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coleryan
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St. Louis Rams at Atlanta Falcons: Preview and Pick

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On 09/09/2013 04:18 PM in NFL
St. Louis Rams at Atlanta Falcons: Preview and Pick

The St. Louis Rams and the Atlanta Falcons will meet up in one of the marquee match ups in the NFL schedule for week two. The Falcons lost a big game in week one and will be happy to host the Rams with a chance to get their first win of the season.

St. Louis Rams at Atlanta Falcons Odds

The NFL betting lines for this game opened up with the Falcons listed as (-6) point favorites. That line jumped quickly to the key number and now sits at (-7) at most of the top rated offshore sportsbooks. The line move is purely based on the public pounding the dirty birds as the public is backing the home team at a whopping 87 percent.

The Atlanta Falcons lost the first game to the New Orleans Saints and it was the same old story. The Falcons had an impressive offense led by quarterback Matt Ryan who lit up the scoreboard. However injuries to key players like wide receiver Roddy White slowed down this offense. The defense had to deal with injuries as well as two rookie cornerbacks had to get their feet wet and try to slow down Drew Brees. The team is expected to be healthier this week, but the big news will be a reunion of sorts.

The newest member of the Falcons, running back Steven Jackson, will go up against his former team for the first time. Although there is no ill will, Jackson should be fired up to face the Rams.

The Rams have plenty to be excited about as they came from behind to beat the Arizona Cardinals. Sam Bradford kept this team calm and cool and a new star emerged in tight end Jared Cook who is Bradford’s new favorite target.

There is a slew of NFL betting trends that stick out for this game. Atlanta is 11-4 straight up in its last 15 games when playing at home against St. Louis and the total has gone over in 8 of Atlanta's last 9 games when playing at home against St. Louis. St. Louis is 4-13-1 straight up in its last 18 games on the road but they are 5-2 straight up in its last 7 games.

The Rams are out to prove they belong with the contenders in the NFC and if they can beat the Falcons on the road it will send a loud and clear message to the rest of the league.

St. Louis Rams at Atlanta Falcons Pick

With plenty of time to go before the start of the regular season, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.
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Pfile Nickname coleryan
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09/10/2013 04:53 PM
For the better part of the past decade, whenever the Rams needed leadership in a close and late situation, they turned to running back Steven Jackson. Trailing by 11 in the fourth quarter Sunday against Arizona, Jackson was nowhere to be found. After an offseason of building an offense with quarterback Sam Bradford as the centerpiece and as he enters another season as an offensive captain, all eyes were on Bradford.

Bradford doesn’t have the fiery, in-your-face personality that many often (and mistakenly) associate with leadership. He’s always been a calm, lead-by-example type who wants to lead with actions rather than words. So when Bradford entered the huddle with his team trailing 24-13 and less than two minutes to go in the third quarter, his teammates saw exactly what they always see from Bradford. He stayed the same on the next possession and every one thereafter.

“Sam is cool as a cucumber all the time, man,” left guard Chris Williams said. “That’s just Sam for you. He’s not a panic guy. It’s great.”

Starting with that drive late in the third, Bradford went on to complete six passes in a row for 76 yards and a touchdown to draw the Rams within five. On the ensuing two-point conversion, Bradford found another way to add points to the Rams’ tally, taking a snap out of the shotgun, showing pass and bursting into the end zone to trim it to three.

“Yeah, how’d you guys like that?” Bradford said, laughing. “That was pretty good, huh? I think they had no idea that I was going to run the ball on that play and I think that’s why it worked so well. But hey, we’ll take what they give us.”

Bradford’s late-game heroics weren’t limited to sneak-attack runs either. Starting from that late drive in the third quarter, Bradford went 11-of-13 for 121 yards and a touchdown for a rating of 131.1 to close out the game and the Cardinals.

For Bradford to take the next step and become the quarterback he was drafted to be and that the Rams believe he can be, he’ll need to continue to find ways to bring his team back when it falls behind.

In his first two seasons, Bradford struggled in late-game situations. In games where his team was either up or down by seven points or fewer, Bradford posted a rating of 67.6 as a rookie and 75.0 in 2011.

Although it went a bit under the radar, Bradford began to show a penchant for coming through when the Rams needed it most in 2012. With the Rams in more close games last year, Bradford got better and better with victories on the line as the season went along.

