Rams vs. Bills 2012 game preview: St. Louis desperate to stay in playoff mix

Tom Szczerbowski

St. Louis will visit western New York to take on the disappointing Bills in the first week of December.

The St. Louis Rams and Buffalo Bills will tangle in Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday.

In a game between two teams headed for another season without the playoffs, the feeling is certainly different. On one hand, the Rams expected another rebuilding year under first-year head coach Jeff Fisher. Despite some talented players like Steven Jackson, Chris Long and Sam Bradford, bumps in the road were foreseen.

The Bills were supposed to compete for if not secure a playoff spot, and that just hasn't happened. Head coach Chan Gailey has watched a talented defense fail to stop most teams, while Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to be more of a problem and not an answer.

Meet the Buffalo Bills

Buffalo is looking for its second straight win after defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars at home, 34-18, last week. The Bills are sitting at 5-7 with no realistic chance to make the playoffs, but another couple of wins could at least take some of the heat off this group.

The downfall, as stated before, all starts on the defensive side of the ball. Despite bringing in talent such as Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, Buffalo is only middling against the pass (ranked 13th) and an absolute disaster against the run, ranking 30th.

Fitzpatrick hasn't done anything to silence his critics, either. After receiving a huge contract extension during last season, the Harvard product hasn't shown much. Fitzpatrick has tossed 20 touchdowns but also 12 interceptions while fumbling five times.

Meet the St. Louis Rams

St. Louis is a team that appears to be on the rise heading into the future. With a solid head coach in place and a maturing young quarterback, things are looking up.

At 5-6-1 and coming off a great win over the San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis is trying to build off that momentum. The Rams are seeking a third victory in as many weeks, and will likely look to Jackson in order to accomplish that mission.

Jackson hasn't had a great year, running for only two touchdowns and four yards per carry, but St. Louis still ranks 14th in rushing yardage. Bradford can compliment him, but Fisher has to be a little leery of throwing too much against the Bills one defensive strength, a ball-hawking secondary.

Local Takes: Buffalo Bills

Brian Galliford from Buffalo Rumblings has this tidbit from former Bills head coach Marv Levy on Ryan Fitzpatrick:

"People keep clamoring, 'Change the quarterback, change the quarterback.' They've got the right quarterback," Levy told Matt. "If they stay with him and develop around him, I think that they'll be heading in the right direction."

Local Takes: St. Louis Rams

Eric Nagel of Turf Show Times lays out how the Rams could conceivably make the playoffs:

If the Rams want any chance to taste postseason glory, they must win all their remaining games and get a little help from either the Bills, 49ers, or Cardinals. Unless, by some miracle, the Seahawks, Bucs, Vikings and Redskins all choke, the Rams' destiny is very much their own. It's going to be an incredibly interesting final month of football, with up to six teams still realistically having a shot to snag the sixth NFC seed.

Follow the Fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Buffalo Rumblings, Turf Show Times, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@Buffrumblings

@TurfShowTimes

@pjscribe

@jthom1

Prediction

It's a tough game to nail down, but it ultimately will come down to the Bills having no answer for the Rams' ground game. St. Louis isn't dominant by any stretch running the ball, but Buffalo is too porous to contain a talent like Jackson for four quarters.

Also, the Rams have a better overall defense. If St. Louis can even contain C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, the Bills will be forced skyward against an above-average secondary.

The x-factor in this one? Legatron. Greg Zuerlein has been unbelievable this year, hitting 21 field goals this year including seven of 50+ yards. In a stadium famous for wind and foul weather, Zuerlein's big leg might be critical.

The pick: 23-17, Rams

Odds

Example: The Bills are favored by 3 points, according to Oddsshark.

Next Week

The Bills will host the Seattle Seahawks in Toronto's Rogers Centre while St. Louis will welcome the Minnesota Vikings to town.

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