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St. Louis Rams Defense Faces Their Toughest Test Of The 2012 Season

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The Packers - one of the NFL’s premier teams - have gotten off to a slower than expected 3-3 start this season. The Rams, who boast the same record, will be hosting a Packers team who now looks to be in mid-season form. In case you missed it, the Packers went into Houston and destroyed the only [then] undefeated team in the AFC, 42-24. I venture to say it’ll be the toughest test of the season for the Rams…specifically for the defense.

Dilip Vishwanat - Getty Images

The three losses suffered by the Packers were certainly not a result of the well-known aerial attack that has made them perennial NFC contenders. Through the first six games of the season, Aaron Rodgers has thrown for 1,637 yards and 16 TD’s. SIX-TEEN. Of the 16, Rodgers found a receiver in the end zone six times last week alone. The fire that may have just ignited should concern any opposing team, and it’s fans.

For the Rams, it’s going to be another test of the former Pro-Bowler and rookie combination of Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins. The duo has impressed thus far in the season to say the least. They’ve faced off against Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, Sidney Rice, and completely shut down the league’s leading receiver Brian Hartline. But Sunday’s matchup against the Packers will mark a different type of foe. One that has several receiving threats that can do serious damage if not kept in check.

It seems as though every year Rodgers finds a new fun toy with which to air it out, and promptly discount double check. Last season, a healthy Jermichael Finley chalked up 767 yards and 8 TD’s. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the season was the emergence of Jordy Nelson, who blew up for 1,263 yards and 15 TD’s. FIF-TEEN. This, while the most popular, still capable, Greg Jennings fell just 51 yards shy of his fourth consecutive 1,000 yard season. He scored 34 TD’s during that span.

In 2012, the Packers biggest threat is none of the aforementioned. Jennings has played in only three games [groin injury] and has 12 catches. Finley is averaging four catches per game, has just over 200 total yard receiving, and has only scored once. And much to the dismay of fantasy football owners, Jordy Nelson was almost non-existent until Week 6’s thrashing of the Texans, where he had his first 100+ yard receiving performance, and found himself in the end zone holding a football three times.

Perhaps the most lethal of the Packers’ weapons coming into Week 7 is James Jones. The stats are pretty telling:

Sun 9/9 L 22-30 4 6 81 20.3 49 1 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Thu 9/13 W 23-10 2 5 -1 -.5 4 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Mon 9/24 L 12-14 5 6 55 11.0 14 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Sun 9/30 W 28-27 5 6 56 11.2 20 2 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Sun 10/7 L 27-30 4 7 46 11.5 24 2 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Sun 10/14 W 42-24 3 7 33 11.0 18 2 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0
REGULAR SEASON STATS 23 37 270 11.7 49 7 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0

…six touchdowns in his last twelve catches? You’ve got to be kidding me. He has less yardage than Brandon Gibson, yet he’s scored seven TD’s on the season. The worst part? He’s streaking. Not in that sense… but in the sense that he’s scored two TD’s in each of his last three meetings.

A test for the Rams secondary? Indeed. Jennings hasn’t seen the field in October, and it’s possible that he’ll sit again on Sunday. It’s not as though you can really chalk that up as ‘good news,’ given the aforementioned list of names and stats. Also, I’m not sure that the Packers have even employed a running back on their roster over the past two years, so it’s likely they continue to search for success through the air.

The Rams are going to need solid performances by both Finnegan and Jenkins to keep this game close. Jones and Nelson will likely be the most difficult tandem of receivers they’ve faced in 2012. Additionally, there is work to be done for the linebackers on the short routes across the middle, and certainly for the safeties in deep coverage. It’s going to be a concerted effort by everyone behind the defensive line in order to limit big gains for the Packers. Having an upgraded secondary, and not having Justin King, is a great start.

The test looks to be difficult, but the Rams secondary has been a bright spot for the team. They’re certainly capable of limiting the Packers receivers. They’ve proven that they can against many of the league’s best. Sixty minutes of mistake-free, home-field, ‘dirtiness' is certainly going to be critical in keeping this game competitive. The Rams cannot afford to enter a shootout with one of the NFL’s most prestigious passing teams.

I’m not sure if momentum can travel from week to week, but if it does, it’s clearly in favor of the Packers. The Rams, who remain undefeated at home, may not mind giving momentum a front row seat. A raucous crowd in the EJD should assist in making things difficult for the Packers.

I’ll be screaming from your Nation’s Capital. Hopefully, after a Rams defender intercepts a pass from Aaron Rodgers.