The first thing to consider is the key injuries to the Patriots defense. While few know the Patriot's rushing defense is one of the best in the NFL, ranking 8th against the run (the Rams rank #10 - tied with...the 49ers). Where they come off the rails is in their secondary. Injuries at both the safety and corner back positions have them ranked #29 against the pass. For the Rams, this presents an opportunity for quarterback Sam Bradford, or it did before I read the weather report anyway. While most believe this game will be won through the air, it's going to be the rushing game of the Rams that sets up high percentage passes favored in rainy conditions. Therefore, to have a crack at the weak New England secondary, Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson need provide an reason for the secondary to play up.
Let's have a look at a few of the Patriots you may want to keep an eye on:
Jerod Mayo is going to be a key player for the Patriots. He's ranked #2 at his position by NFL.com (James Laurinaitis is ranked #3). His ability to play across the length of the defensive has made him the single Pro Bowl worthy performer on the Patriots defense thus far. While Brandon Spikes secures the middle linebacker spot, Mayo has shown sideline to sideline speed, and his 72 tackles say he knows how to bring down a ball carrier. While he hasn't presented much in the way of being a pass rusher from his outside linebacker position, he's a defensive player the Rams need to keep an eye on.
Chandler Jones, the rookie out of Syracuse, has had a great year so far. He's the single biggest pass rushing threat for the Patriots, which means Rams quarterback Sam Bradford will be watching him out of the corner of his eye. Jones has five sacks so far this year, and 31 tackles. At 6'5", 260 lbs he isn't the biggest defensive end you'll see on an NFL field, but his quickness will wreak havoc on the Rams' offensive tackles. Once again, whichever player the Rams slide into the left offensive tackle slot this week will be facing one of the NFL's best.
Vince Wilfork is a road block on the Patriots' defensive line. He'll be faced with handling Harvey Dahl, and that match up may be one of the best of the day. Keep an eye on these two as they battle it out in the trenches. Wilfork, at 6'2', 325 lbs, is a fireplug who can bull rush and force the pocket back. He's a human wall in the run game too.
Brandon Lloyd, the former Rams' receiver last season, could have an interesting day. His pass catching radius will challenge Janoris Jenkins on the right side of the Rams defense. Lloyd is a disciplined route runner, and he's got the moves to burn Jenkins. Plan on Brady to go his direction on 2nd and short situations.
Wes Welker and Julian Edelman are tough slot receivers who'll challenge anyone on the Rams to cover them, especially on short post routes. While I'm not sure if Edelman will play due to a hand injury, if he does, he and Welker could very well be the keys to a win or loss for the Rams. If either of these two get into the zone beneath the Rams deep safety, they'll be just this side of unstoppable.