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St. Louis Rams at Indianapolis Colts: Preview and Pick
St. Louis Rams at Indianapolis Colts: Preview and Pick
The St. Louis Rams may have found a super star in the making as running back Zac Stacy has looked great when given the opportunity, however they still have trouble getting a win. It does not get any easier this week when they travel to play Andrew Luck and the red hot Indianapolis Colts. The Colts are fresh off a win over the Houston Texans and boast one of the better teams in the league.
St. Louis Rams at Indianapolis Colts Odds
The opening NFL point spread for this game will favor the Colts. Not only are they the superior team, but they have the home field advantage. The double digit line of (-11.5) is the opening number that the public will flock too when they back Luck and the Colts. This line will only go up as the early betting should favor the Colts so check your top rated online sportsbook for the latest point spread leading up to kickoff.
The Rams are not winning but they are running the ball. 22 of Zac Stacy's 27 rushes were between the tackles, with Stacy gaining 113 of 127 yards on those rushes. Stacy entered the week with 96 percent of his rushes going between the tackles, highest in the NFL. However it is the defense that will need to play well.
Andrew Luck threw two touchdowns against four or fewer pass rushers in the second half, including the game-winner to T.Y. Hilton. The Texans' four-man pass rush put pressure on Luck in the first half, sacking or putting him under duress on 5-of-9 dropbacks (56%), but couldn't get to him in the second half. Andrew Luck was 3-3 for 78 yards and two touchdowns when targeting T.Y. Hilton in the second half against standard pressure. The Rams will have to try and get to Luck.
The latest football betting trends for this game reveal that the Rams could be in big trouble. St. Louis is 2-5-1 straight up in its last 8 games, 1-4 straight up in its last 5 games on the road and the total has gone over in 4 of Indianapolis's last 5 games when playing St. Louis. The total has gone over in 4 of Indianapolis's last 6 games at home and the Colts are 14-5-1 straight up in the last 20 games. The Colts are 9-1 straight up in its last 10 games at home. But they are just 2-4 against the spread (ATS) in its last 6 games when playing St. Louis.
St. Louis Rams at Indianapolis Colts 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.
Two teams on very opposite ends of the NFL spectrum will meet on Sunday, when the reeling St. Louis Rams and their disappointing three-game losing streak will travel four hours east to central Indiana for a matchup against the AFC South Division-leading Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis.
The Colts are 6-2 this season and are coming off perhaps their most thrilling win of the season, when they rallied from 18 points down late in the third quarter to defeat the rival Houston Texans 27-24 Sunday night in a nationally-televised game on NBC.
Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck earned the 10th fourth quarter/overtime come-from-behind win of his career by leading the Colts back with three late touchdown passes to electrifying wideout T.Y. Hilton.
St. Louis had almost the exact opposite thing happen, as it made several key mistakes in the final quarter and allowed the Tennessee Titans to steal a 28-21 victory from them.
Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens fumbled deep in his own territory to give the Titans the ball. Tennessee scored on the next play to take the lead, then held on at the end, as Clemens couldn’t connect with his receiver Austin Pettis on two late throws into the end zone.
St. Louis will hit its bye week once the game with Indianapolis is over. So this week’s matchup is the Rams’ last chance to get some momentum going before it begins the home stretch of the 2013 pro football season.
- Indianapolis on Offense
The Colts are ranked eighth overall in points scored, and 19th overall in total offense this season, but find themselves ranked surprisingly low in passing (No. 20 at 219.1 yards/game) and rushing (12th, 121.8 yards/game).
Luck, the 2012 NFL Draft’s No. 1 overall pick, has thrown for 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns this season, and Hilton is the Colt’s leading receiver, with 533 yards and five touchdowns.
Indianapolis also has a pair of talented tailbacks in Trent Richardson and Donald Brown, but neither has established himself as the “go-to guy” for the Colts, who came into this season believing they could have one of the best offenses in the entire league.
