The Rams and the Pandemic of Parity

Mike Ehrmann - Getty Images

The Rams lost a close-fought battle against the Dolphins yesterday, 14-17, a game that reflected both the unpredictability of the team week-to-week and the parity that exists across the league.

It's been said often that the NFL's trump card over every other major sport is the parity that exists across the league.

Each week offers unpredictable and oftentimes confusing final scores that keep the sports books in Las Vegas flush with cash. That parity creates weeks like this one in which seven games were decided by three points or less, and that's with a compelling Monday Night Football game yet to be played as the Broncos head to San Diego.

Look across the standings right now, and you're treated to confusion writ large. Is it a miasma of mediocrity? Is it a long-distance race where few entrants have yet to separate themselves? I have no idea.

The NFC East, NFC West and AFC East are a jumble of "sure they coulds." Could the Cowboys make the playoffs? Sure they could. Could the Dolphins? Sure they could. Could the Rams? Yup. The reason why is simple, and it's what makes the parity so fun to enjoy every week: everything you know this week will be wrong some other week.

The Dolphins have a strong running defense. The Rams' rushing attack is hamstrung by a poor offensive line. It was obvious that this wasn't going to be pretty for the Rams until it was. Look at the Dolphins' rushing defense this year against RBs:

Team Runs Yards YPR
HOU 31 85 2.74
OAK 12 16 1.33
NYJ 30 84 2.80
ARI 15 28 1.87
CIN 14 54 3.86
STL 23 128 5.57

Ok. Well, at least we know the other side wasn't going to be pretty. The Dolphins have run the ball pretty effectively this season, combining Reggie Bush with Daniel Thomas and rookie Lamar Miller.

Here's those three's output this season, game by game:

Team Runs Yards YPR
HOU 17 80 4.71
OAK 36 237 6.58
NYJ 38 178 4.68
ARI 25 84 3.36
CIN 29 77 2.66
STL 12 17 1.42

Things aren't making sense. If I had told you the Rams would run for 128 yards on just 23 carries and that they'd hold the Dolphins to 17 yards on 12 carries (Think about that. That the Rams would hold anyone to such limited production was laughable 24 hours ago), then you would likely think this game pretty much comes down to Brian Hartline and Sam Bradford. So I'll give you Bradford's line of 26 for 39 with 315 yards and a back-bending sneak for a TD. Everything looks too good to be true. But there's Hartline, who was the NFL's leading receiver going into yesterday's schedule.

Remember, everything you know is right yesterday is wrong tomorrow.

Team Rec Yards Targets
HOU 3 50 8
OAK 9 111 12
NYJ 1 41 9
ARI 12 253 19
CIN 4 59 5
STL 0 0 0

Through the first five games of the season, Brian Hartline was being targeted 10.6 times per game. Yesterday, he didn't have a single pass thrown his way.

Look, I can rehash the penalties, the special teams mistakes, the redzone inadequacies. Or I can point out that football, especially at the NFL level, makes little sense at times.

Yesterday made absolutely no sense. The things I had hoped for happened, and yet little things interrupted their connectivity, ruining what should have been the Rams' first road win of the year.

But this is your 2012 Rams. Jeff Fisher has this team prepared to compete every game. Despite the imperfections across this roster, it has held true thus far. Nothing will be easy with this team. Consider that final drive that resulted in the missed 66-yard field goal.

Do you trust that offensive line to give Sam time to run one more play and then take your timeout? There are plays (see: every deep pass to Givens) where they look functional. Cohesive. Dare I say, gulp, good. Then there are plays that remind you that this offensive line includes Wayne Hunter, Barry RIchardson, Robert Turner and Quinn Ojinnaka. On the other hand, Greg Zuerlein proved to be human, having already missed two field goals before that point.

The majority of decisions Jeff Fisher and this staff have to make are lesser of two evil decisions. You do what you can given what you have. Take Danny Amendola out, and this team just accrued 315 passing yards. How? I don't know. The Rams just picked the worst best (or was it the best worst?) option every play, and somehow made it work.

Lance Kendricks held on to a ball fed up the seam at Felix Baumgartner speeds. Brandon Gibson made one of the catches of the season. The offensive line is opening holes for Daryl Richardson.

The NFL plays a game built on such small sample sizes, it can be near impossible to understand what's going on. And that creates parity.

It exists because the Rams only play the Dolphins once this season over the course of 60 minutes of football. And even when the 2012 St. Louis Rams run the ball well, stop their opponents from doing just that and throw for over 300 yards, it might only happen on the same day Brit Miller fumbles a kick return, on the same day they rack up 12 very costly penalties, on the same day Ryan Tannehill goes 21 of 29 without throwing a single pass at the NFL's leading receiver.

NFL football is weird and unpredictable. So are the Rams.

Embrace the confusion.

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