Saturday - Oct 19, 2019

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Under the Microscope – St. Louis Rams

Overview
As I put together this week’s microscope, the St. Louis Rams presented me with a different picture than I expected.  I had the sense that the Rams offense had lost some of its punch this year, so I was a bit surprised to see that they are still the #1-ranked passing offense in the NFL.  My microscope also tells me that their defense has been impressive, especially against the pass.  The stats are padded somewhat by easy wins over creampuffs Arizona and Atlanta, but this offense still has the weapons to put up some big fantasy numbers.  Keep in mind, as well, that Marshall Faulk has been out for two weeks.

Team Stats (numbers in parentheses are NFL Ranking)
Category Yards/Game TD’s
Rushing Offense 92.4  (22) 5  (t9)
Passing Offense 275.2  (1) 8  (t8)
Rushing Defense 100.4  (13) 3  (t6)
Passing Defense 182.0  (8) 4  (t6)

Turnover Stats Upcoming Schedule
12 takeaways  (t8)
15 giveaways  (t29)
-3 overall  (t24)
7: Green Bay
8: @Pittsburgh

9: @San Francisco
10: Baltimore
11: @Chicago
12: @Arizona
13: Minnesota
14: @Cleveland
15: Seattle
16: Cincinnati

Schedule Analysis
St. Louis has the easiest schedule in the league, hands down.  Their run from week 11-16 is a fantasy owner’s dream – Minnesota is a good team, but they do give up points.  Seattle has played well, but that game could be an exciting late-season shootout as well.  All the rest should be easy wins against some of the league’s worst defenses.  If you have a player from this team, hang on to him.

Player Analysis

Marc Bulger, QB – I think we can safely say at this point that Bulger is capable of running this offense, and he will continue to do so unless he gets injured or has a string of very bad games.  Bulger has played well and put up some consistent passing stats, although he has thrown 5 INT’s in just 4 games.  Still, he is probably your best start at QB unless you have a Culpepper, Manning, or McNair on your team.  Look for his stats to improve when Marshall Faulk gets back.

Kurt Warner, QB – It appears as though Kurt Warner’s time has come and gone, at least as far as the Rams are concerned.  He just hasn’t looked like the same player in the last two years.  It may be attributable to a number of factors, including injuries to his throwing hand, and concussions.  Since there is still some chance he could play this year, Bulger owners should seek him out.  His price should be low, and you don’t want to be caught without him if Bulger goes down.

Marshall Faulk, RB – You did back up your #1 pick, didn’t you?  Well, even if you didn’t, Faulk should be returning just in time to hit the easy part of the Rams’ schedule.  Hopefully, you had Lamar Gordon or another backup who can get you through a few more weeks.  When Faulk makes it back, the Rams should be in good position to make a run to the playoffs.  Expect him to be a big part of it.

Lamar Gordon, RB – Gordon has been an adequate fill-in for Faulk, but he just doesn’t bring the receiving skill and play-making ability to the game that Faulk does.  When Faulk returns, Gordon may still receive some playing time to give Marshall a breather, but don’t expect enough stats to make it worth starting him.

Torry Holt, WR – Another year, another awesome string of games for Holt.  He is on pace to exceed his career best season in 2000, when he had 82 catches for 1635 yards.  Holt is entering the prime of his career, and should have many great seasons ahead of him.  Aside from a certain player with the initials M.H., there’s no better wideout to have on your team right now.

Isaac Bruce, WR – This 10-year vet has moved into more of a short, possession route receiver.  But in this offense, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Bruce is still a solid start for your fantasy squad, and he is capable of having a few big games this season.

Dane Looker, WR – Dane wha?  What did you call me?  This second-year pro didn’t catch a single pass last year, but he has put up points in every game this year and even has 2 TD’s.  Another surprise here revealed by the microscope – how did we get this far into the season and I’ve totally missed this guy?  Haven’t been reading the Shark Tank enough, I guess.  Anyway, Looker seems to be filling the role that Az Hakim had in the Rams’ offense.  He is worth a pickup if your receiver corps needs some work.

Cameron Cleeland, TE – It seemed Cleeland was destined for a good carrer in his rookie season when he caught 54 passes for the Saints.  But his numbers have steadily declined since that point, and now on his 3rd team in three years, he is not seeing the ball much.  Look elsewhere for a fantasy tight end.

Defense/Special Teams – The Rams are creating a lot of turnovers and keeping opponents out of the end zone.  While the return game is not the threat it was when Az Hakim was running back punts and kicks, there are still some chances here for a defensive score or two.  This unit is a decent pickup if your current defense is just not getting the job done.

The Bottom Line
The Rams are a team in turmoil, and a team that needs a healthy Marshall Faulk to really shine.  But despite not running at full capacity, the Mike Martz offensive machine just keeps chuggin’ along.  With a soft schedule down the stretch, expect to see this team in the playoffs.  And expect to see even better numbers than we’ve already seen from the offense.  When Faulk is on the field, this team gains a whole new dynamic, and causes problems for defenses.  Play your Rams.  Ride ’em to the playoffs.

Next Week … It’s about time we looked at an AFC East team, so I’ll turn the microscope’s gaze to the New England Patriots.  Much like Tony Holm, this team confuses me.  I think this week’s game in Miami will give us a good measuring stick of where they’re at.

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