Sunday, January 19, 2014
Rams-related notes: Championship round
By Nick Wagoner
ST. LOUIS -- In each of the first two weeks of the postseason we've looked at the St. Louis Rams' ties to playoff teams and players. This week, we'll do it again as the Rams know the two NFC championship combatants well and have relationships with players on the AFC side, too.
At the end, I'll offer this week's edition of picks you didn't ask for with reasons behind those selections. For now, a quick look at the two title games.
- If there's one thing Rams fans can take away from this postseason, it's that the team's commitment to establishing the run game doesn't preclude them from being a legitimate contender. It's worth noting that in seven of the eight postseason games that have been played so far, the team with more rushing yards has won the game. It's supposed to be a passing league, and though there are elite quarterbacks still playing, even Tom Brady's Patriots and Peyton Manning's Broncos relied heavily on the run last weekend to get to the AFC title game. A similar trend developed last season, too.
- Of course, considering that San Francisco and Seattle are two of the remaining teams, nobody who follows the NFC West should be surprised that the run game has been front and center in the NFC playoffs. Those two teams have centered their offenses on the run game and consistently hand it off to Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore. The Rams know full well what dealing with Seattle's zone run scheme and San Francisco's power man system can do to a defense.
- In many ways, the Rams have been building their roster in a similar vein to Seattle and San Francisco. That means loading up the defense and using a power run game. Obviously, the team's 1-5 mark in the NFC West this year means that it has a ways to go to be on the level of the Seahawks and 49ers. While Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson have been a bit up and down this season, both have showed the ability to make plays when needed to complement the run game. If nothing else, these playoffs should serve as yet another reason the Rams need to continue to build up their offense. When the Niners need play in the passing game, they can go to Vernon Davis or Anquan Boldin. The Rams haven't reached that point yet in terms of complementing the run game. It's a necessity moving forward if they want to match and eventually overtake the NFC Championship Game participants.
- The Rams were 0-4 against San Francisco and Seattle and only really came close to a win in that "Monday Night Football" loss to the Seahawks. That's a game the Rams should have won and likely would have with the services of quarterback Sam Bradford. They were blown out in the season finale against Seattle and in both meetings with the Niners.
- On the AFC side, the Rams didn't see either team during the regular season but did play Denver in the preseason. The Rams actually played quite well against the Broncos in that preseason game, especially the first half with the starters in.
- In terms of former Rams who will be on the field in the conference championship games, there will be plenty on the AFC side but not much in the way of the NFC teams. Here's the breakdown:
San Francisco - Safety Craig Dahl
Seattle - None
Denver - Linebacker Paris Lenon
New England - Receiver Danny Amendola, tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, tight end Matthew Mulligan
- And now for this week's edition of picks you didn't ask for. Believe it or not, I went 4-0 last week and 7-1 for the playoffs. You know the saying about the blind squirrel and whatnot. Also, I'm cheating a bit since these picks are straight up and not against the spread.
- Before the season, the bosses here asked each of us to provide picks for the season. I chose Seattle over Denver in the Super Bowl. I know, not exactly going out on a limb there but I'd rather be predictable and correct than edgy and wrong. I have to say now that both teams are a game away from the Super Bowl, I don't like that pick as much as I did before the season or even during it. I believe the Niners are probably playing better than any team left in the field and I have my doubts about Denver's defense. That said, I'm not going to stray from those picks here. I believe San Francisco has the ability to go to Seattle and win but it's hard to erase the memory of the past two times the Niners have played there. The home-field advantage is real for the Seahawks, and though Wilson hasn't played well in more than a month, I think he can make a play or two at crunch time to get the Seahawks through to the Super Bowl. As for the Broncos, I feel less confident in continuing with them but it bodes well for that offense that the weather looks good and the offense should be able to put up points. I went with chalk last week and it worked out which means one of the road teams are almost certain to pull the upset but I'll stick with it this week. So there it is: Broncos over Patriots and Seahawks over 49ers.
- Regardless of outcome, here's hoping these matchups live up to the hype and we all get to watch the highest caliber football these teams are capable of. Enjoy, everybody.