Posted: Monday October 17, 2005 11:47AM; Updated: Monday October 17, 2005 12:39PM
Rams quarterback Marc Bulger entered Week 6 leading the NFL with 1,648 passing yards.
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ABC must have thought it was getting an offensive shootout with this matchup. That was before the Colts transformed themselves into the '85 Bears. Indy, the NFL's last undefeated team, has allowed a league-low 29 points in five games and leads the league with 20 sacks. Meanwhile, the Colts' vaunted offense has been just average, ranking 14th.
At least the Rams will do what they can to make this a high-scoring game. They have a high-flying offense and still can't stop anybody. Their defense ranks 26th and it seems to get worse every week. St. Louis has been torched by the Giants and Seahawks in its last two games and Indianapolis won't provide much of a break.
The Rams Win If ...
... they run the ball successfully. St. Louis has the No. 2 offense in the NFL and ranks only 23rd in rushing. Running back Steven Jackson has suffered some minor injuries and is running a bit tentative. If the rushing game doesn't work, St. Louis is in trouble. The Rams start two rookies -- Alex Barron and Claude Terrell -- on the offensive line and they don't want to put them into pass-protecting all night against the Colts' aggressive defensive line. Plus, the Rams need to keep their shaky defense off the field. Sure, St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger is on pace to surpass Dan Marino's all-time passing yardage record, but the quick-moving offense has put a lot of stress on the defense. All the Rams have to do is look at Indianapolis to see how effective slowing the pace of a game can be.
The Rams will be without head coach Mike Martz, who is undergoing treatment for a bacterial infection of a heart valve. Linebackers coach Joe Vitt takes over and will try to instill some fire into the defensive unit. Missed assignments and mental breakdowns have plagued the Rams and they haven't been generating any turnovers or consistently getting to opposing quarterbacks.
The Colts Win If ...
Peyton Manning has taken a more conservative approach to running the Colts offense in 2005.
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They keep doing exactly what they've been doing in their 5-0 start. That means moving the ball steadily on offense, torturing the opposing quarterback and not giving up any big plays. This is the Colts' first real defensive challenge of the season. They've racked up their gaudy statistics against Baltimore, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Tennessee and San Francisco -- five of the worst offenses in the NFL.
Indianapolis' offense is fueled by the league's most underappreciated line, which has allowed just one sack this season. With that kind of protection, it's just a matter of time until Peyton Manning and the offense explode. After tossing a record 49 touchdown passes in 2004, Manning has just seven TDs this season. But he hasn't faced a defensive secondary as porous as that of the Rams.
Bulger has 215 pass attempts this season, while Manning has 145. Over five games, that's a difference of 12 passes a game. Bulger might be on track to break records for passing yards and completions, but Manning is delivering in the biggest statistical category: wins.
There is nothing good about this matchup for St. Louis. The Rams' defensive backs will blow all sorts of assignments and Indy receivers Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley will run wild. Harrison needs just one more touchdown hookup with Manning to break Steve Young and JerryRice's mark of 85 touchdown passes. Look for the Colts' dynamic duo to get that record, Dwight Freeney to get about four sacks and for Indy to improve to 6-0 for the first time since 1958, when it won the NFL Championship. The Rams will try to run the ball at first, but they'll fall behind and start throwing all over the place and make this game the scoring fest we all want to see.