First Look: St. Louis Rams

The Chiefs and Rams are both in first place in their respective divisions. So who has the edge and how did each team get here?

Opponent: St. Louis Rams (6-7 record, 1st place in NFC West)

Offensive Statistics: 107.8 rushing yards per game (ranked 19th), 208 passing yards per game (ranked 21st), 315.6 total yards per game (ranked 25th), 18.8 points per game (ranked 25th)

Defensive Statistics: Have allowed 105.7 rushing yards per game (ranked 12th), 228 passing yards per game (ranked 21st), 333.9 total yards per game (ranked 13th), 20.6 points per game (ranked 14th – tied with Kansas City.)

Wins: Washington (30-16), Seattle (20-3), San Diego (20-17), Carolina (20-10), @ Denver (36-33), @ Arizona (19-6)

Losses: Arizona (17-13), @ Oakland (16-14), @ Detroit (44-6), @ Tampa Bay (18-17), @ San Francisco (23-20 OT), Atlanta (34-17), @ New Orleans (31-13)

Notes: The Rams are the final NFC West team on the Chiefs' schedule. K.C. has gone 3-0 in the division so far and the scores haven't been close, although the Seattle game was tighter in the second half than the final tally suggested.

Led by rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, the Rams are a bit below average offensively, scoring just under 19 points a game. They now have the league's 19th ranked run game, which is a bit ironic because last week's 19th ranked team was San Diego. After running all over the Chiefs on Sunday, the Chargers vaulted up six spots.

The Rams' defensive numbers are stronger than most probably realize, though it could be a byproduct of playing against the offensively challenged teams in their division. The best offense in the NFC West is San Francisco's, which is ranked 23rd. Throw in a game against Carolina, the league's worst offense, and it may skew the stats a bit.

A critic could suggest the same for the Rams' record, as three of their six wins have come against teams in their division and the one-win Panthers. We could extend that and say four of their six wins have been over lousy teams, throwing Denver into the mix. But given how the Chiefs struggled against the Broncos, it seems like a dishonest argument.

Ultimately, the Rams have been solid at home, losing just two games at the Edward Jones Dome. One was in the season opener, before they'd really gotten their feet under them after last season's 1-15 debacle. Their other home loss was to Atlanta, one of the best teams in the NFC.

They also have a win over the Chargers, though it was back when San Diego was still finding ways to shoot themselves in the foot each week.

Analysis: Barring the 49ers upsetting the Chargers on Thursday night, this game against St. Louis – and all the Chiefs' remaining contests – are practically playoff games as K.C. tries to remain atop the division. Unfortunately, the Rams are in the exact same boat, trying to cling to their lead in the NFC West. So the Chiefs are likely to get their best.

This is also an important game for the Chiefs in the sense that it's their final road game of the season. After this week, they play their last two games at home in Arrowhead, which gives them a bit of an advantage as they try to close out the season by running the table. Not to suggest that either home game will be easy, but finishing off their road schedule with a win would provide a brief sigh of relief.

Obviously, a lot depends on Matt Cassel's availability for the game. Even if he plays, though, the Rams would probably be well-served to load up against the Chiefs' running game and make Cassel prove he's 100%.

However, it may be on defense where the game is really decided. For starters, the Chiefs have to sort out their run defense as they prepare to go up against Steven Jackson. But the key to the contest could be whether or not a wily coordinator like Romeo Crennel has anything in store for the Rams' young quarterback.

With 13 starts already under his belt, it may be stretching it to still consider Bradford a rookie. But surely Crennel can manage to come up with a few things the #1 overall pick hasn't seen yet.

If past games at the dome are any indication, there should be a solid contingent of Chiefs fans in St. Louis on Sunday. Here's hoping they head back to Kansas City with something to smile about.

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