The Baltimore Ravens are playing at the St. Louis Rams this Sunday. I traded a set of questions with Joe McAfee of SB Nation's blog on the Rams, Turf Show Times. Joe will "hang out" on this post to respond to any comments you post about his answers and questions you might have about the Rams. Click here to go to their site to see my Q&A from the Ravens' perspective. Here are my questions (in bold) and Joe's answers:
1. The Rams are off to an 0-2 start despite many thinking they could win the NFC West. What is the biggest reason they lost both games so far?
Well, the games were entirely different. Against the Eagles, we shut everything down except for Vick eluding would-be tacklers on third downs in the first half; to try and stop that, we adjusted the defensive scheme, but that opened up their running game. And it's kind of hard to pass on that secondary. Damn good team. On Monday, we just made the kind of mistakes that Rams fans have gotten used to. 1st and 1 from the 1, and you come away with 3 points. A muffed punt return that leads to a Giants touchdown. A lateral screen that gets dropped and returned for six. We're just not good enough to beat teams when we make mistakes like that.
2. Sam Bradford is considered among the best young QBs in the league. What is his strength and what is his weakness?
The strength is his accuracy. If you watched the Monday Night game, he made some absolutely amazing throws down the sideline to Danario Alexander and Lance Kendricks. He's got a great touch on the ball on the deep throws. At this point, his biggest weakness is making red zone reads. Part of it is relative inexperience at the NFL level, and part of it is inexperience under Josh McDaniels. He's got to get more comfortable in the red zone at looking off his first read and taking what the defense gives him instead of hoping his receiver can make a play.
(Click on the 'Jump' more for Q&A with Turf Show Times)
3. Injuries have played a part already for the Rams. What is the status for RB Steven Jackson for Sunday's contest?
I expect he'll be a gametime decision again. He warmed up with the team on Monday night, but opted to heed the trainers' advice and sit out. He's still incredibly talented, so the sooner he gets back the better.
4. Who is one player on offense and defense we should know about and watch Sunday?
On offense, it's Danario Alexander. He's got the skills to be a premier #1 receiver and the knees of an 85-year old ex-paratrooper. He's got great size and hands, runs beautiful deep routes and has great speed to boot. But he's had five (not a typo) knee surgeries, and this is only his second year in the league after a stellar career at Missouri. The team has made it clear that they're not interested in testing the limits of his knee yet, but his role as a deep man in this offense (3 rec, 122 yds, 1 TD on Monday) is crucial to opening up the field for Bradford to hit Mike Sims-Walker, Brandon Gibson and rookie TE Lance Kendricks.
Defensively, Bradley Fletcher's rolling solo. Working with Ron Bartell as the starting CB combo last year, Bartell started drawing focus from the better analysts across the league who saw how effective he was in physical coverage schemes. With Ron Bartell out for the season with a doubly fractured neck, the spotlight is on Fletcher. On Monday, the first test of his new role, he was wonderful, limiting Hakeem Nicks to just four catches for less than 40 yards. He's legit.
5. What is your prediction on the outcome?
Honestly, you guys are a much better team IMO, but in the NFL, the better team can lose pretty easily. Hell, look at you guys and Tennessee last week. So if I were betting, would I put money on the Rams? No. But if I'm asked for a no-penalty prediction, I'll take the Rams 27-17.