Dreams and Nightmares

Halloween is still a week away, but the statistics show that St. Louis could be in for a scare this weekend. Sunday's game is a dream matchup for the Colts and a nightmare matchup for the Rams. Brad Keller takes a deeper look and discusses the odds of Peyton Manning will have pleasant dreams or wake up in a cold sweat.

The individual player matchups have been broken down and they favor the Colts heavily.  Dallas Clark is a matchup nightmare for any linebacker and will most likely overwhelm either safety for the Rams — Craig Dahl or Oshiomogho Atogwe will not be able to cover Clark one-on-one — so St. Louis can either take a risk and put one man on Clark, or double cover him and risk being exposed elsewhere.

They can't single cover Reggie Wayne and Dahl is lacking in his support over-the-top, so even if they double Wayne he still may be able to gash them deep.

The Rams also don't have a player that can single cover Austin Collie or Pierre Garcon.  Even if they double Clark and Wayne, Collie or Garcon could still make them pay in single coverage, provided that they rush four, drop seven, and leave someone to spy Peyton Manning, Donald Brown, or Joseph Addai, since the Colts would eventually figure out that they simply need to send everyone deep and complete easy passes to Brown or Addai underneath.

If St. Louis rushes four and drops seven, their front four is not good enough to consistently pressure Manning and, if he's given five seconds to survey the field and make a decision, he will make a decision that will end badly for the St. Louis Rams.

If the Rams decide to play mostly Cover 2, Clark will eat them up in the intermediate middle, Garcon and Wayne will destroy them at the corners, Addai and Brown will clean up what's left underneath, and Collie will make enough of the inexperienced and overly aggressive defenders for St. Louis miss that he will do some serious damage after the catch. 

On top of all this, Indianapolis should be able to run the ball off left tackle, off right tackle, around left end, and around right end, pretty much at will, since they are averaging about four yards a carry to those areas of the field and the Rams are giving up about five yards a carry.

If the Colts are also able to run the ball at will, that opens up play-action passing, which makes it easier for Manning and company to operate in a game where they didn't need any additional advantages and the Rams didn't need any additional challenges.

The scariest thing for St. Louis is that Manning currently leads the league in completion percentage, yards per attempt, and yards per game even though the play-action passing game for the Colts has been largely non-existent, at least for the last three quarters of every game this season.

With weakside linebacker Will Witherspoon being traded to the Eagles earlier this week, look for Manning to get the ball to Collie as well.

When statistics are brought into play, it doesn't get any prettier...

  • The Rams are the 27th-rated pass defense in the NFL.  The Colts are the number one rated pass offense.

  • St. Louis has faced an astounding 41 deep passes thus far this season.  They have allowed 565 yards on those passes, or 13.78 yards per attempt. The Colts have attempted 33 deep passes -- 18 to Wayne, who faces the most favorable matchup of anyone on the field -- and have gained 533 yards on those passes, or 16.15 yards per attempt. 

  • Over the course of the past three games, Manning has become more comfortable with Garcon in the deep area of the field.  In the first two games, he attempted three passes to the deep right and all three fell incomplete.  In the last three games, he has attempted six passes in Garcon's direction and has gained 119 yards on those passes, or just under 20 yards per attempt.  This area of the field is the Achilles heel for the Rams, as they allow 15.85 yards per attempt to that area.

Wayne and Garcon should have success deep, Clark and Collie will carve them up underneath, and Addai and Brown will get whatever is left over.  All in all, a pretty frightening set of matchups for St. Louis and a very attractive set of matchups for Indianapolis.

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