Rams 101 contributor David Schlager offers his preview of today's game between the St. Louis Rams and the Atlanta Falcons.
Is Week 2 too early for a statement win? The Atlanta Falcons are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. The last time the St. Louis Rams started 2-0 they went to the Super Bowl. Winning this game would be a statement.
Most oddsmakers have the Falcons as prohibitive favorites, but the game could be closer than anticipated.
The biggest reason is the biggest mismatch. If you watched the Saints win over the Falcons, you know what I am referring to. All game long Matt Ryan was under immense pressure by the New Orleans Saints pass rush…I didn’t know that Saints had a pass rush either.
The Rams proved that getting pressure with just the front four can change the game. If not for the Robert Quinn-Levi Brown matchup the Rams would still be looking for the first win of the season. Three sacks and two forced fumble later Quinn faces another former first round pick who has room to improve in Sam Baker. And that’s a best case scenario for Falcons fans. Baker missed practice Wednesday and Thursday while being limited in Friday’s walkthrough.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Jeremy Trueblood, who was recently signed off the streets, practiced with the first team at right tackle while Lamar Holmes started at left tackle. Holmes struggled at right tackle in his first career start last week, hardly against the talents of Quinn or Chris Long.
That might be the biggest matchup for St. Louis fans, but the most anticipated one is against SJ39. In his first game as a non-Ram, Jackson averaged seven yards per rush while picking up 45 yards on five receptions. The Rams’ all-time leading rusher was an asset as a pass catcher, and while we didn’t see the same after the catch explosion, he is certainly still a threat.
Everyone in St. Louis knows few players run harder and play angrier than Steven Jackson. Few players also will have more motivation heading into this week. Jackson will have a full head of steam playing his former team while trying to avoid 0-2 and making a debut in the playoffs. If the Rams pull off the upset Atlanta will look to beat the odds for postseason play. Since 1990, only 11.6 percent of teams that start 0-2 make the playoffs. If you remember the Falcons’ season opener, Jackson could have won the game, but the game-winning touchdown catch slipped through his hands in the end zone.
After playing great in his debut, Jared Cook could have another great matchup this week. Atlanta has had trouble with tight ends (see 2012 postseason.) Linebacker Akeem Dent struggled in pass coverage last week. He was beaten up the seam multiple times including a long touchdown pass to Marques Colston who was in the slot.
Tavon Austin could make an impact in the slot, likely going up against fellow rookie Robert Alford. Alford played well against Drew Brees last week when we recorded his first career interception playing in the nickel.
A Falcon to watch is defensive player Kroy Biermann. Biermann lined up mainly at defensive end last season, but was all over the field in the first game of the season. Hands on the ground, left side, right side, standing up, Biermann even lined up opposite of Jimmy Graham out wide.
The wild card for today is how the young Rams respond to being on the road. For all the excitement after the Rams won their home-opener, the young players will be making their first road trip and might not respond as well as we hope.
One final note, in the Mike Smith era, the falcons have gone 20-3 following losses and haven’t lost back to back games since the 2009 season.
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