Patriots Pass Defense vs. Rams Pass Offense
If the St. Louis Rams get the play-action going, then the Patriots had better watch out, because that is when Sam Bradford is at his deadliest. Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson do an excellent job of getting the defense into buying into the run, and the linebackers get swallowed up easily. This allows Bradford to show his short-range precision, and it does lead to some solid yards after the catch.
That will all be on full display even without star receiver Danny Amendola, especially since Brandon Gibson has risen in Amendola’s absence. Gibson fell flat last year after breaking out in 2010 with 50 catches, but he is on pace for nearly 60 catches and over 750 receiving yards this season.
Brian Schottenheimer uses Bradford’s short-range accuracy to his advantage, especially with regards to using tight end Lance Kendricks. Schotty loves using TEs as a safety-net to young, subpar QBs who are best off throwing it short. Kendricks has been solid in this role by catching about 70% of everything thrown at him for an average of 8.3 yards per catch.
Chris Givens is someone else to watch for, because he can burn defenses with his speed if a cornerback doesn’t stay put on him. It will be interesting to see who the Pats put on him with Devin McCourty presumably playing at safety. Will the Pats take the best available approach with No. 1 WR Gibson and put Alfonzo Dennard on him? Or will the Pats place the physical rookie who is less burn prone on Givens? Whoever plays against Kyle Arrington is going to have a big day, I know that much. The good thing is that Givens is a poor route-runner and is extremely inconsistent.
The Rams are banged up at the tackle positions, as top LT Roger Saffold is still out and Wayne Hunter (who is already bad enough) is listed questionable. Barry Richardson (right tackle) is one of the worst offensive linemen in this league, so both Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones especially will have huge days against the Rams. I would love to see some high pressure and big sack totals against Bradford.
Patriots Run Defense vs. Rams Run Offense
The strength of the New England Patriots defense will try to stifle the strength of the St. Louis Rams offense, and I like the Pats in this part of the matchup. Steven Jackson moves the pile and has as good of a chance as anybody at breaking down the Pats nearly impenetrable front seven. No. 2 RB Daryl Richardson has been an impact rookie and is explosive, but he is inconsistent. The Rams will be able to run the football a little against the Patriots, but their line isn’t good enough to sustain blocks against one of the marquee run-stopping defenses that this league has to offer.
Even with all the injuries, there is a clear gap in talent between these two teams. The Rams will pose an upset threat and should receive a good game out of Sam Bradford. I fully expect Kyle Arrington to get burned multiple times, but the New England Patriots will still be able to win in a 30-26 game that is high-scoring. I say 26, because I think Legatron is going to smash home a 60-yarder that will make Steven Gerrard get up to his feet somewhere in the stands.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.