1. Fast track - When the average football fan thinks of the St. Louis Rams, his mind races with visions of the "Greatest Show On Turf." When the experts of the NFL talk about this year's Rams, they all prognosticate and predict that new coach Scott Linehan has made them a run first, defensive team.
My prediction: The old adage about Leopard and Spots will fit in here. Steven Jackson is a fine back, but can an offensive line that had pass blocked 80% of the time for the last five years really make the transition to a power running team? I just don't see it happening in one season. Jackson's line - 17 carries for 78 yards.
2. New Math - In this game 15 = 10 or the Broncos are in for a long day. By that I mean that the first fifteen scripted plays need to equal ten points or this could turn into a track meet, and the Rams are not a team we want to race. No team in football gets out as quickly as the Broncos, and as we have all seen for the last eleven seasons when they get out ahead, our boys are hard to catch.
My Prediction: Coach Mike Shanahan will have the right fifteen plays scripted, he has had months to watch defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's tendencies and will take advantage of them. Score after the first twenty minutes played - Broncos 14 Rams 3
3. Ring the Bells!! (Yes I have waited weeks to write that.) That Shanahan's "secret" starter this week is Mike Bell.....come on....is it really a secret? The key to the rushing attack this week in my opinion is down and distance. I would not be surprised to see Tatum Bell get some significant carries in second and short situations or late in each half on first down. On turf I don't believe there will be a faster guy out there.
My prediction: Mike Bell will have a workman-like day - 23 carries for 97 yards, Tatum looks something like 12 carries for 75 yards.....and look for screens to Tatum late in each half as the Rams defense tires.
4. Three Amigos.....Wait, is that already taken? How about Three Amigos GRANDE!! That best describes wide receivers Rod Smith, Javon Walker and tight end Tony Scheffler. Smith is the consummate pro, he runs precise routes and never drops a ball. Walker scares the crap out of defensive backs because he is a threat to go all the way every time he catches the ball and you might call me crazy, but Scheffler was the steal of the 2006 draft.
My Prediction: San Francisco can have Vernon Davis but Scheffler is the REAL freak in this years tight end class. Look for the Broncos to use Scheffler a lot on seam routes and in a bunch formation with Smith and Walker. Scheffler's line - eight catches for 125 yards and one touchdown.
5. 4 X 4 - This has to be the deepest Denver has ever been at defensive line. Starters Gerard Warren and Courtney Brown are top tier players, Ebenezer Ekuban and Mike Myers are very serviceable and backups John Engelberger, Elvis Dumerville, Kenard Lang and Demetrin Veal could all start for other clubs. A la the Dallas Cowboys during their Super Bowl runs, you will see a ton of rotation along that defensive front to keep players fresh. This week against the Rams they will be facing an offensive line that is in transition. The Broncos D-line will spend a lot of time facing passing downs and situations on Sunday, so don't be surprised to see the sacks pile up.
My Prediction: With the offense providing an early lead the D-line pins its ears back and brings it. Bulger goes down four times.
6. Mistake free Jake - The whole "Good Jake - Bad Jake" argument is a moot point. Quarterback Jake Plummer has proved for two seasons that he is the kind of player that knows how to play within his abilities and utilize the players around him. Jake needs to keep progressing this season and will get an early test against a defense that is probably underrated. Rams defensive end Leonard Little had received more attention for his DUI's than his play over the years, but the fact still remains that he is an excellent pass rusher off the corner. The rest of the defense is athletic and has the ability to take the ball away.
My Prediction: Shanahan will do what he always does - run the ball. However, you will see some early shots down the field on play action. Plummer's Numbers - 18 of 25 for 270 yards and two touchdowns.
7. As always I will end on number 'Seven'..... Why you ask? Because it's the number worn by the greatest Bronco ever. In the same spirit of greatness I have ask all of you a question. If you could name one player in the league that embodied what you deem Bronco-like or that you think is the kind of guy that the team would love to have, who would it be? For me it's Isaac Bruce. Year after year I have admired the guy and learned to respect a man who is quiet, hard working and (gasp!) willing to take less money to stay with his team. Not only does that really lend great credit to him, but to the whole Rams organization for inspiring that kind of loyalty. Good luck Sunday Rams Fans, here's to a safe and injury free game.
My Prediction : Broncos 31 Rams 24.
Toby Thorp is long time contributor to BroncosUpdate.com. He has experience as a football player and commentator as well as being enough of a Denver Broncos fan that he tried to name his first son "Seven." Unfortunately the child's mother did not cooperate. You can e-mail Thorp at Bighungry71@yahoo.com with your arguments or critiques or post a message for Bighungry71 on our Broncos Hardcore Message Board