This would seem like a dream matchup coming out of a bye week on paper for the suddenly surging St. Louis Rams. After their demolition of the Indianapolis Colts in Week 10, St. Louis took a brief hiatus in Week 11 to get geared up for the stretch run. Little did they know that their return to the field would actually bring more opportunity for a potential playoff berth with no other teams vying for the sixth and final playoff spot in the NFC distancing themselves beyond two games ahead of the Rams. Now their return to the gridiron to battle a Jay Cutler-less Chicago Bears team seems like the perfect way to keep their rekindled playoff hopes burning.
Without their starting signal caller in Sam Bradford, the Rams doing battle with the Bears will likely seem like a case of looking in the mirror. Chicago’s quarterback Josh McCown is similar to Kellen Clemens in that he is an over 30 journeyman just looking to keep the team afloat with tempered expectations while the starter mends. The Rams don’t have the fortunate anticipation of getting their starter back any time this season, but at least Clemens has shown an ability to manage the game and limit his turnovers since a rocky first couple of games under center.
But this game will likely not be much about the second-string quarterbacks as much as everyone wants it to be. This battle will likely be about two defenses that have been coming on of late and the teams’ respective running back who have been leading the cause in the absence of the starters under center.
Matt Forte’s year has been an up and down one with 100-plus yard performances followed by lackluster showings. The Rams’ run defense has ominously been on a similar pattern holding the Colts to a single-digit rushing total on their designed runs just a week after getting destroyed by Chris Johnson and the Tennessee Titans on the ground. Hopefully the Rams can find some much-needed consistency and control the line of scrimmage defensively on Sunday.
Zac Stacy hasn’t been running long enough to be inconsistent, but even if he had it’s unlikely the rookie out of Vanderbilt would be very up and down. His carries have been building in recent weeks right alongside his confidence, and the coaching staff trusts him in crucial moments to grind out the clock and hang onto the ball. Another 20-plus carry outing is likely in store this week as St. Louis will need to continue their ball control attack if they hope to add another win to their total.
The Rams’ recent surge in defense has allowed their run stuff ranking to rise to 18th in the NFL while the Bears remain a dismal 31st in the league in that category. Needless to say, even though the dome will protect the teams from the elements this game is likely to be an old school affair.
Perception might not say this, but both of these squads are on a very similar level. Clearly the distance between 4-6 and 5-5 points that out quite apparently, and this game will likely come down to a nail-biting finish with both sides vying for that elusive final playoff spot. Something tells me the Rams could have new life after this Sunday.