Free NFL Pick: Kansas City at St. Louis 12-19-2010

December 18, 2010

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Kansas City Chiefs at St. Louis Rams

Sunday December 19th, 2010 1:00 PM EST

Line: St. Louis -2

Overview:

The Rams are in a position to take hold of the division. With the 49ers being blown away by the Chargers and the Seahawks playing the Falcons this week, a Rams victory would all but guarantee sole possession of first. A loss would seemingly put them right back where they were last week. The Rams have been the bright spot in a terrible division. If any team is deserving of going to the playoffs from the embarrassing NFC West, it is certainly the Rams.

The Chiefs are in a similar position. At 8-5, the Chiefs have the 8-6 Chargers breathing down their neck. A win would put a one game buffer between the teams. The Chiefs finish this season with two home games, so stealing one on the road is imperative, as it allows for error down the road. The Chiefs have underperformed on the road and the Rams have overachieved at home, which accounts for the spread.

Keys to the Game:

  • This game depends on how Matt Cassel holds up. Cassel had an emergency appendectomy last week and was unable to play in the game on the following Sunday. He remains questionable, but the Chiefs will likely do everything they can to get him on the field. Without his services last week, the Chiefs were shut out 31-0. He not only is the focal point of the passing game, but he forces defenses to play the run honestly. The Chiefs cannot win without Matt Cassel under center, so if his progression takes a turn for the worse, it is safe to take the Rams in this one.
  • Chris Long, Fred Robbins, C.J. Ah You, and James Hall account for 23 sacks this season. The defensive line in St. Louis has taken great strides this season. While they have been instrumental at getting to the quarterback, they also wreak havoc in the back field. The Rams are a better run stopping team than they are a pass defending team, but they will need to have their best performance of the season to stop the Chiefs and their running game.
  • Dwayne Bowe has been ice cold the last two games. Even so, if Cassel comes back he has a chance to get back on track this week. Bowe has 14 receiving touchdowns this year and can take over a game at times. Champ Bailey may have been able to shut him down, but the last time I checked, the Rams didn’t have the best cover corner of the last generation on roster. Bowe should be effective this week and haul in at least one score.
  • Sam Bradford has had back to back games with no touchdowns. It’s about time Bradford showed that he is still a rookie quarterback. That being said, he could get out of his slump on Sunday when he finally gets to go in front of his home crowd. He has a solid offensive line and virtually no weapons, but still manages to put up big numbers at home. Bradford should be able to have a big game against the unimpressive Chiefs pass defense.

Key Matchup:

Jamaal Charles Vs. Steven Jackson

  • While Thomas Jones also deserves some recognition, it is unnecessary to feature him in this matchup. Teams are going to have to account for the pass if Cassel comes back. Charles has blazing speed and since nobody on the Rams’ defensive line is going to be able to keep up with him, the Rams could be in trouble. Charles is likely to break to the second level, which isn’t a liability for the Rams, but certainly isn’t the strength of their team. Look for him to have a monster outing.
  • Jackson is coming off two big games. The Chiefs were just wrecked on the ground last week and showed how vulnerable they can be against a stout running game. Jackson could easily take over this football game if the Chiefs refuse to load up the box. Romeo Crennel needs to devise a scheme that is going to pressure Bradford, but can survive the wear and tear Jackson shells out to defenses. Look for Jackson to hit 25 or so carries this week.

Wrap Up:

The Rams have played very well at home this season. Both teams are in playoff mode and while the Chiefs have struggled somewhat on the road this season, I can’t help but think that they are simply the better football team. With playoff implications embedding themselves in this game for both teams, it appears as though the Chiefs have more to lose with a loss. I’m taking the Chiefs to win outright, despite playing in front of the St. Louis crowd.

Free NFL Pick: Kansas City +2


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