Free NFL Pick: St. Louis at New Orleans 12-12-2010

December 11, 2010

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St. Louis Rams at New Orleans Saints

Sunday December 12th, 2010 4:05 EST

Line: New Orleans -9

Overview:

Say what you will about the NFC West, it remains one of the most intriguing matchups in the NFL. The 6-6 Rams are tied for first place with the Seattle Seahawks. They are thinking playoffs and have had one of the biggest organizational turn arounds in recent memory. They have improved on both sides of the ball and have won back to back games on the road, which has been a weak point for them this season. They will be tested this Sunday, as they take on the defending champion New Orleans Saints.

The Saints are 9-3 and have won their last five games. Even so, the Saints remain unpredictable, suffering double digit losses to the Cardinals and Browns. The Saints could easily miss the playoffs if they suffer a set back at this crucial point in the season. They are involved in a three way race for the NFC South and with the Packers, Bears, Falcons, Buccaneers, Eagles, and Giants all competing for five spots, someone is going to be left out. While it doesn’t appear to be the Saints, dropping games they should easily win would be a good way to find themselves on the outside looking in.

Keys to the Game:

  • Drew Brees has hit 300 yards in five of his last six games. He has only missed the 250 yard mark one time this season. Even so, his 16 interceptions leave something to be desired. It was Brees’ multiple interceptions that proved to be instrumental in all three of their losses. Brees is an elite NFL quarterback and has had to take on an increased role with the injuries his running backs have suffered. Even so, he can’t find himself becoming the turnover machine that rendered four picks to the Browns at home.
  • What Sam Bradford has done to the Rams is nothing short of incredible. The Rams did a decent job of giving Bradford a solid offensive line, but failed to provide him with any sort of weapons. After Marc Clayton suffered a season ending injury, Bradford was forced to utilize Danny Amendola as his number one outlet. Bradford has lethal accuracy and makes the most of his targets, but it is his leadership that has been so beneficial for the Rams. He has both sides of the ball seeking victory. Bradford knows his receivers are outmatched this Sunday, so as long as he plays safe effective football, there is no reason the Rams should find themselves in a blow out loss.
  • The Saints’ backfield was in shambles just weeks ago, but surviving the Pierre Thomas Reggie Bush injuries has created the three headed monster that lies in the Saints’ backfield today. With Chris Ivory filling in with success, the Saints now have three running backs that can get it done. Pierre Thomas can ease back into the lineup, as Ivory has proven that he can handle the load and split carries with Bush, ensuring Thomas does not suffer a set back after his long awaited return.
  • Steven Jackson can smell the playoffs, a destination he has not reached since his rookie season. After the long drought, he is undoubtedly hungry for a division title. Jackson ran for 102 yards last week and will look to have another big game this week. The Saints are 3rd in the NFL at defending the pass, but are a middle of the road team at stopping the run. With so much at stake, it would not be surprising to see Jackson hit 30 carries. He is the definition of a workhorse back and provides stability for a rookie quarterback.

Key Matchup:

Chris Long, Fred Robbins, and James Hall Vs. Drew Brees

  • You may not even know who two of the three aforementioned Rams’ defensive linemen are, but if you are a Saints fan you are likely to find out. The three have combined for 19 sacks this season. They are largely responsible for the recent improvements on the Rams defense as a unit. By getting to the quarterback on their own accord, they make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. The Rams can refrain from being overly aggressive by getting pressure with four.
  • Drew Brees is likely to have a huge game, so keeping his stats manageable is crucial for the Rams. If they can get pressure on Brees, he becomes human. The teams that have been effective against him have forced turnovers by hitting him with pressure. The pressure can come from anywhere on the Line, so the Saints will not be able to slide protection towards any given player. Having running backs who are more experienced in pass coverage could pay dividends for the Saints this week.

Wrap Up:

The spread is greater in this game than the Atlanta Vs. Carolina game. Both teams are fighting to remain in the playoff picture, so it is likely we will see both teams perform well. While I think the Saints are a better team, the Rams have only lost two games by such a margin, the same number suffered by the Saints. I think the Saints should win, but the Rams deserve to be better than 9 point underdogs.

Free NFL Pick: St. Louis +9


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