TV: FOX, Matt Vasgersian, JC Pearson, Tim Ryan
2006 RANKINGS: Rams: offense 8th (25th rush, 5th pass); defense 22nd (31st rush, 8th pass). Raiders: offense 32nd (28th rush, 31st pass); defense 6th (25th rush, 1st pass)
PREDICTION: Raiders 21-20
KEYS TO THE GAME:
The Raiders have spent most of the season in search of a running game to take some of the heat off their weak pass protection. Well, the Rams present as good an opportunity as the Raiders will find. St. Louis is allowing 154.8 rushing yards per game, and Oakland will attempt to attack with whoever can provide positive yardage out of RBs Justin Fargas, ReShard Lee and Zach Crockett.
The Rams' best run defense is for their offense to get off to a hot start and put the Raiders in come-from-behind mode. St. Louis has just 43 first-quarter points this season, and QB Marc Bulger has to be careful against Oakland's strong pass defense.
The Rams have their own offensive line issues, so they need RB Steven Jackson producing on early downs to help buy Bulger time in the pocket.
FAST FACTS: Rams: Bulger needs 472 passing yards to become third Ram to reach 4,000 in a season. ... WR Isaac Bruce needs 95 receiving yards to pass Andre Reed (13,098) for seventh-most all-time. Raiders: QB Aaron Brooks is 1-14 in his past 15 starts. ... DT Warren Sapp has 5.0 sacks in three career games against St. Louis.
--LB Pisa Tinoisamoa's season officially ended Thursday when he was placed on injured reserve because of a broken bone in his right hand.
--RB Rich Alexis was added to the Rams' roster Thursday after being signed off the Jaguars' practice squad.
--FB Paul Smith was downgraded from questionable to doubtful Thursday on the injury report and probably won't play Sunday against the Raiders. Smith has been bothered by stingers in his neck.
--OG Adam Timmerman did not practice Thursday for the second consecutive day and probably will not play Sunday, which would snap a streak of 204 consecutive games played, including 20 postseason games. Timmerman has been bothered by three cracked ribs since suffering the injury Nov. 19 against Carolina.
--C Richie Incognito has been working at right guard this week, and could start there Sunday as the replacement for Adam Timmerman (ribs).
--C Brett Romberg could make his first NFL start this week if usual C Richie Incognito moves to right guard as the replacement for injured G Adam Timmerman. Romberg got some work at center Nov. 26 against San Francisco when Incognito suffered a foot injury.
--QB Aaron Brooks is averaging 6.1 yards per carry (17 rushes, 103 yards), not far off his career high of 6.2 yards with New Orleans last season.
--RB Zack Crockett missed practice Thursday with a heel injury. Coach Art Shell said Crockett would be listed as questionable, but given Crockett's history of durability, the back would probably play.
--LB Kirk Morrison had 10 tackles against Cincinnati to break 100 for the second consecutive season. Morrison led the Raiders as a rookie last season with 116 tackles.
--SS Michael Huff does not have a forced fumble, fumble recovery or an interception in his first 13 games in the NFL.