn't have the cooperative talents to beat many football teams. My only hope? Enough of us stay around through this next era of Rams football. They do say it's darkest before the sunrise, but then again, I've always disagreed with that.
I'm heading to London tomorrow and should be getting home around halftime, so maybe I'll pop my head in to the game thread just in time to see Linehan escorted out of the Edward Jones Dome straight to Lambert and put on a flight home. It would be a nice way to end the week.