In what many view as a "must-win" game for the St. Louis Rams [2-3] in Week 7, they’ll host the Cleveland Browns [2-4] at the Edward Jones Dome this Sunday. With a full bye week to prepare, the Rams - who are 6.5 point favorites - should be able to right the ship and get back to .500 on the year.
But there’s always a chance the Rams do Rams things, and drop one against a team they matchup favorably against. We’ll have to see how it all pans out this weekend. For now, the Turf Show Times’ staff give their predictions...
Mike Dietrich [@dvond]
This is the game of the year for the Rams. It’s a must-win if they want to sniff the playoffs. A loss puts them at 2-4, and then 10 games playing out the string and starting draft talk. The match-up looks perfect on paper and even though they usually fall on their face under Fisher, I have a hunch they live for another week and dominate at home 20-10.
Prediction: Rams win 20-10
This game definitely has a must-win, should-win vibe to it. Foles played poorly last go around, and given the bye week, I believe he'll have a decent outing with much fewer mistakes. The Rams were able to force Aaron Rodgers to commit three turnovers the last time they played; Josh McCown is now the quarterback of the opposing team. Cleveland also lacks a dynamic running back, which should spell a great defensive game for the Rams. Todd Gurley should impact the offense enough, whether it be via opening up the passing game against Cleveland's run defense or by actually producing himself, that the offense will score this game. They are no Packers. Still, the Rams do botch some of these winnable games, so I'm going with a conservative final score.
Prediction: Rams win 20-17
I'm expecting the Rams to have self-scouted enough during the bye week time to figure out what's going wrong in the passing game. The Browns bring in a statistically poor rush defense, so it's easy to think Gurley will run all over them. But the Browns are probably game planning to stop Gurley FIRST, and force the Rams to beat them through the air (where they are better). The Rams better bring their A-game and be able to move the chains in the air. It would be nice to see the return of a successful screen game involving the RB’s.
Mark Barron and TJ McDonald are going to have to really step up to limit Gary Barnidge, who has to be the name of someone at H&R Block. He is their primary receiving threat and will be a big challenge. The Browns OL is quite underrated on paper, with perennial All-Pro Joe Thomas manning LT and drawing Robert Quinn. The Rams are going to need a strong interior push to keep McCown off balance.
Ultimately, the Rams are facing a slightly deflated Browns team, who lost a heartbreaker to Denver last Sunday. It's always good to catch a vulnerable team.
Prediction: Rams win 21-10
Week #1 of five, and it's an interesting one too... Cleveland has played above and beyond, yet has had a tough time in the win/loss column. Stars are finding their way for Cleveland. Travis Benjamin is someone who has shocked the Fantasy Football world, and making thoughts of Josh Gordon all but disappear. Josh McCown is playing lights out, and a solid running back crew is growing with each passing week. On defense, the statistics don't really tell the story for this unit. While ranked last against the run, they've still found a way to keep games close.
The Rams simply MUST win this game at the start of this five game stretch. MUST, MUST, MUST, and winning it big could set a big time tone moving forward. They have a window in the NFC West they can climb through, with Seattle and San Francisco bumbling around, and the Cardinals suddenly seeming vulnerable.
Prediction: Rams win 31-17
I hate to be so blunt, awe who am I kidding I love it. The Rams should win this game handedly. Simply put the Browns defense is not playing as well as it has in years past. Josh McKeown has played well for the team but a huge chunk of his success has come on deep routes. The Rams have excelled in eliminating deep passes this season. In fact their defense leads the league in the fewest passes allowed of 20 yards or more. The Browns run game has been nonexistent but it wouldn't surprise me one bit if they got it going this week. That line they got is still pretty good and could open some holes.
The Rams offense should completely control the clock. That's if they don't break some long ones and score too quickly. Tavon Austin has not been practicing this week and even showed up on the injury report. If he ends up missing the game that could change everything and turn this game into a dog fight. Austin makes this offense go, make no mistake about it. His speed and explosiveness pose such a threat it is creating opportunities for other players, including Todd Gurley. If Austin does indeed sit, Gurley will be tasked with completely carrying the load with no help. Nick Foles cannot turn the ball over this game. He has to play smart and make accurate throws on the correct routes. Both teams pass rush should get after the other teams QB, this game could very we'll come down to who can pick up and handle the blitz better.
Prediction: Rams win 33-19
Tevin Broner [@T_Bron]
This game falls right in the Rams hands kind of. Offensively I am worried about the receivers beating the defensive backs of the Browns, but the running game should be good enough to open up the passing game of the Rams. Not expecting much from the passing game but I'm all about surprises. Regardless the Rams find a way to pull out a close one.
Prediction: Rams win 24-20
The Rams finally seem to be getting the running game going with Todd Gurley. The Browns have one of the worst rush defenses in the NFL. This seems like a recipe for success for St. Louis, but how many times has what SHOULD happen actually happened to the Rams under Jeff Fisher? I personally believe this will be one of those things that goes according to plan, Todd Gurley is just too dang good. He managed to gash a very good Arizona Cardinals defense for over 140 yards. Gurley may become only the second RB in NFL history to rush for 140+ yards in three consecutive games as a rookie, joining Pro Football Hall of Fame member Eric Dickerson.
Aside from the Rams perceived advantage in the run game, there is also another Rams strength vs. Browns weekness to keep an eye on. The Browns have allowed 22 sacks already this season, which is not very good. Even without the services of Chris Long the Rams defense should be able to generate plenty of pressure on Josh McCown and force him into some mistakes. Cleveland has been getting great production from the Tight End position lately, but if the Rams can limit the damage from that position they should control the game.
Sean Wilkinson [@Papa_Lurch]
Prediction: Browns win 27-23
Brandon Bate [@NoPlanB_]