The St. Louis Rams haven't entered many games in 2013 as favorites. Sunday's home finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will mark only the fourth time in 15 outings the Rams have been favored. St. Louis won two of the past three, beating Arizona on opening day and dispatching the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Their last outing, however, was a disappointing loss to the Tennessee Titans. That loss came on the heels of a valiant effort against Seattle the week before. The Rams' defense controlled the powerful Seahawks and Zac Stacy had emerged as an offensive threat. That's what made their lackluster effort against Tennessee that much more disappointing.
St. Louis is coming off one of the season's best efforts, a thrashing last Sunday of the New Orleans Saints. To give their fans at the Edward Jones Dome a proper send off for 2013 and carry some momentum into next season, the Rams will have to accomplish the following:
1. Get off to a good start. St. Louis let the Titans get off to an early lead and then never put them away when they had the chance. The Rams need to come out of the gate fast against an improving Tampa Bay squad and kill their spirit.
2. Shut down Bobby Rainey. The Rams allowed a struggling Chris Johnson to break out against them. His 150 yards rushing represents the only 100 yard rushing game Johnson has had all year. That total was aided by some poor tackling by the Rams. Rainey has performed admirably in Doug Martin's absence, but the Bucs are 22nd in the NFL in total rushing. The Rams can't allow Rainey to open up the passing game for the rookie QB, Mike Glennon.
3. Win the turnover and penalty battle. The Rams put the ball on the ground twice against the Titans and committed six penalties. These mistakes are the stuff that allow undermanned teams to keep their confidence.
The Rams have the opportunity to finish .500 this season, something that seemed improbable when Sam Bradford went down and the Rams sitting at 3-4. A win Sunday would also give St. Louis a 5-3 home record, something that would definitely be pleasing for the fans and help reinforce the idea that the Rams are headed in the right direction.
They're favored to do just that. It's time for them to start living up to expectations.
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