Friday, September 24, 2004

This game could feature super-charged emotions. Both teams want to win this game badly and the team that tempers those emotions and stays poised will probably come out on top.

Saints’ running back Deuce McAllister is probably out and New Orleans is expected to use a combination of Ki-Jana Carter and Aaron Stecker to replace him. Neither has proved themselves in the league, but will hope to against a Rams’ run defense that has struggled. This is a golden opportunity for both sides. Stecker and Carter could prove they belong or St. Louis could take advantage and force the Saints to throw.

A week after facing dual-threat quarterback Michael Vick, the Rams get to attempt to stop Aaron Brooks. Brooks isn’t as good of a runner as Vick, but is more polished as a passer, which could present problems to a banged-up St. Louis secondary. The problems in the defensive backfield reached their peak this week when free safety Aeneas Williams was moved back to cornerback, his original position. The ability of Williams to make the move back and the performance of his replacement (most likely Rich Coady) will go a long way toward determining a winner.

New Orleans’ run defense has struggled in its first two games, allowing 180 yards on the ground to San Francisco and 169 to Seattle. That could bode well for St. Louis, which looks to get going on the ground again after a great effort against Arizona and a subpar game against Atlanta. Marshall Faulk had one of his best games ever against the Saints on Dec. 24, 2000, when he ran for 220 yards and three touchdowns. Another performance like that from Faulk will probably equal a Rams’ win, just like it did on that day.

St. Louis has won 15 consecutive regular season games at home. The Rams must hold serve at the Edward Jones Dome if they are going to make a serious run at the playoffs. The added sour taste from the last time they played the Saints in St. Louis should be added motivation to extend the streak to 16 for both the team and the fans. New Orleans should expect an extremely hostile environment in the unfriendly confines of the Edward Jones Dome Sunday.