That hasn’t happened yet, but Indianapolis has managed to keep winning, which has allowed the Colts to stay near the top of the AFC standings, where teams like Kansas City (9-0) and Denver (7-1) lead the way.
- Indianapolis on Defense
With one of the worst run defenses in the league (No. 27), the Colts have needed every one of the 214 points they’ve scored this season.
Last week, Houston didn’t even have its star running back Arian Foster, but were still able to gain 143 yards on the ground against Indianapolis, marking the third time in the last four games that an opponent has reached 140 or more rushing yards against the Colts.
St. Louis has finally found its running game with rookie Zac Stacy registering back-to-back 100-yard efforts against Seattle and Tennessee.
How Indianapolis handles the Rams run game will be a key factor in how this matchup turns out.
Linebacker Jerrell Freeman has been Indianapolis’ best player on defense this year. The second-year man out of Division III Mary Hardin-Baylor University in Texas leads the Colts with 44 solo and 65 total tackles this season, while also logging 3.5 quarterback sacks, an interception, and two forced fumbles.
The Colts also feature one of the league’s best pass-rush specialists in veteran end Robert Mathis, who leads the league with 11.5 sacks this year.
- Recent History
The Rams lead the all-time series with the Colts 23-18-2, but Indianapolis has won three of the last four against St. Louis, including a pair of blowouts in the last two meetings (45-28 in 2005, and 42-6 in 2009).
St. Louis last win against the Colts came in 2001, when a group known as “The Greatest Show on Turf” beat an Indianapolis team led by a young Peyton Manning, 42-17, at the Edward Jones Dome.
A week after stuffing the Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch, the St. Louis Rams’ defense chased the Titans’ Chris Johnson all day.
Coach Jeff Fisher tried his best to ease the burden Monday, a day after the Rams (3-6) were victimized by Johnson’s best game of the season and allowed 198 yards rushing overall in a 28-21 loss to Tennessee.
Fisher noted the Titans were coming off a bye and the Rams were on short rest. Greg Zuerlein’s first missed field goal attempt inside the 50 of the season and a turnover deep in Titans territory, the coach added, were contributing factors.
Both teams committed two turnovers, making that a wash. So this was the “big picture.”
“There’s all kinds of things that happened in the game,” Fisher said. “With that being said, we had a close game.”
After the Rams lost their third in a row, some players showed their frustration. Defensive end William Hayes, among a group of ex-Titans that had considered it a really big game, bloodied his forearm shattering a mirror and needed a few stitches.
“Basically, he expressed how everybody felt and it hit him hard,” Fisher said. “This game was big for him. Use better judgment, you know, you don’t need to punch a mirror and risk cutting yourself, and he did.”
The Rams have invested heavily on defense, with four first-round picks, two high second-rounders, two major free agent pickups. They have a defensive coordinator this year, too, after using a committee to replace suspended Gregg Williams in Fisher’s first season.
They’re ninth-best in the NFL against the pass, masking their ineffectiveness against the run.
“The more they stack up, I think the more they hurt,” end Chris Long said. “Our defense had a chance to win the game and we were out of our gaps.”
The defense was dominant in a 14-9 Monday night loss to the Seahawks. Lynch had just 23 yards on eight carries and Seattle was 2 for 11 on third down, the lone breakdown of the day coming when Janoris Jenkins was in position but stumbled on Golden Tate’s 80-yard touchdown catch.
Johnson topped Seattle’s total by himself with 150 yards on 23 carries and his first two rushing touchdowns of the season. All four of the Titans’ TDs came on the ground, with Shonn Greene and quarterback Jake Locker each taking one in.
Fisher said there wasn’t a specific shortcoming, saying “it appeared that we took turns.”
It was the Titans’ best rushing showing since Nov. 27, 2011 when they had 202 yards against Tampa Bay. And a huge disappointment for the Rams defense after wasting a big day from rookie Zac Stacy, who scored the Rams’ first two rushing TDs of the year and totaled 178 yards rushing and receiving.