When all was said and done, Bradford posted a rating of 92.7 in the fourth quarter of games still hanging in the balance and led the Rams to game-winning drives in fourth-quarter comebacks three times and engineered a comeback that led to a tie against San Francisco. That doesn't include a near-miss in last year's season opener in Detroit.

Bradford led a game-winning, fourth-quarter comeback just once in his first two seasons. “Sam did a great job,” tight end Jared Cook said. “He kept his composure the whole time. He put everybody on his back and on his shoulders, and he carried us to victory.”

That Bradford is not only embracing his role as a leader but also proving capable of handling the role in winning fashion is a good sign not only for his future but for the Rams. The team invested heavily in surrounding him with talent in the offseason and has committed to making him the focal point of the franchise moving forward.

It’s only one week into the season but a comeback win in which the Rams scored the final 14 points of the game would seem to be a good building block from which to grow.

“He’s a tough kid and he battles hard and I think he works as hard as anybody in this league,” said defensive end Chris Long, a close friend of Bradford’s. “He’s had a lot not go in his favor so far in his career that he can’t control. So to have him with every resource at his disposal and the continuity that he has going into this year, that’s big. You’ll see great results.”

As for any lingering doubt that might have been left as to where to look when a boost is needed, there’s clearly a consensus choice in the locker room.

“It’s Sam’s team,” Long said. “It’s Sam’s team all the way. We have built things around him so it’s Sam’s team. That’s the way everybody wants it.”
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Pfile Nickname coleryan
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09/11/2013 04:18 PM
•Sunday's matchup marks the 76th meeting between the two former NFC West division rivals with the Rams holding a 47-26-2 advantage in the all-time series.

•RB Steven Jackson spent the first nine seasons of his career in St. Louis where he rushed for 10,135 yards with 56 touchdowns and made three trips to the Pro Bowl

•In the last meeting between the two clubs in 2012, Atlanta left the Edward Jones Dome with a 34-17 win.

•QB Matt Ryan posted a 101.8 QB rating after throwing for 253 yards with two touchdowns while S William Moore snapped his former Big 12 rival QB Sam Bradford’s NFL rookie record for consecutive pass attempts without an interception at 169 after picking him off at the goal line.

•Since 2008, under head coach Mike Smith, the Falcons have gone 20-3 following a loss. Atlanta has also won 12 straight games following a loss.

•The Falcons have not lost back-to-back games in the same season since falling to Philadelphia and New Orleans in consecutive weeks in 2009.

•Smith's record at home is 33-7 in the regular season. The Falcons record at home is the best mark in the NFC since 2008.

•According to Fox Sports, the Falcons are the first team to have the leading active rusher (Jackson - 10,215 yards) and leading active receiver (TE Tony Gonzalez - 14,304 yards) take the field together since the Green Bay Packers in 1941 with Clarke Hinkle (3,467 yards) and Don Hutson (3,566 yards).
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09/12/2013 02:40 PM
It’s the Steven Jackson Reunion Bowl on Sunday when the Falcons (0-1) face the St. Louis Rams (1-0) in the home opener at the Georgia Come.

Since 1990, only 22 NFL teams (11.5 percent) have made the playoffs after starting 0-2.

Only three teams that opened 0-2 have won the Super Bowl. The 1993 Dallas Cowboys, the 2001 New England Patriots and 2007 New York Giants all rebounded their way to the title.

There are three subplots:

1. Falcons’ offensive line: The Falcons gave up three sacks, five hits and 16 hurries against the Saints, according to profootballfocus.com. Ryan was under duress on 24 of 38 pass drop-backs (63.1 percent). The Rams, in their 27-24 victory over Arizona, had four sacks and five quarterback hits. Defensive end Robert Quinn led the way with three sacks, three quarterback hits and two forced fumbles. The Rams were tied with the Broncos for the most sacks (52) in the league last season.

2. Receivers have to step up: With Roddy White saying he’ll be slowed by a high ankle sprain for another three weeks, Harry Douglas and Julio Jones will have to carry the load. White has made 129 starts and his injury situation will be closely monitored.

