The St. Louis Rams will be heading to Atlanta to face the Falcons this Sunday. After the Rams' impressive comeback victory against the Arizona Cardinals last week, expectations are higher than usual. However, "our best laid plans" and hopes can only get yus so far.
This week the Rams will be playing an angry Falcons team that doesn't want to start the season 0-2. Will the Rams be able to pull out another victory? Or will they fall to a talented Falcons team?
I asked the Turf Show Times crew their predictions on the game. So here's what they think.
The Falcons are a test for the Rams. The Cardinals are one thing, but Atlanta is where the Rams would like to be - perennially a playoff favorite - with a well established offensive and defensive mentality. Can the Rams win? Of course. Will they? I honestly have no idea. But this game serves as a quality benchmark for how far the Rams have come and how far they have left to go.
While the Rams showed massive signs of improvement over last year, against a much improved Arizona Cardinals squad, there is still a long way to go. The bend but don't break defense gave up a whole lot of yards to Carson Palmer and company. The retooled offense of the Rams did well enough to eek out the win.
It's hard to pin down one factor for predicting the outcome in a game, but I think it will come down to the play of the secondary for both teams. Rams played soft coverage for what seemed like every snap. Palmer made them pay, except for that terrible throw right to Tru. Matt Ryan with his great 3 WRs (and a couple backs that can catch) will just put up stupid numbers if this continues in week 2.
On the other hand, Falcons secondary is pretty young, got a bit exploited last week (but it was Brees and Co.) Bradford has been playing pretty damn well so far, in preseason and first game. He has to keep playing this well to compete in this game.
Overall, it'll be a back-and-forth game, in Atlanta. Fans will be loud. I think Falcons win by 7.
The Atlanta Falcons, despite a sloppy performance against the New Orleans Saints, are in the top tier of NFL teams. Couple the Atlanta Falcons coming off the tough loss to New Orleans with the fact that this is their opening day, with their incredible home field record under quarterback Matt Ryan- second only to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady- the Rams will have a very tough day in the Georgia Dome = Rams loss.
There is no doubt that this is one of the most difficult games on the schedule. On paper the Falcons are a better, more well-established football team. They have a more proven commodities on offense, and have proven capable on defense. They also don't shoot themselves in the foot often. However, if the Rams can put together a full effort without costly mistakes, this game is more winnable than any of us might really think.
The difficult proposition in this one is that the Rams will have to be at their best on the road against one of the best teams in the NFC. This team is very young, and you almost have to count on them to iron out all of their mistakes from last week and step-up their play on the road. That's a lot of things going right. A win this week seems somewhat unlikely, but the Rams can put it together this week it will truly be the next step in the evolution of this program.
The Rams defense is better than the one the Falcons faced last week in New Orleans. If the defense can put some pressure on Matt Ryan, and not surrender 1,000 yards due to soft coverages and zero blitzing, the Rams defense can play a significant role in this week 2 upset. The rams offense proved last week that it is more than capable of scoring points. The Rams should have had 31 points last week against a good defense. If they can put together a similar effort this week they could achieve the same results.
The Rams are in an almost impossible spot, The Falcons win over 80% of the time at home and when coming off a loss that % rises up. Carson Palmer had a great day and this is a huge step up with Ryan, Jones, Gonzo and Douglass. Also the Falcons defense were pretty solid on the road against a great Saints offense as well. This is just a bad match up at a bad time for the Rams, and a game I had penciled in as a loss in the preaseason. Falcons 31 Rams 20
The Falcons have a scary offense on paper. White is reportedly hobbled up, but that makes no difference. Quintorris "Julio" Jones, Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas are all good weapons in their own right. If the Rams could not stop Andre Roberts in Week 1, how could they stop all of these guys? Steven Jackson will also be facing his former team, so expect him to have a chip on his shoulder. He will test our linebackers. The Rams have improved on offense. Sam, aside the tipped pass-inteception, was sharp - leading the team to a 4th quarter comeback. Jared Cook was on display versus Arizona, but that was it. The Cards did a good job of eliminating Chris Givens. Tavon Austin had no space to effectively do what he does. Why is Pettis still starting over Brian Quick? There needs to be more production out of the running game too.
I do not see how the Rams keep up offensively.
Douglas M/ Old man writer/ Best editor in the NFC West
This team is going to have peaks and valleys all year. The very good teams - with high powered passing games - are going to offer future glimpses of what's both possible and needs fixing. The Atlanta Falcons are coming off of a loss, and will be in front of a home crowd where they tend to perform rather well. Even though they may be without Roddy White this week, the point scoring potential of this team far exceeds that of the Arizona Cardinals. This game will be about being able to score points at a high pitch, and penalty miscue by the Rams will be the deciding factor as they continue to let drives stall.
