I'm not sure how to handle today. On one hand, I want to go absolutely nut crazy, translating the chaotic emotional roller coaster of the next 12 or so hours into tangible pandemonium.
You know, sprint up to a Starbucks with a ton of people outside, rip off the head of a pigeon feeding off the muffin crumbs outside, drink its blood as women spit their half-fat lattes out screaming in revulsion, and then just say "GO RAMS!" You know, normal stuff. Or I could hold it inside and repress everything and see where that goes.
Either way, something pretty cool's gonna go down!
Preview after the jump.
St. Louis Rams, 0-1, t-3rd - NFC West
New York Giants, 0-1, t-3rd - NFC East
NYG pass - 18/32, 56.25 cmp% (24th), 240 yds, 0 TD, 1 INT
7.50 yds/att, 240.00 yds/gm (18th), -10.6% passing offense DVOA (25th)
STL pass D - 14/32, 43.75 cmp% (1st), 167 yds, 2 TD, 0 INT
5.22 yds/att, 167.00 yds/gm (8th), 11.6% passing defense DVOA (20th)
Eli Manning is the most Eli quarterback in the history of the NFL. This is an inarguable point. And yes, he will be as Eli on Monday. The real question is who will be there to help him. Hakeem Nicks is looking like a game time decision, having been listed as questionable in the injury report. Of course Mario Manningham is a staple of the offense at this point, though apparently there are synchronization issues. Jake Ballard is still working his way into the TE position, though he did have a nice 41-yard play last week against the Redskins in the loss.
For the Rams, this is a painful subject. Ron Bartell is out for the year with a doubly fractured neck, and BFB is nursing a toe injury (though he is all but certain to play on Monday). The real question is transition. How does this team transition to a Bartell-less secondary? Jerome Murphy isn't an option, as his preseason injury will likely keep him sidelined for the year. Thus, the combo of Justin King, Al Harris and newly acquired CB Tim Atchison and BFB form your quartet of corners for the foreseeable future. Yikes.
NYG run - 20 att, 75 yds, 3.75 yds/att (18th), 75.00 yds/gm (22nd), 2 TD, 0 RB fumb
26.3% rushing offense DVOA (3rd)
STL run D - 31 att, 237 yds, 7.65 yds/att (31st), 237.00 yds/gm (32nd), 1 TD
66.4% rushing defense DVOA (32nd)
If you're not aware of the Giants' duo, you must have narcolepsy that kicks in on running plays. Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs have been punishing defenders for years. They weren't terribly successful against Washington in week 1, but you can't discount all their history. They still form a talented duo that can punish undisciplined would-be tacklers.
And speaking of history, the Rams would make some if Steven Jackson doesn't start. No, it wouldn't be the first time he was sidelined at kickoff, but it would be the first time that he would do so and the Rams would offer decent talent at RB. As Cadillac Williams showed last week, he's still plenty talented and motivated to boot. It should be noted there are still lingering hopes that Jackson would go, spelled out both at the official team site and here at TST by Van. But this is defense. As the Rams showed in the first half last week, there is reason for optimism. The run game has to stay disciplined and adhere to the game plan. And with vets like Leber and Poppinga flanking Laurinaitis, there's no reason to think that won't happen.
NYG O-line - 4 sacks allowed (t-20th) (advanced O-line stats available after week 2)
STL D-line - 3 sacks (t-14th) (advanced D-line stats available after week 2)
This makes for an interesting battle, and one that the Rams need to win. The Giants' O-line is suffering from a lack of chemistry, with a new left tackle and center in Will Beatty and David Baas, respectively (and having moved their LT from last year, David Diehl, to LG). They certainly didn't do Ahmad Bradshaw any favors last week, as the longest of his 13 carries last week went for just 7 yards. And giving up 4 sacks to an improved, though not elite, Washington defense doesn't suggest this offensive line is prepared to protect Eli Manning.
As for the Rams, Spags' playcalling had the blue and gold in the backfield consistently on passing downs. But tackling (as tends to be the case with Michael Vick) was a serious issue. Eli won't pose that threat, but the Rams still have to make the most out of the opportunities they create in the pass rush. While a Chris Long-James Hall combo bodes well for the Rams' fortunes, Robert Quinn needs to be in the mix. If it comes down to a final spot between he and Eugene Sims, I don't know what Sims brings to the table besides an edge in career NFL minutes played. And given what we saw from him last week, it's not as if he's earned that nod outright.
STL pass - 18/35, 51.43 cmp% (29th), 181 yds, 0 TD, 0 INT
5.17 yds/att, 181.00 yds/gm (23rd), -9.3% passing offense DVOA (23rd)
NYG pass D - 21/34, 61.76 cmp% (t-16th), 258 yds, 2 TD, 0 INT
7.59 yds/att, 258.00 yds/gm (18th), 49.4% passing defense DVOA (26th)
And here we go. Didn't you want to revisit this one more time? Let's start on the Giants' side of the ball. Just two months ago, the Giants were ready to roll with a four-man rotation of first-round selection Prince Amukamara, Aaron Ross, Corey Webster and Terrell Thomas. Then in the span of just over two weeks, they lost both Amukamara and Thomas, with Amukamara out indefinitely and Thomas out for the season. You can pretty much draw a direct line between those injuries and a mind-blowingly efficient performance from (OHMYGODICAN'TBELIEVEI'MGOINGTOTYPETHIS) Rex...Grossman...
