NFL Preseason Picks: St. Louis Rams

JIMMY’S PICKS

NFC EAST: New York Giants 10-6, Washington Redskins 9-7, Dallas Cowboys 8-8, Philadelphia Eagles 6-10

NFC SOUTH: Atlanta Falcons 13-3, New Orleans Saints 11-5, Carolina Panthers 7-9, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5-11

NFC WEST: Seattle Seahawks 12-4

ST. LOUIS RAMS

Today we gaze upon St. Louis, where the Rams are working out some long-standing kinks in the preseason to get ready for their 2013 campaign. Last year, St. Louis looked like they were still experiencing some growing pains as they finished off the season at a record of 7-8-1. With a pretty good-looking draft, and the upside of young quarterback Sam Bradford, the once-Greatest Show on Turf hopes to improve on its misfortunes from 2012.

The Rams made waves in the NFL when they drafted Tavon Austin out of West Virginia in April. Austin has incredible speed, quickness and a natural big-playmaking ability. He will be a valuable weapon for Bradford as he tries to make that leap into the upper echelons of NFL signal callers. However, it seems as though Bradford can never catch a break: injuries, coaching changes and lack of surrounding talent has kept him at bay. But now with the addition of Austin, he may finally have his go-to guy. The loss of Steven Jackson is tremendous for this team. With Jackson on the field, the steady running game set the foundation for a dynamic offense. Not taking anything away from new lead man Daryl Richardson, but not many players can fill the shoes of Steven Jackson. It will be interesting to see what Jeff Fisher has up his sleeve to ignite the rebuilt Rams offense.

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A weakened run game and depleted secondary puts more pressure on Laurinaitis and the front seven.

The Rams defense was exceptional in 2012, tied for first with sacks and a strong linebacking core and secondary to boot. Expect a bit of a fall off the throne in 2013, as the Rams lost both of their starting safeties. A solid defense is the perfect preset for a solid team, and the Rams are fortunate enough to have that. In an era where points are abundant, the teams that achieve greatness are the ones that are competent on defense.

Prediction:

I see the Rams staying mediocre in 2013 and posting a record of 7-9, not much of a deviation from 2012. The Rams are a team still in the rebuilding phase. Gone are the days of Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and Torry Holt. They must ditch that old persona and find a new identity. There is no shame in trying to leave one’s past behind, especially when you are trying to reach that steeple once again. Look for St. Louis to be a very good team in 2015. But this season, look for the Rams to be just another one in the herd.

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NFL Preseason Picks: Atlanta Falcons

JIMMY’S PICKS

NFC EAST: Washington Redskins 9-7, Dallas Cowboys 8-8, Philadelphia Eagles 6-10, New York Giants 10-6

NFC SOUTH: New Orleans 11-5

ATLANTA FALCONS 

Atlanta’s 2012 season ended in a disappointing loss to the white-hot Colin Kaepernick and the dominant San Francisco 49ers. It again seemed as though Matt Ryan can’t produce when the biggest moments are upon him. During the regular season, the Falcons were an absolute force, putting offensive numbers on teams that were ridiculously impressive. They only lost by more than a touchdown once — in a huge upset to the Carolina Panthers in Week 14. Roddy White and Julio Jones quickly morphed into the hottest wide receiver tandem in the NFL. But only one stigma stuck at the end: it just seems that when the going gets tough, the Falcons don’t have an answer.

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Jones and the dynamic offense gets one more year out of Tony Gonzalez. Can they finally make it over their postseason peak in 2013?

From the second that Matt Ryan came into the NFL from Boston College, he hit the ground running. Since he has been the Falcons quarterback they have never missed the playoffs, meaning they have also never posted a losing record. His mature demeanor and highlight-reel talent have provided Atlanta with consistent brilliance over the years. With the combination of Roddy White and Julio Jones – as well as keeping Tony Gonzalez – the Falcons offense supplies the team with dynasty-like talent. As long as they can produce with the fervor that they did in 2012, and with Steven Jackson providing even the smallest contribution — something he is more than capable of producing — the Falcons will dominate almost all of their opponents.

If the Falcons have a good enough defense to keep up with their offense, this team will go places. They have a relatively solid defensive backfield headlined by corners Marcus Trufant and Asante Samuel who provide a veteran touch on both sides of the box. Osi Umenyoira will help create a strong pass rush from the right side, which should free up other players on the line. If this defense holds opponents to roughly 25 points a game, they should be set for a very good season. If the secondary holds and the line produces a decent amount of pass rush, expect this team to go on a very deep playoff run, maybe even to make a Meadowlands appearance in February.

Prediction:

I see Atlanta having a relatively dominant season this year and posting a 13-3 regular season record. If Matt Ryan is able to shake his nerves when the moment is at its peak, this team remains poised to go to the Super Bowl. They have all the right weapons on offense. The offseason acquisition of Steven Jackson is absolutely huge for this team because it makes them a multi-dimensional offensive look. Remember that if it weren’t for a rolling Niners squad, the talk right now may have been about Atlanta’s chances of repeating this year.