Steven Jackson will break off at least one 20+ yard ramble, and Julio Jones will have a Fantasy Football field day, with 150+ yards and 3 TDs. The Rams' Tavon Austin will score his first NFL TD, on a short, red-zone catch. A Rams running back will actually score a rushing TD, and Jared Cook will be a star player once again, but not at the same level as last week. Sam Bradford will be dealing with an Atlanta defense that has nothing to lose, so they blitz all game long. In a high scoring contest, I see the Falcons winning 42-27.
"On paper." You can ball that paper up and throw it in the nearest waste basket. Sure, the Falcons possess one of the most potent aerial attacks in all of the NFL. It doesn't make them invincible. The Rams play tougher opponents - on both sides of the ball - at least four times a year.
The Falcons were 13-3 in 2012. In seven of their 13 wins, they won by seven points or less. Their defense allows teams to stay in the game, and a new-look Rams offense will exploit an average, and unsuspecting, Falcons' defense. Not to mention, starting CB Asante Samuel is dealing with a thigh injury he suffered in the preseason, and is questionable for Sunday's game. Opposite the ailing Samuel is rookie Desmond Trufant. Can someone please get bibs for Givens, Austin, and Cook?
Want to know who else isn't 100%? Roddy White, that's who! Even he admits he played decoy most of Week 1. Julio Jones is nearly unstoppable... I understand that. But so does Tim Walton. Look for a Cort Finnegan to show up amped after a forgettable Week 1 against Arizona, firing up a secondary that will thwart the Falcons' passing attack.
I saw a young Rams team go into a lot games last year as underdogs, and I saw them stick in them until the end...in some cases, pulling out a shocker. I had the Rams losing this one in my preseason "Must Wins" post. I'm changing my mind. In this one, it's the Falcons - not the Rams - who are trying to keep up.
Robert Quinn eats another left tackle's lunch, Matt Ryan gets frazzled early. Tavon Austin does some things he did at WVU. Rams win 30-24.
Joe M/ 3k/ Master Chef/ lover of trap music
There's plenty for the Rams to work on after week one. I'm interested to see what we get out of this team that indicates some specific changes. With Roddy White either out or hobbled, do the Rams look to be more aggressive in pass defense against such a loaded passing attack? If Carson Palmer can have success plodding the ball through the soft underbelly of the Rams defense using someone like Andre Roberts, what can Matt Ryan do with Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez? Of course that says nothing of Harry Douglas who caught four balls for nearly 100 yards mimicking Michael Floyd's week one performance...
On the offensive side, I'm interested to see some disguised play-calling. The Rams stuck to the truisms of their personnel: Daryl Richardson runs hard, but he can't pass block. Jared Cook is a wonderful receiving weapon, but he's a liability as a true tight end. How do the Rams take advantage of the tape they laid out in week one in this aspect? If Zac Stacy or Isaiah Pead replaces DRich, the defense is certainly going to expect a pass more so than a run in certain contexts (if it's 3rd and 8, I don't think any defense is thinking run...). And as for Cook, the list of 2013 Rams opponents won't be taken by surprise if that's indeed what happened to the Cardinals. He had a statement arrival that is going to have teams adjusting their game plan to ensure he doesn't have many days like last Sunday. So how do the Rams use him moving forward? More two-TE sets? More runs with him as a decoy? He's still going to get a ton of standard receiving work, but playing off his weaknesses at the right time will be crucial.
Honestly though, if there's one thing I want to see it's to keep the technical stuff clean. Less penalties. No assignment muffs like Cortland Finnegan on Larry Fitzgerald's second TD. Keep special teams clean. No wild turnovers. When I look at a play like the insane Michael Floyd catch, there's not a ton you can do. Finnegan had his hand in there, and there was no penalty. I can live with something like that. But the Jared Cook fumble? The Fitzgerald coverage mix-up? Sam's pick six? Those are avoidable, and against a team like Atlanta you have to avoid the avoidable to have a chance.
I'm hopeful we can put a solid first half out and give us a chance to make some adjustments midway that keep it competitive. And no injuries, as always. If I had to predict it, sure. The conventional wisdom suggests this ends in a Falcons win. But we know the CW is begging to be broken in the NFL. Don't count us out.
I'll make it simple. If there was ever a time where the Rams had a great chance to beat the Falcons, it's right now. The Falcons offensive line was less than impressive last week, and it appears that their receiver Roddy White is nursing a high ankle sprain.
The Rams can win this game, but will they? It won't have to be a perfect game, but they have to play a great game. I don't think they will be able to put up a great performance. But, hell why not, I think the defense helps the offense get good field position and the Rams pull out a shocker.
So Rams Nation, what do you think about this contest? Will the Rams win or will they lose?