by Steve Geller, firstname.lastname@example.org,posted Dec 14 2013 11:19AM
The Saints are coming off a dominating win over division rival Carolina, which made Cam Newton and Co. look like a litter of kittens. This week the Black and Gold are back on the road where they are 3-3 on the year.
While the Saints are clearly a different team away from home, this week their opponent's house has a roof just like the Superdome. St. Louis has given them problems in the past though. There are only two teams in the NFL which Drew Brees has never had a 300 yard passing game against. They are the Saints and the Rams!
With so much still on the line for New Orleans; I expect a determined, focused and experienced squad to get the best of a herd of youthful Rams that are lost and still looking to find their way.
PREDICTION: I like the Black & Gold in this one 27 – 16.
Now here is who I'll be watching to be difference makers in Sunday's tilt:
LT Charles Brown
Brown has done a solid job over the last few weeks of protecting the quarterback against some tough pass rushers in the Seahawks & Panthers, but things don't get any easier this week as he will go toe-to-toe with defensive end Robert Quinn (see below).
The Rams D thrives on pressuring the QB and creating turnovers, and the entire Saints offensive line will be tested. If Brown can neutralize Quinn though, Dr. Drew will have tons of time to operate and perform surgery on a young St. Louis secondary.
RB Pierre Thomas
The Rams defense has allowed a league worst 9.4 yards per play this season on screen passes, so Thomas should have a huge day for the Black & Gold. He is one of the best in the biz at making a catch and being patient, waiting for his blockers to set up lanes to burst through.
Thomas has 64 receptions on 70 targets this year for 441 yards and 3 scores to go along with his 500 yards rushing and 1 TD. I expect him to be the X factor in this game after being contained in his previous 2 outings versus Seattle & Carolina.
S Kenny Vacarro
I gave Vacarro the nickname "The Assassin" in training camp for his for his aggressive, hard hitting style of play, and he hasn't disappointed though his rookie campaign so far.
He has been physical with opposing wide receivers, chucking them as they try and get off the line of scrimmage as well as coming up and providing help against the run. After some grumbling and mumbling from some fans about the Saints first round pick this year, Vaccaro has been playing like the real deal and meshes with defensive Rob Ryan's scheme and attitude perfectly.
DE Robert Quinn
When you look at this guy's numbers; you'll want to know why you haven't heard more about Quinn, and what he's doing this season. The 2011 first round draft pick is just punishing the opposition with 13 sacks to go along with 6 forced fumbles. BRUTAL!
If he starts to abuse Charles Brown, expect the Saints to give their left tackle some help. That may help free up some others to unload on Brees. As a unit, the Rams defense has 38 sacks to go along with 24 takeaways. If Quinn and the rest of the St. Louis D can disrupt what Drew & Krewe want to do on offense, they have legitimate shot of pulling off a stunner.
RB Zac Stacy
Not much love was given to the big bruiser coming out of Vanderbilt, but the Rams scouts saw something since they used a 5ht round draft pick on Stacy this year. With Steven Jackson bolting for Atlanta in free agency a huge void was left in the St Louis rushing attack, but the "Zac Attack" has filled it nicely.
So far Stacy has gained 721 yards this season with 5 touchdowns and average 4.1 yards per carry. He is 5 ft 8 and 224 pounds and would dazzle you with speed, but his compact, bulky frame makes him difficult to tackle. The Rams lean on him big time to provide their offensive punch since they've lost starting QB Sam Bradford for the season with a torn ACL.
TE Jared Cook
Losing QB Sam Bradford along with inconsistency amongst the receiving core has been the reason St. Louis's passing attack has been less than stellar. They are 26th out of 32 teams in the NFL passing the football, and Cook is their top receiver.
Back-up turned starter Kellen Clemens relies on his tight end as Cook is averaging 59.3 yards per game over these last three contests and has one touchdown. The Saints present a huge challenge though as they are just giving up 199 passing yards per game and rank eighth in the league against the tight end position, giving up just 46.1 yards per game to them.