That being the case, there are no excuses. Not for Brandon Gibson, not for Mike Sims-Walker, not for Lance Kendricks, not for Josh McDaniels and not for Sam Bradford. Opening game, Philadelphia Eagles' secondary? Ok. We're (pretty much) over it. But this has to get done. Whether Steven Jackson plays or not, this has to move the ball throughout the game. I really, really, really don't want this aspect to fail for the sake of our collective sanity.
STL run - 26 att, 154 yds, 5.92 yds/att (5th), 154.00 yds/gm (8th), 1 TD, 0 RB fumb
9.9% rushing offense DVOA (11th)
NYG run D - 26 att, 74 yds, 2.85 yds/att (5th), 74.00 yds/gm (t-9th), 1 TD
-26.6% rushing defense DVOA (7th)
What a matchup this could be. Cadillac Williams starting for the St. Louis Rams (pretty unthinkable a year ago this time, no?). One of the better run defenses from last year who put up a great performance in this aspect last week. Really, there's not as much to write about this one. We know the offensive line is better equipped in the run game with Harvey Dahl, though should Adam Goldberg work the right side in lieu of Jason Smith, that cancels out what Dahl brings. Defensively, the Giants' linebacking is solid - Michael Boley, Mathias Kiwanuka, Greg Jones and Mark Herzlich form a strong quartet that combines veteran capability with young talent and technique. Should be a hell of a battle on the ground for the Rams.
STL O-line - 5 sacks allowed (t-28th) (advanced O-line stats available after week 2)
NYG D-line - 4 sacks (t-6th) (advanced D-line stats available after week 2)
Two big names weren't even on the field for the Giants in week one - Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck. Umenyiora will likely miss this game as well due to a knee injury, but Tuck (who missed due to a neck injury) will likely return for the big stage. Considering that the Giants still managed four sacks without those two, this isn't a group to take lightly. Jason Pierre-Paul is quickly turning into a premier pass rush threat, and the combination of Chris Canty and Linval Joseph isn't a pair without skill. Jimmy Kennedy is still in the NFL...
As mentioned above, one big question is whether or not Jason Smith starts on the right side and how long that lasts. Smith came out of last week's game after an ankle sprain (that mysteriously nobody saw or got tape of to my knowledge...) only to be replaced by every defense's favorite offensive lineman, Adam Goldberg. The Rams used Caddy well going through the interior as Jacob Bell, Jason Brown and Harvey Dahl suggested the Rams could have a trio that can offer production in the running game. Protection for Bradford was a notable concern, though anyone who caught the Monday Night Football game between the Eagles and Falcons got a sense of how effective the Eagles' front four is. This isn't a much easier group to deal with, so the Rams' line has to come ready to play in all facets.
This week's top 3 storylines brought to you by the fabulous cast from season 13 of Dancing with the Stars! (There are things you do for marriage. Do not mock my pain):
1.) Chaz Bono, or things that were aren't and things that are might not be because many of the things that will be aren't yet.
Chaz Bono was born a woman, but is now a man. Yes, some people get all ooglied out by this. That is not relevant. What is is the symbolism of unimaginable change. The Rams went from a Super Bowl caliber team to 1-15 in less than a decade. Last year, we rebounded from that monovictorious season to nearly make the playoffs. Anything can change. And that means the Rams' performance and fortunes after a dismal opening showing.
2.) Rob Kardashian, or how to make a career out of doing nothing and being nobody and having no skills
Neither the Rams nor the Giants have had the good fortune to get to this game with depth charts intact. Injuries happen, but they happen in varying degrees to players of various importance. I would think we could all agree that the last thing either team needs is to lose a key player (especially at cornerback. I do have a limited amount of sympathy) for an extended amount of time. Both teams are already scraping the bin to fill out the 53-man roster. Whether it's CB Tim Atchison or RB Quinn Porter, the Rams made moves this week bringing on players that, frankly, I wouldn't mind not hearing about for the rest of the season. Neither team is in position to field players who just aren't skilled enough to contribute in a meaningful fashion for long stretches. So please. Take your healthy pills and drink your healthy shake and stay in one piece through tonight.
3.) Nancy Grace, or OH MY GOD MY EYES WHAT THE HELL IS THAT
Nobody likes Nancy Grace. Not even Nancy Grace. Plus she is scary looking and not small. But she makes a lot of money and apparently qualifies as a star (infinitely debatable) since she is on a television show that ends in "with the Stars". It's called winning ugly. There's a good chance this game gets sloppy. Rams receivers unused to being able to create, without the know how to take over a game. No Ron Bartell and a 9-toed Bradley Fletcher in the Rams' secondary. Eli Manning. It may not be a clean game. But any team with playoff aspirations has to be able to win ugly. If the Rams truly consider themselves in that category, then they may to prove they can get it done when things aren't clicking.