The Baltimore Ravens head to St. Louis to try to rebound from last week’s somewhat surprising loss to the Tennessee Titans. After demolishing the Pittsburgh Steelers in week 1 – a win that many people thought signaled the newfound dominance of the Ravens in the AFC – the Ravens laid an egg in Tennessee. This week won’t be any easier, facing a Rams team still smarting from two tough losses.
The line opened with Baltimore as a 3 ½ point favorite, although that has been bumped up to 4 points at most books. The squares have been backing the Ravens rather heavily, and the reason the line hasn’t moved more in the direction of Baltimore is enough sharp money coming in on St. Louis to steady the waters. Last week Maddux Sports recommended fading Baltimore and backing Tennessee in what ended up being an easy cover. This week the Rams look like a solid pick, so consider grabbing the points and playing the home team.
From what I could tell, the Rams played well enough to win in New York. They marched up and down the field, slicing through a Giants’ defense decimated by injuries, especially in the secondary. The problem was in the red zone. Even more specifically (and frustrating), three drives stalled inside the 10 yard line. It’s hard to win any game with that kind of offensive inefficiency, but almost impossible to get a win on the road in the NFL without being able to punch the ball into the end zone from less than 10 yards out.
On the bright side, the Rams hurry up, no huddle offense looked spectacular, and fake injuries did have some effect on the game, though I’m not sure how much. As an offense, you have to find a way. Having said that, Roger Goodell was so incensed that he has threatened not only fines, but suspensions and lost draft picks to players and organizations that make use of faking injuries. With that kind of response, I think it’s safe to say the NFL feels the Rams got jobbed last week.
The health of Steven Jackson is still a concern. By all accounts, Jackson will not be playing on Sunday. That’s not a certainty, and he’ll likely be a game time decision, but keep in mind that the oft-injured Jackson has been on the shelf and likely will be again this week. Also, Cadillac Williams is nursing a sore hamstring and might not go, either. But considering how ineffective he was last week, that might not be a big deal.
While the absence of a meaningful running game might be reason for concern, in this case, I’m not so certain. The Rams seem to be imitating the Patriots, who have shown that they’re able to dominate a defense with a no huddle spread. Granted, Sam Bradford isn’t Tom Brady. But he’s a smart quarterback capable of making good reads, especially when a defense doesn’t have time to substitute or make a significant change to its coverage.
The Ravens secondary had an awful day against Matt Hasselbeck, giving up over 350 yards on 42 attempts with only one interception. Chris Johnson was shut down, but Hasselbeck has a nice weapon in Kenny Britt, who had 9 catches for 135 yards. Expect Baltimore to play more nickel packages against St. Louis since they’re not facing a powerful running offense, but even still, they’ll be a facing a different beast with Bradford’s hurry up offense, as opposed to Tennessee’s more traditional pro-set attack.
Also, some mention should be given to the Ravens’ putrid offensive showing last week. The team totaled just 229 yards with 7 penalties and 3 turnovers. They should do better against the Rams, but as long as St. Louis doesn’t turn the ball over 7 times, this should be a competitive game.
The Rams are still looking for their first win, and they get to play in their dome against a Baltimore team currently searching for an identity. I think the Rams could easily win this game, but I really like grabbing five points. Consider backing the St. Louis at home.
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