Struggling Rams big favorites against winless, punchless Jaguars

A few extra days off helped the St. Louis Rams gain a little perspective on a season fast going sour.

They also realized things could be worse. A lot worse.

The winless Jacksonville Jaguars are double-digit underdogs on Sunday against a franchise whose missteps lately are reminiscent of the bad old days before coach Jeff Fisher arrived as the franchise savior.

The Rams (1-3) have trailed by double digits every game and overcame it once against the Cardinals for their first opening win since 2006. The last two games, the 49ers and Cowboys combined for a 66-18 beatdown.

For some, it's already time for must-win palaver.

"We've got to get things back on track," quarterback Sam Bradford said after noting the low-luster matchup of teams ranked 27th and 32nd by APPro32 was a double must. "We've got to get rolling, and this is the week that starts all of that."

Across the board, the Jaguars (0-4) have no apparent strengths on offense. They're last in scoring with a 7.8-point average, next-to-last in rushing and 30th in passing.

The Rams' dormant run game could spring to life against Jacksonville, which has been surrendering 165 yards per game. If not, they're really, really in trouble.

Five things to watch for in Jaguars-Rams:

IN THE MOOD: The Rams made a five-win improvement to 7-8-1 in Fisher's first season and optimism abounded they'd be a contender this year, much of it based on an offense fortified by first-round pick Tavon Austin and mobile tight end Jared Cook. Austin is waiting for his breakout game and Cook, after debuting with 141 yards and two touchdowns, has been held to 99 yards total the last three. So far, it's a major step back.

"We're frustrated but we know it's a long season," defensive end Robert Quinn said. "It can be turned around just that fast."

Gus Bradley is the third coach in three years for Jacksonville, which was 2-14 last season. "I know people at times may be frustrated and discouraged, but to me, I know getting discouraged isn't the way to get better," Bradley said. "So, we just stay away from that."

UNEASY HOMECOMING: Blaine Gabbert starred at Parkway West High in suburban St. Louis and was a two-year starter at Missouri before the Jaguars made him a first-round draft pick in 2011. He's 2-0 as the starting quarterback at the Edward Jones Dome and adds, "I think we won there my freshman year as well." This business trip includes the side benefit of a mini-reunion. "Pretty much all my family is still in St. Louis, so there will be a nice gathering at the game. It'll be fun for those guys to see me play at home," Gabbert said.

Not if they keep scoring at their present slow-motion clip, getting just three points last week and two in the opener. Gabbert threw three interceptions last week.

UPRIGHT BRADFORD: The Rams' offensive line did not allow a sack in four consecutive games, the last two of 2012 and the first two this year. Good while it lasted. The last two games, Bradford has been sacked 11 times and under siege constantly. The Rams are heavily invested, signing tackle Jake Long in free agency this year and center Scott Wells last year, in a unit that's also not opening holes on the run.

RAMS RBs: Disregarding the fact Atlanta's Steven Jackson hasn't returned from a thigh injury sustained against his old team in Week 2, a collection of young, unproven replacements is averaging just 47.2 yards and 2.6 yards per carry. Fisher said all the backs that are active might see action, and there's a chance rookie Zac Stacy will get his first start.

JAGUARS RBs: Frank Gore busted loose against the Rams last week for his first 100-yard game of the season. The previous game, Dallas' DeMarco Murray rambled for 175 yards. This week, they'll be trying to keep Maurice Jones-Drew in check. Slowed by a foot injury, Jones-Drew has just 138 yards and a 2.6-yard average. "Our job right now is just to focus on the details because that's what's been getting us in trouble the first four weeks," Gabbert said. "We really have to home in on all the little mistakes that we've been making."

Getting wide receiver Justin Blackmon back from a suspension figures to help.


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