The Rams made plenty of plays on defense, with four sacks in the first half and interceptions by Cortland Finnegan and Rodney McLeod — the first of the year for both. They whiffed plenty of times, too.
Johnson busted a 23-yarder his first carry to start a drive capped by Greene’s 5-yard scoring run and had runs of 24 and 18 yards in the fourth before the clinching run. Greene had a 15-yarder in the third quarter,
“You set a benchmark and then you don’t meet it as a group,” Long said. “The frustrating thing is guys were ready to play, guys were mentally into it and jacked up for the game.
For the second week in a row, the St. Louis Rams found another way to lose a winnable game at the Edward Jones Dome.
After losing a close one last Monday night to Seattle, the Rams (3-6) suffered a 28-21 loss Sunday to Tennessee (4-4).
“We had some opportunities early and didn’t take advantage of them – the fumble and missed field goal,” said Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher. “Then they got their running game going and we kind of kept ours going. But the turnover at the end pretty much was the difference in the ball game.”
With the score tied in the fourth quarter, Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens fumbled the ball on a sack, which was recovered by the Titans, setting up the game-winning touchdown.
“They got a little bit of penetration, so I tried to step up and it was probably a big d-tackle who came through and just knocked the ball out,” Clemens said. “Unfortunately, it put our defense in a very difficult situation. It’s a mistake that can’t be made, and unfortunately I made it.”
A bright spot for the Rams’ offense was the continued emergence of rookie running back Zac Stacy, who carried the ball 27 times for 127 yards and scored two touchdowns. His two scores were the Rams’ first two rushing touchdowns of the season.
“I try not to talk about my individual success because it all starts up front. The offensive line is doing a great job week-in and week-out. I’m just wanting to stay consistent and stay productive,” Stacy said. “It felt great, but we came away with a loss. We’re just going to keep working.”
Tennessee’s Chris Johnson gave the Rams problems, rushing for 150 yards and two touchdowns.
“On a couple of those drives, it was stuff we inflicted upon ourselves. It’s guys knowing where they’re supposed to be and not being there. When you do that against a guy who can take it to the house on a simple play, you’ve got problems,” said Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis. “When people run the ball against you like that, it really comes down to team defense. It’s not one person, one position group. It’s everybody contributing to the missed gaps and stuff like that.”
It was a reunion of sorts for Fisher, who was the head coach for the Titans for many years, including the Super Bowl XXXIV game against the Rams during the 1999-2000 season.
“You know what, honestly, this is another week for me. I’ve got Indy this week. This was another opponent,” Fisher said. “We worked and we worked. We came back on a short week against a good opponent and didn’t get it done. So, we have a normal week this week and we’re getting ready for the Colts.”
Rams’ cornerback Cortland Finnegan and tight end Jared Cook also are former players with the Titans.
Cook had a touchdown reception in the game and Finnegan had an interception, but it still wasn’t enough for the Rams to win.
“If you can get any closer to a Super Bowl without it being a Super Bowl, that’s what it was for me,” Finnegan said. “It was staying up late and watching extra film and doing everything I could to prepare myself.”
The Rams return to action Sunday at Indianapolis (6-2) at noon.
“Coach Fisher said it after the game. There’s only one thing to do and that’s go back to work. We’ll take the 24-hour rule. We’ll look at the tape (Monday). We’ll make the corrections that we need to make, addressing the issues that are there,” Clemens said. “That’s the only thing we can do is keep working. The good news is this is a locker room full of guys that have been through adversity and aren’t going to turn on one another either. We’re a unified front going forward and we’ll get ready for the Colts. It’s going to be a good challenge.”
The rest of the 2013 season has the St. Louis Rams facing an uphill battle against some of the better teams in the league. While the Indianapolis Colts have lost Reggie Wayne for a torn ACL, they still found a way to win last week. Even though Andrew Luck lost his favorite weapon he found a way to win. The Colts defense is only giving up 19.4 points per game which is good enough to be the seventh-best defense. They do a good job of bending, but not breaking on the defensive side of ball as evidenced by their ranking in yards per game sitting at 22nd. Teams have been able to move the ball on them this year without finding the end zone very often.
