Off to London they go, and with them they bring two teams owned by ridiculously rich guys who want to make more money by showcasing their team to the Brits and trying to sell some more jerseys.
In what has become an annual forgettable tradition similar to the Buffalo Bills making the trip to play in front of a half-full stadium in Toronto, this years game in London at least features two teams that you can get excited about.
The Pats tend to bring excitement with them wherever they go. Tom Brady has a way of doing that, and Gronk crushing pints of Guinness is something that TMZ cannot wait for. But the Rams are a quietly good team that has not yet gotten the recognition they deserve for fielding a stout defence led by Jeff Fisher and an offence waiting for their top pass catcher to get his clavicle in order. You know what they say about clavicles these days.
If this game were being played in Foxboro amongst the elements and Hurricane Sandy making her way up the coast, the circumstances would be much different, but making the hop across the pond favours the Rams who enter the game as dogs of just less than a touchdown.
News came down this afternoon that Aaron Hernandez did not make the trip to London after his ankle did not respond well to treatment all week. Broken down communication looks like it will doom the Pats once again. This leaves Gronk as the obvious benefactor, but also makes life easier for the Rams in dealing with the weapons coming at them.
Brandon Lloyd has been disappointing in the way that every receiver touted as a down field threat in the Pats system since Randy Moss has failed to live up to expectations. Welker will continue to work the underneath routes and try to develop mismatches in the slot. Gronk will try to get down the seam and expose linebackers and safeties down the field. But what else do the Rams really need to concern themselves with?
Cortland Finnegan and rookie Janoris Jenkins have stepped in from day one and and established themselves as one of the best corner tandems in the league. Both have a tendency to take chances and act overly aggressive at times, but if they can keep their heads, they can quiet any receivers coming their way.
The Rams allow just 228 yards through the air per game, compared to 291 yards for the patchwork Pats secondary. Neither teams allows teams to average more than a century on the ground per game, so this game could be a grind for both teams to score points.
Not only are the St. Louis corners something to be feared, their front four is quickly turning into a dangerous unit as well. Chris Long has established himself as a force coming off the edge, while rookie Michael Brockers and Robert Quinn work the other side to perfection.
They are young and a lot of assets have been invested into it, but the Rams defensive line is already amongst the best in the league. Add James Laurinaitis as the man leading the entire unit, and the Pats need to be careful that they don't overlook the Rams while seeing the sights and sound of London.
The Pats have been averaging more than 150 yards per game on the ground, but the athleticism of the Rams prevent could make life tough for Ridley, Woodhead and whoever else gets touches out of the backfield this week.
Sam Bradford is going to need to score a few points on his own, something that he has struggled to do this season, especially since Danny Ammendola went down with a busted collarbone. Steven Jackson is still a force, but he has lost half a step. Daryl Richardson is a nice change of pace back, but getting the ball into his hands enough has been a struggle.
Brandon Gibson and Chris Givens have been thrust in as the top two receivers while Lance Kendricks still tries to find openings down the field. This will likely be an ugly, low-scoring game that you realize in the third quarter hasn't really been that good. But it is in London! Expansion!
The Patriots continue to get too much credit for their success, and rather ride the coat tails of a decade of victories rather than truly go out and impress on a weekly basis. This game is a perfect upset special in the making, so consider it on the moneyline if you are brave.
Pick of the week record: 4-3.
RGIII saved it last week, despite not pulling out a victory. He reminded up that any game that the Skins now play is not over until it is over. Few leads are safe and point can go up in a hurry. The Giants are a solid team, but not even they could prevent a sneaky cover by the Skins.