When we sat down to write preseason predictions, I was not exactly sunny, but I thought we would be able to pick up at least two wins on the season by now. (How much do you want that game against the execrable Redskins back? That loss keeps me up at night.) And I thought that by this point in the season, the team would be able to really understand and execute the Spagnuolo/Shurmur gameplan with some degree of consistency and competency.
So even with those limited expectations, this season has been a disappointment so far. But only mildly. We weren’t going to be a playoff team, and the question is not “when does this team click,” whether it’s week 3 or 5 or 8, but “does this team click.” At all.
Do they start to show a semblance of being able to run an NFL offense? At least in the running game, we can say yes.
Can they shut NFL teams down on defense? At times yes, but the lack of pass rush has really hurt by allowing quarterbacks to expose weaknesses elsewhere.
Perhaps most importantly, do they have a slow-cooking formula for winning? At the outset of the season, Steve Spagnuolo proclaimed that the Rams would become a team that could play power football, could run the ball and stop the run. To a certain extent, they’ve made significant progress toward all three of those goals. But passing the ball, and stopping the pass, has been a complete mystery so far. As has winning games.
With that in mind, let’s look ahead to this week’s matchup, and look back to what we wrote in the preseason in anticipation of this game.
Week 8: The Murder City Cup
|Week||Date||Opponent||LY: Record||LY: Points||3Y: Record||3Y: Points|
|8||Nov 1||at Detroit Lions||0-16||268/517||10-38||956/1157|
|Rams games vs opponent, last three seasons:|
|Week 5, 2006: Won 41-34 at Home|
Would you feel good about this image? (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
All season long, the Rams and Lions’ defense circled each other like two turds in a toilet bowl of shame, each reaching a new low only to be circled by the other. The Rams got just a little less crappy in the last four games of the season, allowing the Lions to sink to the very bottom of the worst defenses of the last 15 years.
And so both teams made long-needed changes, to their executive trees as well as to their coaching staffs, and both teams ended up circling around high-profile defensive coordinators, with the Titans’ Jim Schwartz charged with the rebuild in Detroit. However, the rebuilding has taken a much different route up there.
Where the Rams hired up-and-coming coaches, promoting several successful young coordinators one rung up the ladder, the Lions filled the primary gaps around Schwartz with failed head coaches looking for redemption as coordinators: Scott Linehan and Gunther Cunningham. Ask Jim Haslett how that worked out.
Where the Rams invested heavily in big bodies, signing Jason Brown and drafting Jason Smith and James Laurinaitis, the Lions have brought in skill players like Matt Stafford, TE Brandon Pettigrew, and WR Dennis Northcutt. They raided other rosters for elder linebackers in Larry Foote and Julian Peterson, but did not make any significant upgrades to their deeply eroded offensive and defensive lines.
This game pits these two re-organizational philosophies against each other … and the Rams should emerge the clear winners, physically. As they did last season, the Lions will continue to struggle to generate pass rush or stop the run at the point of attack. I see a massive difference in possession time in this game — 10 minutes or more — in favor of St Louis. The only thing that can keep the Rams from turning this game into their first blowout of the year would be a continued red zone inefficiency. Even accounting for some field goals where we should have touchdowns, I see a pretty handy 27-14 Rams win, heading into the Bye week.
While I would love to see this prediction come true, we have seen so little physicality from this Rams team so far, that I really have to question the truth of it. Especially with the offensive line missing its favorite bad boy, Richie Incognito.
But if ever there was a week for the Rams to turn from “bullied” to “bully,” it’s this one.