The fight for the Rams' playoff berth starts tonight, with an exciting matchup of a couple of NFC coulda beens duking it out in the flat, gray suburbs outside of the swap that is your nation's capitol. The New York Giants of New Jersey come into the game as 2.5 point favorites. In order for the Rams to make the playoffs, the Giants need to lose or tie.
Once, as a much younger man, after a long night of pooring Natural Light down my throat my drinking buddies and I went to a local 24-hour greasy spoon, a soaking toilet of a place called George's Steakhouse. That night two drunks, for reasons that escape me, got into a fight just a few feet away from our table. Throwing punches and exchanging slaps, they tried desperately to hurt each other to prove some inane point. It was quite an effort, but ultimately it was wasted as the floors were so greasy the two drunks couldn't gain the solid footing needed to effectively land punches. An excercise in futility but the two drunks still went at it for a couple minutes, as if it had been somehow mandated by higher authorities that they at least try to kick each other's ass. Tonight's game between the Giants and the Redskins reminds me of that fight, offenses and defenses perfectly capable of landing punches but lacking in overall effectiveness to land them with any kind of authority.
It should be ugly.
As for the St. Louis Rams' playoff chances, the matchups still seem to favor them. The Vikings have the league's top rushing defense, allowing a meeger 54.5 yards per game and just 6 rushing TDs on the season. Fortunately for the Rams, Steven Jackson can catch passes as well as he can run with handoffs, and Holt, Bruce, Curtis and Bulger aren't bad at the passing game either.
Two weeks ago, in the Vikings 26-13 loss to the Jets, Chad Pennington passed for 339 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. On the ground, they managed just 68 yards, but RB Cedric Houston did score a first quarter TD on a 6 yard run. On that drive, 8 of the Jets' 12 plays were passes, and another one was a pass play that resulted in a Pennington scramble.
Bulger and and the Rams offense will need to take a similar approach, spreading out the Vikings' defense through the air and then using SJ and the running game strategically. I've got the think that the Rams' offense is as least as good as the Jets'.
The Vikings' offense averages 17.4 points per game and 310 yards. Rookie QB, Tavarias Jackson, passed for just 50 yards and 1 INT last week against in riveting 9-7 loss to the Packers. He was also sacked three times. Getting to the rookie QB will be key for the Rams. Vikings RB Chester Taylor rushed for less than 50 yards against a middle of the pack Packer defense that week too. The Vikings have an effective running game, and the Rams will need to defend it by minimizing the damage Minnesota does on the ground.
Either way, the Rams' playoff picture will be a lot clearer by 11 p.m. tonight.