TJP:Talk about Sam Bradford’s development in year 3. Is he taking the steps to become an elite quarterback?
RF:“Elite” gets thrown around all the time to describe quarterbacks on a week-in, week-out basis. Hell, they are still calling Tony Romo and Philip Rivers “elite,” even though they have 25 interceptions between them, are both outside the Top 10 in passer rating, and have losing records so far this season. In St. Louis, everyone really considers this to be Bradford’s second year in the league, losing most of the 2011 season to injury and incompetence on the part of the front office and head coach.
With that being said, Bradford does appear to be progressing nicely as our franchise quarterback. Bradford is currently ranked third, behind Peyton Manning and Matthew Stafford, in QBR for fourth quarters and overtime this season. This comes after going 26 for 39 passing for 275 yards, with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions against the San Francisco 49ers, whose defense is top ranked in passing yards allowed (4th), touchdowns (T-1st), and opposing QB Rating (4th). His stats are not comparable to Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady, but his top three receivers are comprised of two previously-cut practice squad players (Gibson and Amendola, who missed 3.5 games with a separated SC joint) and a 4th rounder from this year’s draft. He has completed 60.0% or more of his passes in 6 out of 9 games, and finally has a majority of his starting offensive line back, after playing behind a third-string left tackle and fourth-string left guard against the New England Patriots in London. Plus, he has led the team to a 2-0-1 record in the toughest division in the NFL.
TJP:Is the Rams defense as vulnerable as the stats seem to indicate, or can they surprise with a big performance on Sunday?
RF:Statistics can be very, very misleading, especially since the New England and Green Bay double header before the Rams bye week. Aside from those two games, the Rams defense was allowing only 18.8 points per game, never allowed 30+ points by the opposing team, and give up only 5 passing passing touchdowns. However, allowing 646 passing yards, 7 passing touchdowns, and 75 points to the Patriots and Packers is going to kill any defenses statistics.
There is clearly a common thread in that huge discrepancy in defensive performances. Both teams are passing oriented offenses with three to four viable receivers on the team, with 4 out of the Top 25 leaders in touchdown receptions coming from either Green Bay or New England. Both team also have the luxury of an MVP, Super Bowl-winning quarterback taking the snaps, with the two combining for 5,028 passing yards, 43 touchdowns, and only 8 interceptions this season. Brady and Rodgers are both completing over 64% of their passing attempts, and have quarterback ratings above 100.0 this season.
Sanchez has 1,860 passing yards (25th), 10 touchdowns (T-22nd), completes only 52.0% of passing attemtps (33rd), and has a 70.4 QB Rating on the season (30th). It shouldn’t be a “surprise” when Sanchez and/or Tebow are not effective.
TJP:How about a prediction?
RF:The St. Louis Rams run essentially the same gameplan as the San Francisco 49er and Seattle Seahawks, with a slightly lesser defense. Running backs get 25-30 carries and Bradford throws quick passes designed to move the chains and progress slowly down the field. The Jets have lost to both teams, first in a 34-0 shutout to the 9ers, then a 28-7 beatdown by the ‘Hawks, whereas the Rams are 1-0-1 against those same teams in the NFC West. With Amendola back from injury, Givens likely to be out of the Fisher doghouse, and Jackson going up against the Jets’ 30th ranked rushing defense, I can easily see this game ending in a similar manner. Tebow Time? 27-10, Rams.
Thanks to Nathan for taking the time this week. Check out ramblinfan.com, he and his team do a great job covering the Rams.