Luck has fixed the interception problem that he had last that was worrying to many. He has thrown for 13 TDs and only three interceptions, so he is taking care of the ball much better this season. They have gotten off to a 6-2 start by forcing turnovers and limiting their own mistakes. The Colts haven’t been able to get anything going on the ground since trading for Trent Richardson. That bodes well for the Rams because of their porous run defense this year. Robert Quinn and Chris Long should be flying off of the edges to disrupt Luck’s timing all day. The Rams would do themselves a huge favor by mixing in plenty of different looks on defense to keep Luck guessing. He is a smart QB that can read defenses well and without Wayne catching passes he will be forced to spread the ball out more.
St. Louis will still have to find a way to win this week instead of letting the game slip away for the third straight week. The Colts’ pass defense has been able to grab eight interceptions this year so Kellen Clemens will have to take what the defense gives him. If he tries to force passes it could ruin the Rams chances. St. Louis has been winning the turnover battle for most of the season, but the Colts have done an even better job at limiting turnovers. A fumble or interception could be the difference on Sunday. Clemens should stick to what worked early in the game last week.
The offensive line will have to shut down Robert Mathis and his 11.5 sacks. After Mathis, the Colts’ sacks are pretty well spread out so he will be the key guy to protect against. While Clemens has shown mobility in the pocket he will have to learn to either take a sack or throw the ball away this week. St. Louis can not afford to turn the ball over at key moments if they hope to win. Its proven to be the finisher two weeks in a row.
Rookie Zac Stacy should see another busy week against the Colts’ defense. He is proving himself to be tough to tackle while acting like a bowling ball since Week 3. The scary part is that Stacy is getting more carries each week and getting better each game. St. Louis needs him in the game anytime they are in the red zone. He is the only legitimate running threat when the defense has their back against the goal line. If he is up to the task, Stacy should be looking at 25-30 rushing attempts this week. With the Colts defense ability to force turnovers he could see another week as a safety valve just a week after setting a career high in receptions, six, and receiving yards, 51.
St. Louis will have to run the ball to control the clock. Luck has a history of putting together game winning drives even though he is only in his second year. If the Rams can run the ball effectively it would significantly increase their chances. St. Louis can’t afford for another loss to come in the last minute of the game again. St. Louis has a chance at upsetting the Colts if they can stop Luck on offense and limit their turnovers. It could be an interesting game to watch.
The Indianapolis Colts maintained their cushion in the AFC South thanks to a stunning comeback in their most recent game.
They might not need such an effort against struggling St. Louis, as they'll try to earn a third consecutive win Sunday by sending the visiting Rams to a season-high fourth straight loss.
Indianapolis (6-2) trailed by 18 late in the third quarter in Houston last Sunday before Andrew Luck threw three touchdowns to T.Y. Hilton over the final 15:05. It was Luck's 10th game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime in his brief career and third this season.
The 27-24 win kept the Colts two games ahead of Tennessee in the division and helped them maintain their momentum after sending Denver to its first loss Oct. 20.
With a career-high seven catches for 121 yards, Hilton also perhaps showed that he could step up in the absence of star receiver Reggie Wayne, who's out for the season after tearing his right ACL in the 39-33 win over the Broncos.
The Colts have gone 4-0 against teams that reached the playoffs last year and will face only two more in the final half of the season.
"We feel, obviously, good about where we're sitting right now, but again, we've got a long way to go," coach Chuck Pagano said. ''We just stress to our guys take a beginner's mentality. Let's treat it like it's the first game of the season, practice, whatever. You've got to come to work with intentionality, find the things that you need to work on to get better and never be satisfied with where we're at."
The Colts will try to bring a winning streak into a key divisional game at Tennessee next week, and a matchup with St. Louis (3-6) should give them a good chance to do that. The Rams' past two losses, however, have come by a combined 12 points.
