|NFL Football Week 13: Falcons at Rams Preview, Matchup, Picks & Odds|
|Written by Anthony Rome|
|Wednesday, 28 November 2007 15:42|
Injuries have played a big part in the St. Louis Rams' dismal season. They hope Marc Bulger can recover from his latest setback to help them win for the third time in four games on Sunday when they host the struggling Atlanta Falcons.
Bulger's status for this contest is uncertain after the quarterback suffered a concussion in last Sunday's 24-19 loss to Seattle.
Oddsmakers from Bodog have made St. Louis –3.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game, the over/under has been set at 42 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 50% of bets for this game have been placed on St. Louis –3.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
"We'd err on the side of caution with a concussion, for sure," St. Louis coach Scott Linehan said Wednesday. "I talked to him and I just said let's not discuss it until we get through all the tests you need to take first, and then we'll talk about the possibility of playing this game."
Bulger was held out of practice Wednesday, two days after saying he felt much better and expected to play in this game. Gus Frerotte would start in his place, and his assessment of Bulger's condition Wednesday was far from positive.
"He just seems kind of like he was after the game," Frerotte said. "You can talk to him and he understands what's going on. But he's just a little groggy."
It's the latest in a long line of injuries for the Rams (2-9) in a season that has seen them lose several offensive linemen, including left tackle Orlando Pace to a torn triceps which ended his season in Week 1. Center Brett Romberg, who sat out three games with injuries to both ankles, re-injured his ankle against the Seahawks and his status is uncertain.
St. Louis has used 15 line combinations this season and the changes have posed a problem for Bulger, who has been sacked 29 times in nine games. He has completed a career-low 60.9 percent of his passes for 1,789 yards with six touchdowns and nine interceptions after signing the richest contract in team history during the offseason - a six-year, $65 million extension.
Frerotte performed reasonably well in relief last week, going 20-of-32 for 161 yards with one TD and one interception. However, he fumbled a snap on fourth-and-goal from the Seattle 1 with 27 seconds left, ending the Rams' chances of a three-game winning streak after opening the season 0-8.
Frerotte has been shaky in two starts this season, completing 54.4 percent of his passes for 470 yards, three scores and eight interceptions, including a career-high five in a 22-3 loss at Baltimore on Oct. 14. He hasn't fared well in three career starts against the Falcons (3-8), completing 50.9 percent of his passes for 342 yards with two TDs and three interceptions.
Bulger last faced Atlanta in a 47-17 playoff loss on Jan. 15, 2005, when he went 23-for-35 for 299 yards with two scores and one pick.
Regardless of which quarterback starts, St. Louis might rely heavily on featured running back Steven Jackson. In four games since missing four with an injured groin, Jackson has 299 rushing yards and three TDs while throwing for another score.
He'll face a Falcons run defense that allows 123.5 yards per game to rank only better than Chicago (126.8) in the NFC.
The Rams have won the last four meetings with Atlanta at the Edward Jones Dome.
The Falcons are hoping an extended layoff can help them rebound from a 31-13 loss to Indianapolis on Thanksgiving Day, which assured them of a non-winning season for the 32nd time in their 42-year history.
"We've got to find things we're good at, and see if we can end the season on a positive note," Falcons tight end Alge Crumpler said.
Atlanta coach Bobby Petrino has decided to stay with quarterback Joey Harrington despite Byron Leftwich (tailbone) possibly being healthy enough to play Sunday. Harrington had a poor performance against the Colts, going 14-for-30 for 155 yards, one TD and two picks.
Harrington, who lost the starting job earlier this season, had gone 35-of-46 for 331 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in his previous two games.
"I'm going to stay with Joey," Petrino said. "I think right now he understands everything that we are working at."
Petrino, the former Louisville coach in his first season with Atlanta, also recently said he will return to the Falcons in 2008 as opposed to go after any high profile college openings.
"I haven't given it one bit of thought," Petrino said. "I certainly don't want to get into any speculation and rumors and having to deal with that. I'm focused on our football team here and focused on playing the Rams this week."
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