This Sunday, the Chicago Bears (6-4) will take on the St Louis Rams (4-6) in the Gateway City. Some have billed the matchup as the “Long Family Reunion,” since the Bears’ right guard Kyle Long will square off against his brother, Rams’ defensive end Chris Long. The brothers Long narrative will be interesting to watch as the game unfolds, though do not expect them to go man to man often, if at all. The Rams remain a difficult team to figure out. St Louis had struggled against playoff contenders up until their Week 10 38-8 thrashing of the Indianapolis Colts. With a win on Sunday, the Bears can keep pace in both the NFC North and Wildcard races. Let’s go inside the numbers, courtesy of the advanced metrics from Pro Football Focus.
**Author’s Note: the Chicago Bears and Bears Care have teamed up with the American Red Cross to assist in the tornado relief efforts throughout the state of Illinois. Bears Care is conducting an online auction of game-worn and game-used equipment from the Bears overtime win against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday and accepting donations online. The auction ends on Sunday, November 24 at 11:59 p.m.**
The St Louis Rams do not excel in any one area of the game which, of course, makes them somewhat difficult to predict on a game-by-game basis. According to PFF, the Rams have the 21st best offense with a (-10.3) grade. QB Sam Bradford tore his ACL against the Carolina Panthers in Week 7 which came at an unfortunate time as Bradford had shown much improvement early in the 2013 season. Since Bradford’s injury, the Rams have relied heavily upon RB Zac Stacy, a rookie fourth round pick from Vanderbilt University. On 304 total snaps, Stacy has earned a (4.4) rushing grade, good for 11th best among running backs. He might not be the most physically gifted back in the league, but his powerful base and excellent footwork make Stacy a formidable bellcow-type runner. Stacy averages (2.56) yards after contact per attempt, which places him sixth in the NFL behind Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, and Alfred Morris, to name a few. In six games as a starter, Stacy has averaged 21 carries, 89 yards, and .5 rushing touchdowns. In his last three games, however, Stacy has rattled off an average of 26 carries, 108 yards, and 1 touchdown per game. Clearly, then, Stacy will serve as the focal point for a St Louis offense currently lead by journeyman QB Kellen Clemens (-1.2).
Stacy’s fellow rookie, offensive weapon Tavon Austin, exploded onto the scene against the Colts when he posted three total touchdowns and 240 all-purpose yards. The eight overall pick in last year’s draft, Austin had struggled to adjust to the NFL game prior to Week 10. He lines up primarily in the slot, but the Rams often utilize him in pre-snap motions to better create mismatches against linebackers and safeties. A diminutive character, Austin stands just 5’8” and weighs only 175 lbs. Despite his stature, he possesses world class speed and agility, making him a difficult player to defend. Coming off a bye week, it would come as little surprise if the Rams’ offensive coaching staff took some extra time to figure out ways in which to utilize their Swiss Army Knife-like weapon. If given enough space to operate, Austin could absolutely light up a slow, banged up Bears defense.