They rushed for a total of 360 yards in those defeats with rookie Zac Stacy gaining 261, but they couldn't stop Tennessee's Chris Johnson in a 28-21 loss Sunday. After holding Seattle to 135 total yards in a 14-9 defeat Oct. 28, the Rams allowed Johnson to rack up 150 on the ground and score a pair of touchdowns, including the winner with 2:54 remaining.
Current Rams and former Titans defensive end William Hayes was so frustrated he shattered a mirror with his forearm and needed a few stitches.
"The more (the losses) stack up, I think the more they hurt," defensive end Chris Long said. "Our defense had a chance to win the game and we were out of our gaps."
The Colts are averaging 121.8 rushing yards on the season but they've produced 88.0 per game in the past three contests. Trent Richardson has yet to turn in a big game since being acquired from Cleveland in a Week 3 trade, rushing for a team-best 248 yards in six games with Indianapolis.
The Colts, however, are 13-2 in one-possession games under Pagano and have outscored opponents 101-57 in the second half this year. They've also posted a 59-29 scoring margin in the fourth quarter, with 16 of those opponents' points coming from Denver.
Pagano, though, would like to see his team get off to better starts.
"It's the big pink elephant in the middle of the room," he said. "You can walk around it and avoid it, but we don't do that. We'll get the mistakes corrected, get the communication cleaned up and get the technique cleaned up.
"We've got to play consistent football for 60 minutes, and we can't have the kind of start that we had Sunday. We were very fortunate to get out of there with a victory."
The Rams gave up 14 points in the fourth quarter to Tennessee last week after allowing a combined 17 in the prior four games.
"We came back on a short week against a good opponent and didn't get it done," coach Jeff Fisher said after facing his former team.
The Rams have dropped their past two games against the Colts by a combined 87-34. The most recent was Oct. 25, 2009, a 42-6 home defeat.
While they went winless in a five-game stretch last year, the Rams haven't lost four in a row in one season since a seven-game skid to end 2011.
An 18-point deficit and no Reggie Wayne seemed to spell doom for the Indianapolis Colts last weekend.
For Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton, difficult took about 20 minutes to overcome.
The young Colts duo aim to lead their club to a third straight victory this Sunday when they play host to the struggling St. Louis Rams.
Indianapolis came out of its bye week with no Wayne, having lost the star wide receiver to a season-ending to a torn ACL in an Oct. 20 victory over Denver, and trailed by a 24-6 margin with 4:25 to play in the third quarter of a road game versus the rival Houston Texans.
That is when Luck and Hilton went to work, with the tandem hooking up for three touchdowns over the final quarter-plus of action, including the go-ahead nine-yard score with 4:00 minutes remaining.
Luck also hooked up with Hilton for touchdowns of 10 and 58 yards to complete a comeback that tied for the sixth-largest in franchise history.
"It's football. Anything happens, sometimes. That's why you have halftime and we were able to come in here and make corrections," noted Indy safety Antoine Bethea.
Luck threw for 271 yards, while Hilton tied a single-game franchise record with his three receiving touchdowns. He finished with a career-high seven receptions for 121 yards.
Tight end Coby Fleener added three receptions for 64 yards and also caught a two-point conversion pass following Hilton's third TD, while linebacker Pat Angerer had a game-high 12 tackles.
"I think we all stepped up," Hilton said. "When we lost '87' (Wayne), we knew we all had to come together and just make plays."
By doing so, the 6-2 Colts maintained a two-game lead over the 4-4 Tennessee Titans for first place in the AFC South. Indy still has two games left with Tennessee, including next Thursday's road test.
The Rams were unable to give the Colts some help last weekend, falling 28-21 to the visiting Titans. That gave St. Louis its third straight loss following a 3-3 start.
Making his second straight start in place of the injured Sam Bradford (knee), Kellen Clemens threw for 210 yards and a touchdown on 20-of-35 passing, but his late fumble helped set up Tennessee's go-ahead score with 2:54 to play.
