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NFL Week 2 - Redskins at the Rams

Part of the service at NFL Insight, is match previews on matches televised in the UK. They also have a live trading room (subscription) where three expert traders give advice on live trading selected matches. Well worth a look and a great site created by Andy Richmond @bickley14, Matt Finnigan @mattfinnigan and Andrew Brocker @andrewbexpert.

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WEEK 2 – NFL PREVIEW - Redskins @ Rams

RG3 and the spectacular debut were one of the main narratives of the week in the NFL and that has given the Washington Redskins a very early dose of optimism and enthusiasm but let’s not get carried away as there are still plenty of areas where they need to improve and turn around the franchise. The ‘Skins are on the road again on Sunday against the Rams who are looking to rebound from an opening day defeat in Detroit which must have been a bitter pill to swallow as they came so close to victory.

Robert Griffin III to give him his full name became the first rookie quarterback to be named an NFL player of the week after his debut game. He received the NFC’s weekly honour among offensive players after leading Washington to a 40-32 win in New Orleans last Sunday. Griffin also was the first player with at least 300 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in his first game, and the first to throw for at least 300 while winning his debut. He completed 19 of 26 passes for 320 yards with an 88-yard touchdown to Pierre Garcon, who is questionable this week with a sore foot. He had good support offensively from two of Washington’s other rookies – sixth-round pick Alfred Morris ran for 96 yards and two touchdowns while Aldrick Robinson snagged a TD pass.

Of course now the ‘Skins need to build on their opening day victory something that has proved difficult for them in the past, this was their eighth opening day victory in 11 years and only twice over that stretch have they gone on to finish with a winning record, so it may pay to temper the early enthusiasm despite what looked to be a very good performance in New Orleans. They won their first two games last season before dropping 11 of 14. Since their most recent playoff appearance in 2007, Washington have finished last in the NFC East in four consecutive seasons and have a 15-33 record over the past three.

As for the Rams they would be happy to win a game and starting seasons well has not been their forte at all recently – the Rams have started 0-2 or worse in each of their five consecutive losing seasons and dropped their first six in 2011 en route to a 2-14 finish. However new Rams HC Jeff Fisher saw enough in the performance in Detroit to give him hope for the future and overturn what has been a poor last few seasons for the Rams. The Rams have started 0-2 or worse in each of their five consecutive losing seasons and dropped their first six in 2011 en route to a 2-14 finish.

Further improvement is needed though especially offensively where they struggled the most – finishing with an NFC-low 14 first downs and 251 total yards. Sam Bradford was sacked three times and Stephen Jackson was limited to 53 yards on 21 carries behind a banged-up offensive line. Centre Scott Wells is likely to be out until at least Week 9 after breaking a bone in his left foot, and tackle Rodger Saffold appears unlikely to play because of a neck injury. The Rams are hosting Washington for the third straight year following a 17-10 loss last Oct. 2 as Jackson was held to 45 yards on 17 attempts. He caught a TD pass from Bradford with 5:45 remaining in the fourth quarter, after which the Rams got two chances to tie the game, but the Redskins’ three sacks of Bradford helped thwart those drives.

So there you have the background to the game, let’s now take a look at some of the key facets and elements that will decide how this game will be played out and set the basis for some of the trading decisions that will be made on Sunday night.

The Rams desperately need to establish a ground game via Steven Jackson, he didn’t really feature in Week One but needs to get back on track against the tough and gritty Redskins D. Washington gave up only 32 yards on the ground in Week 1, but part of that was the New Orleans Saints falling behind. The Rams need to force-feed their featured back the ball between the tackles, because they can pick up yards there.

Pressure that’s something that RG3 didn’t really face on his debut and although he had a terrific debut in New Orleans he was never really hurried – the Rams need to play him aggressively and get him away from his comfort zone. Griffin III has excellent athleticism but could be susceptible to pressure on the road. Look for defensive coordinator John Fassel to be more aggressive with seven- and eight-man blitz packages to force the Redskins quarterback to make quick decisions; the Rams can then trust improved corners to make plays. The Rams QB may not have the same X-factor as RG3 but he did have a good pre-season and looked solid against Detroit, more of a pocket passer he won’t be making the plays with his legs that Griffin does but he has plenty of arm strength to make all the throws and shows enough poise to find his second and third options in his passing game.

The biggest key for me in this game is how the Rams O-line handle the front seven of the ‘Skins – a battle in the trenches. Washington controlled the tempo of the game in Week 1 with balance rushing the football (153 yards) and throwing it (311 yards). St. Louis has a revamped offensive line that will likely be without the services of left tackle Rodger Saffold (neck injury). The Redskins front seven was stout versus the run but was inconsistent pressuring the quarterback against the Saints. Look for a fierce battle in the trenches, with the Rams working hard to be more physical at the point of attack to control the tempo of the game.

Home underdogs are always of interest especially against a side that couldn’t really be noted for its consistency and although they are coming off one of their worst seasons in franchise history (2-14) and lost out in a tragic way at the Lions, they did show flashes of being a good team and had the Lions on the ropes if not the canvass at various points in the game. The secondary in particular looked better. If Jackson can pound the ball effectively between the tackles, it could give St. Louis a more balanced attack and limit the Redskins’ offensive opportunities.

Field position is always important and St Louis need to make RG3 drive the length of the field as much as they can, so special teams will be a big feature of this game. The Rams’ special teams units need to tackle well and force the Redskins into poor starting field position.

The Rams looked good in Week 1, but failed to close out in the fourth quarter. The Redskins put on a show on the road (in a dome setting) a scenario they face again here and this again looks to be a game that will not have much to separate the two teams, if anything the points line looks to be set a little too high at around 45.5 especially as RG3 may not have so much of the “surprise” factor this time and the Rams looking to control the ball on the ground to grind out a victory.

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