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Draft pick 'race' adds drama to Rams game
Draft pick 'race' adds drama to Rams game
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Can rookie quarterback Keith Null bounce back from his three-interception performance in Arizona?
Will Steven Jackson, bad back and all, return to the lineup and make a run at a career-best single-season rushing total?
And what about Isaac Bruce? The former Rams receiving icon returns to St. Louis for what could be his last NFL game. But San Francisco coach Mike Singletary has said that Bruce will be on the *****' inactive list. So Rams fans might have to settle for waving goodbye to Bruce as he stands on the sideline in street clothes.
These are all good reasons to watch Sunday's season finale against San Francisco at the Edward Jones Dome, 1-14 record and all.
But let's face it, the most compelling aspect of the final weekend of the regular season is the "race" for No. 1 — that is, the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft.
The Rams' 31-10 loss at Arizona last weekend, coupled with Tampa Bay's 20-17 overtime victory against New Orleans, eliminated the Buccaneers from No. 1 consideration and created a two-horse race. Depending on what happens Sunday, either the Rams or Detroit Lions will have the first pick in the 2010 draft.
If the Rams lose to San Francisco, they clinch No. 1. Make no mistake, coach Steve Spagnuolo is thinking only about beating the *****. When asked Monday about possible playing time for youngsters such as offensive tackle Phil Trautwein, Spagnuolo replied, "We're going to make all the decisions based on winning the game. Should it head that way for guys like that, that's what we'll do. If not, we won't. It'll still be about winning the game."
If the Rams do upset San Francisco and the Lions lose their season finale against Chicago, the draft picture gets interesting. Call it the Ndamukong Suh sweepstakes, because at the moment the Nebraska defensive tackle is projected as the top player in the draft.
If the Rams (1-14) and Lions (2-13) both finish 2-14, the tiebreaker for draft position is strength of schedule. The team with the easier schedule gets the No. 1 overall pick; the team with the tougher schedule drafts second overall.
Entering the final weekend of the regular season, the Lions and Rams are nearly identical in strength of schedule. The Lions' opponents are 124-116, for a 51.7 winning percentage. The Rams' opponents are 126-114 for a 52.5 percentage.
So Detroit has just a two-game "lead" entering Sunday's games. No fewer than nine games elsewhere in the NFL on Sunday will affect the strength of schedule for the Rams and Lions. If the teams end up with identical schedule strengths, the next tiebreaker is head-to-head competition. Because the Rams defeated Detroit 17-10 on Nov. 1, the Lions would win that tiebreaker and get the No. 1 overall pick.
When asked if he has given any thought to the draft, Spagnuolo was taken aback.
"No," he said, laughing. "You're way ahead of me there. Way, way ahead of me. No. Absolutely not."
But Detroit and St. Louis are running neck-and-neck for the No. 1 pick ...
"I'll worry about that in a couple of weeks," Spagnuolo said. "We're 'neck and neck' in trying to win a football game this Sunday. I'm knee-deep, or whatever you want to say, in trying to win a game. It's the last one, and we're going to play it to win it."
Spagnuolo hopes to have three starters back to help him do just that against the *****. Defensive end James Hall missed the Arizona game because of the birth of his first child. Defensive end Leonard Little has missed the last two games with a knee infection. And Jackson was an 11th-hour scratch against Arizona when he suffered more back pain and back-related pain than normal during a pregame warm-up.
Jackson plans to play against the *****. Without saying a word, Spagnuolo made it clear Monday how he felt about that, jokingly clasping his hands as if in prayer and looking skyward.
"I'll leave that up to Steven," Spagnuolo said. "I trust him; I trusted him (Sunday). That's his competitive nature. You know, every day with the injury he has, sometimes it changes. But I'm hopeful."
Regardless of who's in and who's out against San Francisco, Spagnuolo said, "We'll go out there and battle. As undermanned as we may have been (Sunday) ... a catch, a non-drop, and we're in there fighting, this team is in there in the fourth quarter."
The best example of that was Danny Gorrer's dropped interception; had he grabbed the "pick," he could have returned it for a touchdown and trimmed Arizona's lead to 17-14 in the third quarter.
"It just goes to show you, when you can just battle and fight and play, you've got a chance to win in this league," Spagnuolo said.
Re: Draft pick 'race' adds drama to Rams game
If Jackson plays on Sunday he will run big numbers against the Whiners. Because he does not want to meet Suh in practise each day for the next many years :P
I surely hope we beat the Whiners, but it would be nice if Detroit would win also as I would love the nr 1 pick.
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