First Impressions: St. Louis Rams

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 17: Nnamdi Asomugha #21 of the Oakland Raiders guards Leonard Little #91 of the St. Louis Rams at McAfee Coliseum December 17, 2006 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

It appears as though Sunday’s game is lining up nicely for the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders are four-point favorites to win even though they have lost five straight home openers. But the Rams are going on the road with a rookie quarterback and a streak of 12 straight losses to AFC teams and only six wins in the past 33 games. If ever there was a time to break the cycle of home losses to start the season, this appears to be it.

The last time the two teams faced off, the Rams beat the Raiders 20-0 in Oakland. The Raiders will be looking to assure that this history does not repeat itself. Steven Jackson actually went so far as to tell Sam Bradford, the Rams’ rookie quarterback, that it is fun to play in the Black Hole. The Raiders defense should post this comment on their lockers to give them the motivation needed to make sure that Bradford leaves the stadium with a much different perspective.

Jackson himself has a bruised knee and missed Rams practice on Wednesday. Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo said he is just banged up from his last game and hopes he’ll be ready to go this week. If Jackson is not at 100 percent for the game, then the Raiders shouldn’t have a problem containing the Rams rushing attack. But the Raiders allowed over 200 yards rushing against the Titans and you can bet the Rams will feed Jackson a lot of balls in an effort to keep the pressure off of Sam Bradford. Jackson is a legit weapon in the offense and he is a pounder who is capable of getting better as the game goes on. Jackson ran the ball 22 times in the Rams’ season opener and added four catches. He had 87 total yards.

Meanwhile Bradford has capable receivers on the working on his side, including Mark Clayton and Danny Amendola. Both are fast and elusive, and both were big time contributors to their offense last week as they combined for 16 catches for 187 yards. They averaged over 11 yards-per-catch though neither made a trip to the end zone. This week they will look to change that, but Clayton could end up being shut down by Raiders’ cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha who completely silenced Titans’ wide out Kenny Britt in week one.

The Rams also have to very good young tackles on their offensive line. Rodger Saffold, a rookie from Indiana who won the left tackle job right out of camp, beating out the Rams’ current starter at right tackle, their first-round pick from 2009, Jason Smith. These two guys are young, but they are also competent enough to keep their quarterback clean in this contest if the Raiders defense does not bring their A-game this week.

For all we know about the Raiders and the Rams thus far, this could very well end up being a 13-13 tie. The Rams defense isn’t great like that of the Titans though, so it should be a more competitive contest. The Raiders have got to prove they can move the ball and produce points against this unit. If they don’t then you may as well go jump off that bridge you wanted to jump off of Sunday night.

Chris Long will make his coliseum debut, the son of former Raiders great Howie Long, although his father was mostly an L.A. Raider during his stay. His father’s accolades are a mile and a half long and Howie is still a Raider at heart and Raider Nation will always have a soft spot for Howie no matter who his son plays for. The young Long looked to be following in his father’s footsteps last week as he disrupted the Cardinals offensive line all game long last week. Man, it’s been a long time since I’ve written that many “longs” in one paragraph. Chris definitely has the capabilities to make what appears to be a weak offensive line for the Raiders look bad again this week. Those tackles better study their tape this week.

“I think Coach has a lot of confidence in us, that our blitzes will hit home and that we’ll be in the right gaps and doing the right things,” Long said. “I think that’s a good sign. And we like that, when Coach has a lot of faith in us. It’s fun to fly around and hit the quarterback and get after it.”

Jason Campbell will be hoping that Long doesn’t “get after” anything this week as Oakland looks to bounce back from a devastating start to the season where they were supposed to turn things around. However, you can bet your bottom dollar that Campbell will be paying close attention to where number 72 for the Rams is lined up this week. Campbell has a good arm and good instincts, but those attributes do him no good if the line cannot keep people off of his back.

Oshiomogho Atogwe and James Laurinaitis are two more Rams’ defenders to keep an eye on this week. Last week the free safety from Stanford, Atogwe, had eight solo tackles and a forced fumble as he flew around the Edward Jones Dome. Laurinaitis, their middle linebacker, had five solo tackles but is a player who is coming into his own much like the defensive end, Long. Both of these guys could impact the effectiveness of the Raiders offense this week in addition to Long.

All in all, the Raiders very well should win this game. The game the Rams’ played last week was competitive against the Cardinals, but some suspect that this division is the worst in the league this year and those two teams should compete with each other. The Raiders actually should win this game by at least seven points if it was to be played on paper. But the game is not played on paper and it could be a trap game for the Raiders if they come in “overconfident” like they think they did against the Titans last week.

Last week, I thought the Titans would win a close game, 28-24. I was close on the Titans final tally, 38, but I thought we’d see a heck of a lot more productivity from the new Hue Jackson offense. This week, I’m going to stick my neck out and say the Raiders are set to go off like a Tony Stark’s “Jericho” missile. That’s not just positive thinking folks; that is a gut feeling.

Prediction: 38-10 Raiders over the Rams at the Coliseum.

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The game didn’t sell out in time for the blackout deadline so it won’t be shown on TV locally. Don’t miss out on your chance to watch the Raiders get their first win of the season this Sunday. Pick up your game tickets now from Darkside Tickets. To view the Rams vs Raiders page CLICK HERE or just click the tab in the header at the top of the page. There are still seats available under $50 and field level tickets around $100. Go out and make the Coliseum as loud for the Rams as LP Field was for the Raiders last week. Give your team a true home field advantage by being a part of Oakland’s twelfth man.

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