At the risk of sounding dramatic, I think Sunday's game has the potential to be a make or break game. A loss would be the Rams' third straight and drop them to 4-4 before a showdown at Seattle. A win gets them to 5-3 and gives them a boost heading west.
Here's the problem---the Rams' weakness is the Chiefs' strength, the running game. Larry Johnson will pound away until the Rams prove they can stop him. The Chiefs don't do anything fancy in running the ball. In fact, their basic running play is what my broadcast partner Jim Hanifan refers to as the "power o." They'll pull the backside guard and lead with the fullback through the hole. Ladanian Tomlinson did major damage with that play and Johnson will try to do the same.
Through seven games, the Rams' run defense isn't any better than it was a year ago. They're surrendering 135 yards a game this season. It was 136 yards last season. But earlier this season, they were creating turnovers and tackling better. The other issue is the pass rush. Leonard Little needs help. You can only blitz so many times.
The Chiefs are 4-3 largely due to surprising play from quarterback Damon Huard. He's been terrific in Trent Green's abscence. He's the third highest rated q-b behind Peyton Manning and Marc Bulger. He's thrown eight touchdown passes and just one interception.
Is this the week that the Rams get something going in the kickoff return game? It's been abysmal. Tony Fisher will return kicks again this week. But, the problem is the blocking up front. Not enough guys are getting held up.
Prediction--the Rams win on a Jeff Wilkins field goal in the fourth quarter. I don't make many predictions but I've been impressed by the mental toughness of Scott Linehan's team. I liked how they weathered that early 14-0 deficit at San Diego last week and fought back to nearly tie the game. Last year's team would have folded. That resilience will serve them well Sunday.
Another prediction-my Northwest Missouri State Bearcats will beat the Pittsburg State Gorillas at Arrowhead Saturday. They usually draw between 25 and 30 thousand fans for that game. Not bad for a Division II clash.