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Week 15 – Rams vs Texans

This Sunday the Rams take on the 6-7 Houston Texans.  The game will be played at St Louis in the Edward Jones Dome.  The Texans have an average 3-3 record on the road.  Of course the Rams have only won a single game all season, so this type of ‘average’ road record would be a step up for us.  The Texans have a high powered offense and perhaps the best receiver in the NFL in Andre Johnson.  They are coming off of a winning effort against the Seahawks and have said they don’t plan on taking the Rams lightly.  Let’s take a look at both teams and put together a strategy for a Rams win.

RAMS

First a negative, I am disgusted hearing that the Rams let Incognito go.  He’s a tough as nails offense lineman that will not be easily replaced.  Yes, he has been hit with personal fouls through out the season.  So what!  This is football.  When a player with a winning attitude sees his team losing over and over he is very likely to feel pissed.  In my book that is a positive.  The fouls he committed were not egregious.  No one was hurt or injured.  He clearly has not been happy playing for the Rams.  To solve this is a simple matter.  It’s called coaching.  It’s called teaching.  It is called supporting the player until the rest of team can get to where it needs to be.

The departure of Incognito leaves an already embattled and depleted O-line one link weaker.  It’s not confirmed, but it looks like the front three will be Mark Setterstrom at left guard, a possibly weakened Jason Brown at center (missed some practice with the flu), and John Greco taking over for Incognito at right guard.  If these key players don’t have a tremendous game, any other analysis really becomes moot.  Stephen Jackson has got to be able to get out of the back field.  One of the Texan’s linebackers, Brian Cushing, has never played against Jackson and is nursing a sore foot.  With Jackson’s ability and some good play calling, this could really give the Rams an advantage.  Whoever starts at QB simply needs to play conservative and limit turnovers.

Defensively, it’s about trying to limit wide receiver Andre Johnson.  The Texans will try to run the ball a lot, but they are not effective in their running game.  This will be RB Arian Foster’s second game in a starting role and he was most effective last week against the Seahawks receiving.  In addition, FB Vonta Leach has been down with the flu also.  He should start on Sunday, but physically he could be in a weakened state.  Again, defensively the Rams have got to work on shutting down the passing game.  The Rams should deploy a 3 man rush and overload the passing lanes.  They need to double Johnson as much as possible.  If the Rams get hurt by the Texan’s rushing game, then it is something we can live with and probably overcome.

The rest of the preview is after the jump!

TEXANS

The Texan’s offense is a power house, but it is not without holes.  Quarterback Matt Schaub is starting his 14th game.   Schaub ranks in the top six in the NFL in attempts (3rd), completions (2nd), percentage (2nd), yards (4th), touchdowns (5th) and rating (6th).   He has seven 300-yard games.

This Sunday Schaub will play with a harness on his left shoulder, which was dislocated and popped back into place two weeks ago.    This will hamper his mobility and could affect his performance.  Schaub’s main target is wide receiver Andre Johnson.  Johnson is leading the league in yardage for the second season in a row.  If his receiving stats stay on pace, he is currently looking to out perform NFL greats Marvin Harrison and the legendary Jerry Rice.  During this Sunday’s game look for the Texans to move Johnson around. He can line up on either side. He can line up in the slot or he can go in motion. The offense is designed for defenses that try to muzzle their best player.

The Texans are 6-7, not 13-0, so there is more to the story.  The Texans are 21st in penalties, 20th in rushing yards allowed, and 29th in offensive rushing yards gained.  (The latter 2 are most notable in relationship to the Rams game since the Rams are primarily a rushing team and so they can focus their defense more strictly against the pass.)   Again, the Texans have a new RB and a flu riddled FB.  The Texans are highly dependent upon the passing game.  It is hard to be effective in the NFL with a 1 dimensional team.  The Rams and Texans both know this from experience.

Otherwise, the Texans are basically a healthy team.  There are a few minor injuries (DE Mario Williams will be playing with a sore shoulder and a strained groin muscle and OLB Brian Cushing didn’t practice on Wednesday or Thursday because of a sore foot), but everyone should be ready to go on Sunday.

RAMS STRATEGY

1 The Rams need to run Jackson at Cushing.  Cushing’s inexperience against Jackson and his sore foot create an advantage.

2 The Rams need to show some diversity in their running game.  Other RBs, like Gado et all, need to be brought in regularly to give the defense different looks and to give Jackson rest.

3 We must have passing receptions at critical times.  Most teams rush so they can pass more effectively.  The opposite is true for the Rams.

4 Focus on defending the passing game.  The Texans are offensively 1 dimensional and Schaub is not at 100%.

5 We have got to create turnovers.  Look at the SF Niners victory against the Cardinals this past week.  Stripped ball after stripped ball set them up for a decisive win against the Cards.

6 A little luck.  The Rams are said to be the 4th unluckiest team in the NFL.  We really need the ball to bounce our way for a change.


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