Posted: 8:40 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013
By Matt Verderame
For the Falcons, it's all about avoiding the complete disaster of starting 0-2 and facing a major uphill battle in the NFC South. Atlanta had a chance last Sunday to strike first in the always-competitive rivalry against the New Orleans Saints, but came up short inside the red zone with a Roman Harper interception.
Matt Ryan played a great game otherwise, including the pass before the interception which was dropped by Steven Jackson at the goal line. The former Boston College star threw for 304 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
For the Rams, this game represents a great opportunity to steal their first road win of the year and move ahead of either the Seattle Seahawks or San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West, with the two teams going against each other Sunday night. A win would set up things very nicely going into the latter part of September for a team expected to compete for a playoff berth.
St. Louis almost came into this contest with the same record as Atlanta but rallied for 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter at home against the Arizona Cardinals. However, Greg Zuerlein hit two late field goals to give the Rams a 27-24 victory.
Atlanta is coming off the aforementioned loss in which the defense was pushed around. The Falcons allowed 419 yards of total offense including 341 in the air courtesy of Drew Brees. On the positive side, the defense was stingy against the running game, giving up only 78 yards on 29 carries for 2.8 yards per rush. A major concern going forward is the health of Roddy White, who was obviously limited against New Orleans with a bad ankle, catching only two passes.
The Falcons were ultimately undone by going 3-for-11 on third down and turning the ball over twice, along with bad offensive line play yielding three sacks and numerous pressures. Now, Matt Ryan and the boys return home where they went 7-1 in the regular season each of the past two seasons.
St. Louis will likely test the Falcons pass defense after watching Bradford light up the Cardinals for 299 passing yards in Week 1. Jared Cook, the Rams new tight end signed away from the Tennessee Titans in the offseason, paid huge dividends versus Arizona with seven catches for 141 yards and a pair of touchdowns. An area of concern on offense was the running game, netting just 67 yards on 21 attempts.
Another area to clean up was the penalties. The Rams took seven last Sunday, something that will undoubtedly come back to haunt them in Atlanta should the performance repeat itself. St. Louis also turned the ball over twice but did register four sacks, including a pair by Robert Quinn.
Dave Choate of The Falcoholic talks about the possibility of nabbing a free agent tackle to help the offensive line issues:
At tackle, there's virtually nothing, unless you like Demetress Bell. There's a little more at guard, but I think you can argue that guard isn't the biggest priority on this team right now. The Falcons simply aren't likely to find an immediate upgrade on the wire.
Turf Show Times writer Ryan Van Bibber discusses the fantasy outlook of Jared Cook this year:
Obviously, you can't count on Cook for 141 yards and a pair of touchdowns every week. And the Rams do have other receiving option on the roster these days, including Austin and Chris Givens. Nevertheless, don't be surprised if Cook finishes the season with the team lead in targets and receptions.
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
Suggestions for improving the line have been, and I quote, "blow it up" and "play better." Pull the alarm.— The Falcoholic (@TheFalcoholic) September 10, 2013
Random Ramsdom: September 10: St. Louis Rams - Still Undefeated This Season http://t.co/CxBzQySkyn— TurfShowTimes (@TurfShowTimes) September 10, 2013
@AJCFalcons - Falcons beat writer Orlando Ledbetter
@jthom1 - Rams beat writer Jim Thomas
His one-week suspension over, RB Isaiah Pead was back in the building Monday according to Fisher. He doesn't count against roster till Tues.— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) September 9, 2013
The Rams are a very improved team since the takeover of Jeff Fisher in 2012 and the building blocks brought in this year with Cook and Tavon Austin among others. The defense is also a force up front with Quinn and sack-master Chris Long giving quarterbacks and offensive lines all they can handle. What makes this game so interesting is the Falcons' struggles to block. Last week, Atlanta's offensive line got mauled by a bad Saints defense. If that happens again this week, it will be even uglier. Since this one is in the Georgia Dome and its an almost must-win for the Falcons, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. But don't be surprised it Atlanta walks off the field stunned.
My pick: Falcons 23, Rams 20
The Falcons are favored by 7.5 points over the Rams, according to oddsshark.com.