Saturday's preseason game between the St. Louis Rams and the Denver Broncos features two teams who are both looking to rebound from a poor performance the week before and to build some momentum heading into the season. The third game of the exhibition schedule is generally considered the final tune-up of the preseason for most teams, with starters not expected to see the field in the fourth and final game.
The Rams and Broncos meet as two teams at two very different stages of development. The stacked and talented Broncos, led by Peyton Manning, will have an incredible amount of pressure to recreate the magic of 2012 while also needing to find more success in the postseason in order to truly have a successful season. The Rams, meanwhile, would like nothing more than to compete for a playoff spot in coach Jeff Fisher's second year on the sidelines in St. Louis.
Meet the St. Louis Rams
The Rams continue to rebuild under head coach Jeff Fisher, rebounding from just two wins in 2011 for a 7-8-1 record in 2012. A renewed sense of excitement and optimism is starting to build around the franchise for the first time in years, with fans finally starting to embrace the turnaround heralded by Fisher and company since taking over in 2012.
There will be a bit of a different look in the backfield this season, however, with second-year running back Daryl Richardson recently being named the starter for Week 1 of the regular season. Richardson earned the spot over Isaiah Pead, a year after bursting into the NFL with a successful season as the backup to the departed Steven Jackson.
Meet the Denver Broncos
The Broncos have yet to really take off in the preseason, with two fairly substandard performances highlighting the first two exhibition games in 2013. Against Seattle, Peyton Manning was efficient and effective in tossing a touchdown and 163 yards on 11-of-16 passing, but it was the play of the defense that was most worrying. The Seahawks outscored the Broncos, 33-7, in the first and second quarters, with the Broncos allowing a pair of 100-yard returns for touchdowns.
The pressure is high in Denver this season, and the Broncos are expected to have improved upon a team that was nearly unstoppable in the regular season in 2012. Manning is once again healthy and has an even deeper corps of receivers this season with the addition of Wes Welker. The question is whether the potent combination of offense and defense for Denver can continue the magic of the year before -- especially with Von Miller looking at a lengthy suspension to start the season.
Local Takes: Rams
Ryan Van Bibber from Turf Show Times is excited about what he's seen from the Rams in training camp, specifically the compete level he's seen from each player day in and day out:
You read through the practice reports, and it's pretty incredible. EVERY SINGLE PLAYER is just tearing it up on the field. I'm not, really, trying to be cynical. It's a good sign for the Rams.
Obviously, not every single player is executing everything perfectly. It's just hard to see that from the sidelines on the practice field. Besides, practice is a little different beast than a game, even a preseason game.
But the good news is that players are working, they're getting it. With cut down deadlines right around the corner, Fisher and his staff are going to have some tough decisions to make. That stinks for the players who get let go, but it's a good thing the Rams have so many motivated players to choose from. You have to start somewhere.
Local Takes: Broncos
Scotty Payne of Mile High Report isn't too concerned about the effect Von Miller's absence will have on the Broncos and says the easy schedule to start the season will help:
Looking at this schedule, the Broncos should be okay.The Eagles, Raiders and Jags won't be very good this year and we should be able to beat them without Von Miller. The Ravens, Giants and Cowboys will be tough, but I see no reason why we cannot beat them. Worst case I see 3-3, best case obviously 6-0.
Another reason not to worry is... well, Peyton Manning. Remember we have a future Hall Of Fame QB in Manning. We also have Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Wes Welker. Julius Thomas has looked great in the preseason, and we'll be getting Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme back healthy near the opener. A healthy Ryan Clady is also on his way back for Week One as well. Our offense is good enough to keep us afloat during these six games.
Follow the Fun
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
No Rams players cracked the list for 2013 MVP odds. Bradford 40/1 to lead NFL in passing yards.— TurfShowTimes (@TurfShowTimes) August 20, 2013
@jthom1-- Rams beat writer
The last open to the public practice of training camp ends with a Jeff Fisher tradition _ the dizzy-bat relay race for rookies. . . .— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) August 21, 2013
@MikeKlis -- Broncos beat writer
Dear #Broncos fans: Please don't bring bags to game so I can stop going to bag-policy press conferences.— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) August 21, 2013
The Broncos are favored by a touchdown in Saturday's game, according to OddsShark.com.
The Denver Broncos will next take on the Arizona Cardinals in the final game of the preseason on Thursday, Aug. 29 while the Rams will finish up their preseason the same night against the Baltimore Ravens.