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Game # 9 Open Thread: Saints vs. Rams

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Saints (-12!!!) vs. Rams: 1 p.m. EST, Louisiana Superdome, FOX
Off. Ypg (Rank) Off. PPG (rank) Def. YPG (Rank) Def. PPG (Rank)
Saints 360.3 (6) 21.6 (12) 345 (21) 23.3 (24)
Rams 289.4 (29) 12.4 (32) 335.4 (19) 27.4 (28)

Ryan at Turf Show Times will have the Rams angle covered this afternoon.

When I first saw this game on the schedule, I thought it had the potential to be the most exciting game of the season, a 42-35 nailbiter that featured spectacular offense, no defense and a last-second Saints victory. But injuries derailed the Rams' season before it even got started. Meanwhile, the Saints seemed to be on the same path, until finding their footing and re-gaining their place at .500.

The Saints will play today's game without several key defensive players: Charles Grant and Scott Shanle are both out, as is Usama Young. Brian Young had a minor arthroscopic procedure (if such thing exists) and will also miss today's game.

It's also a homecoming for Jim Haslett, who is St. Louis' defensive coordinator. I always liked Haslett, though it was clear that he lost the team and had to leave. His defense in St. Louis is young, but has some talent in Adam Carriker, Tye Hill, Will Witherspoon, O.J. Atogwe, among others. I expect them to -- at least initially -- put up some resistance. Meanwhile, Saints linebacker-coach Joe Vitt faces a team he coached for twice, including servng as interim head coach in 2005. When illness forced Mike Martz to abdicate with eleven games remaining, Vitt was the man to take over, leading them to a 4-7 finish.

Rams left tackle Alex Barron is the second-most-penalized player in the NFL since 2004. In 2005, the Saints selected Jammal Brown over Barron in the first round of the draft. At the time, Brown was considered a safer pick, though Barron was seen to have the higher upside. As it turns out, the Saints clearly made the correct call. Barron could still become a fine player, but Brown -- even after a slow start in 2007 -- is one of the game's premiere pass protectors.

I saw these teams play in 2001, a Week 14 tilt that the Rams won, 34-21, on their way to a 14-2 regular season. Before the game, the Saints had a voodoo performer put a curse on the Rams. The curse didn't go into effect until several weeks later, when the Rams lost Super Bowl XXXVI in the Superdome. The Rams franchise has been in a downward spiral since then, with this certainly serving as the nadir. Now, the Rams return to the spot where their franchise's fortunes were inexorably altered, looking for that one luck-changing spark.

Meanwhile, the Saints have finally reached the edge of the hole that they dug to begin the season. Today represents the first step in their effort to climb back into first place in the division, to re-gain their status as the NFC's giant. In doing so, they can throw one final handful of dirt on the grave of one of their oldest rivals. Oh yeah, and if the Saints cover, they will have a positive point-differential for the first time this season.

This is one they need to win. Go Saints.