As the NFL heads into Week 3, the Baltimore Ravens and the St. Louis Rams prepare to face off in a game that could have early playoff implications for both teams. Both Baltimore and St. Louis have something to prove in this game. It will be interesting to see how the two squads fare.
For Baltimore, this is a game for them to show the world what their true identity is. In Week 1, they annihilated the defending AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. In that game, Ray Rice ran for 107 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown. In addition, he caught four passes for 42 yards, as well as another touchdown. Joe Flacco looked equally impressive, throwing for a 117.6 QB rating with over 200 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. The defense held up its end of the bargain as well, picking off Ben Roethlisberger three times and holding the Steelers to just seven points. The 35-7 blowout briefly had the Ravens looking as though they might be the AFC favorite.
Fast forward one week and it's a different story. The team struggled to do much of anything on the road against the mediocre Tennessee Titans. In that game, Ray Rice struggled to carry the ball, and as a result Tennessee had an easier time defending the pass. It will be interesting to see which version of this Baltimore Ravens squad shows up on Sunday in St. Louis.
For the Rams, this game is less about proving themselves to be consistent than it is just proving themselves. The team has faced a tough schedule so far, with the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1 and the New York Giants in Week 2. St. Louis lost both games, but has showed signs of life. Namely, Sam Bradford has managed to put numbers on the board, throwing for a career-high 331 yards last week against New York. While he's thrown only one touchdown in the two contests, he hasn't thrown any interceptions either. However, if his squad hopes to get a win, they'll have to come with a balanced attack.
St. Louis hasn't had much of an opportunity to try a balanced approach, though. After just two carries in Week 1, their star running back Steven Jackson went down with a quadriceps injury. He missed Week 2 and is currently listed as questionable for Sunday against Baltimore. Backup running back Cadillac Williams is certainly no slouch, but his production is inconsistent. Subbing in for Steven Jackson in Week 1, he ran for 91 yards on 19 carries and looked great. His numbers took a dive on Monday night against New York, though, as he only totaled 36 yards on 13 carries, averaging a dismal 2.7 yards per carry. Williams is also listed on the injury report for Sunday as probable. Because of these injuries to St. Louis' backfield, they are going to need tremendous play from their offensive line to protect Sam Bradford and create holes for whoever ends up running the ball. In addition, Bradford himself will need to put on a stellar performance. Meanwhile, for Baltimore to win this game, they'll need to get over their early identity crisis and play solid football.
This game could go either way, but it's critical to both teams. The Rams have been a weak team in recent years, and have a tough schedule this year. A win could be huge for their hopes of winning the division, as they play in the typically win-starved NFC West. The game is also important to Baltimore's early playoff hopes, as they compete in the AFC North with Pittsburgh. While Baltimore holds the early tiebreaker, they will need every win they can in order to compete for the divisional title this year. Both teams have a shot at winning, and it will simply come down to who wants it more and executes their game plan more effectively.