3. Improving on third downs: The Falcons didn’t convert on third downs in the preseason and that carried over into the opener. The Falcons were 3 of 11 on third downs (27 percent) against New Orleans.
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09/13/2013 05:19 PM
The St. Louis Rams will visit the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome for the Falcons' home opener on Sunday, which will be one more meeting in a long history between these two teams.

Until 2002, the average fan's level of investment in a contest between these two teams might have been a little higher. The Falcons and the Rams were division rivals in the Coastal Division starting in 1967, one year after the Falcons' inception. The Rams were located in Los Angeles at the time, and the division was re-named the NFC West after the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. The Falcons, despite being located in the southeastern United States, remained in the NFC West division until 2002, and the Rams remain in that division today, despite a 1995 move to St. Louis--a move that placed the team farther east than the Dallas Cowboys, who are members of the NFC East division.

The Rams have a significant edge in this series history, with 47 wins to Atlanta's 27 wins, plus two ties between these two teams since 1966. In the Matt Ryan/Mike Smith era, these teams have met twice, and both match-ups have resulted in wins for the Falcons. The first meeting was in 2008, Matt Ryan's rookie season, in the Georgia Dome, and the Falcons pulled off a close win by just four points in late December, a factor on their way to securing a wildcard playoff bid that season. In 2010 the Falcons beat the Rams 34-17 on the road, one of their 13 wins that season.

One of the key storylines heading into this week's game will be Falcons running back Steven Jackson, a free agent acquisition after the 2012 season, facing his former team. The Rams drafted Jackson 24th overall in the 2004 NFL Draft, and he was a key factor for the offense throughout his career. Jackson's departure from St. Louis unfolded amicably. Now an Atlanta Falcon, Jackson says that facing his old team does not inspire any additional motivation beyond his typical drive to win.

A less-popular storyline will be former Falcons offensive lineman Harvey Dahl. Dahl was a key factor in protecting Matt Ryan and making way for Michael Turner in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Dahl is exactly the kind of offensive lineman teams love--aggressive and nasty. He will make things more difficult for Atlanta's pass rush on Sunday.

That being said, the Rams' offensive line was not graded very favorably by Pro Football Focus for their performance against the Arizona Cardinals last week. They did protect Sam Bradford from being sacked at all, however, they allowed three quarterback hits and 16 hurries. Bradford is susceptible to pressure, posting a quarterback rating of 52.9 last week on plays under pressure, as opposed to a rating of 120.3 when not pressured.

St. Louis has seen a decline in their rushing game, not surprisingly, following the departure of Steven Jackson. Against the Cardinals, starting running back Daryl Richardson managed just 63 yards on 20 carries. Richardson is also currently listed on the Rams' injury report with a foot injury. One key factor in containing Richardson and limiting the Rams' running game will be to wrap up--Richardson caused three missed tackles in his effort against Arizona in week one.

As far as receivers go, the Falcons are going to have to contain tight end Jared Cook. Cook languished for a few seasons in Tennessee, never quite fulfilling his potential, and his week one premiere as a St. Louis Ram showed what he is actually capable of on the field. Cook finished the day with seven receptions on 10 targets for 141 yards and two touchdowns. Given the Falcons' consistent difficulties in covering tight ends, Atlanta will need to be particularly mindful of Cook.

The Rams' defense looked particularly disruptive against Arizona. That pass rush was relentless, managing five sacks, five hits and ten hurries against Carson Palmer last week. This is a concern heading into Sunday's game, considering the performance of Atlanta's offensive line against the Saints last week, in which they allowed three sacks, four hits, and a staggering 18 hurries. With Sam Baker held out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday with a knee injury, the offensive line is even more uncertain heading into Sunday's game.

Steven Jackson should be quite familiar with the Rams' defense, which will hopefully help the ground game develop. Not only that, but part of the benefit of having a player like Steven Jackson on the roster is his versatility. When Jackson is on the field, defenses should be concerned about whether it's a called rushing play, or whether Matt Ryan will take advantage of the Rams' formidable pass rush and hit Jackson on a screen.
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Pfile Nickname coleryan
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09/15/2013 08:54 AM
PICK

The Falcons will be exposed in this game. They have a banged up and awful offensive line and youth in the secondary. Rams are a team on the rise that can pull off an upset.

RAMS +6.5
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