"We turned it over twice to a good running football team like that that's playing good defense," said Fisher. "It's hard to win. Now granted, we got (turnovers), but we didn't take advantage of them."
Zac Stacey continued his breakout performance out of the backfield with a pair of rushing touchdowns and 127 yards on the ground while adding six receptions for 51 yards.
Jared Cook also recorded a TD reception in defeat, while cornerback Cortland Finnegan and safety Rodney McLeod had interceptions.
The Rams are set to visit the Colts for the first time since the 2005 season and Indianapolis has won two straight and three of the previous four meetings.
Luck continued to show he has the confidence and moxie to play a full four quarters. He has 13 touchdown passes to just three interceptions and last Sunday led his 10th career fourth quarter/overtime game-winning drive.
That surpassed Jake Plummer for the most in a quarterback's first two seasons since 1970.
He is also 10-2 at home in his career with 20 TDs and six interceptions.
"He's unbelievable," Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said of Luck. "When you look at the duress that he was under, the pressure that they were able to get on him and the hits, the way that he's always able to move on and put that behind him and play the next play, play the next series regardless of what's going on."
Hilton was a big part of that as the Colts played their first game without Wayne in 12 years. The wideout had a string of 189 consecutive starts snapped.
"It was very strange, very weird," Hilton said of not having Wayne out there. "And it showed in the first half that we weren't the same without him. But in the second half, we picked it up and guys stepped up and made plays."
Hilton leads the Colts with 533 receiving yards and his 34 catches are four back of Wayne for the team lead. Last weekend was his eighth career 100-yard receiving effort in 23 career games.
"T.Y. is a playmaker. Get the ball to T.Y. Every time he gets the ball, he makes plays," said Bethea.
While Hilton looks to step in for Wayne again this weekend, the Rams hope Stacy is the solution to their backfield that lost Steven Jackson to free agency this past offseason. Stacy opened the season slated behind Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead on the depth chart, but his 471 rushing yards leads the NFL since Week 5.
Stacy's two touchdowns were the first on the ground for St. Louis this season and he is the first Rams rookie to rush for 100 yards in consecutive games since Jackson in December of 2004.
And like Jackson, Stacy has shown an ability to make plays out of the backfield in the passing game with 13 receptions.
"That's one thing you have to be. You have to be versatile, coming out of the backfield, catching routes, whatever, just making plays," noted Stacy, whose Week 9 performance trailed only Jackson's 148 yards as the most by a rookie since the club moved to St. Louis in 1995.
Both Luck and Clemens figure to need their running backs this weekend given that their opponents can pressure the quarterback.
St. Louis has 11 sacks in its past two games and is tied for third in the NFL with 29 sacks on the season. Defensive end Robert Quinn leads the NFC and is fourth in the NFL with 10 sacks, while fellow end Chris Long has posted 5 1/2 sacks.
Quinn has 11 sacks in his past 10 games, while Long has 9 1/2 in his last 11 and 12 1/2 over his previous 14 meetings with an AFC opponent.
Defensive tackle Kendall Langford had a career-high two sacks last weekend for the Rams.
St. Louis' front will face one of the better current pass rushers in outside linebacker Robert Mathis, who leads the NFL with 11 1/2 sacks. That already matches his previous career high in a season, set in both 2005 and .08.
The 32-year-old Mathis, owner of 103 career sacks, has posted the most quarterback takedowns by a Colts player through the first eight games of the season since 1982
Guard Harvey Dahl (knee) has been ruled out for the Rams, while both tight end Lance Kendricks (hand) and quarterback Brady Quinn (hip) are listed as doubtful.
Running back Trent Richardson (ankle) is questionable for Indy after missing two days of practice this week. Defensive tackle Josh Chapman (knee), cornerback Josh Gordy (groin), safety Delano Howell (neck) and cornerback Gregory Toler (groin) will all miss the game.