NFL Wire News

Week 15 Preview: Cardinals at Rams

on

Arizona Cardinals (10-3) at St. Louis Rams (6-7)

Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET, at Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis – TV: NFL Network

*TV announcers: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson

*Keys to the game: The battle of the backups in St. Louis has deeper meaning for the Cardinals, as starters continue to drop due to injuries, including RB Andre Ellington (hip) placed on IR on Monday.

The Rams are riding a defense coming off of consecutive shutouts in support of QB Shaun Hill, who established a veteran’s calm on offense but poses no threat outside the pocket as Austin Davis did in the Cardinals’ 31-14 win over the Rams at home on Nov. 9.

That was the same game in which Carson Palmer (knee) went down for the season, and QB Drew Stanton has been mostly erratic going 2-2 since the last meeting. A weak running game hasn’t helped. With Ellington out, coach Bruce Arians cut Michael Bush and unearthed Kerwynn Williams. Williams surprised with the Cardinals’ first 100-yard game of the season.

Williams could be crucial for the Cardinals. The Rams allow 4.2 yards per carry and if Arizona fails getting its ground game going, Stanton will be throwing into a biting pass rush for four quarters.

The Rams expect their defense to push the pendulum in their favor every game with 23 takeaways and 35 sacks. Hill’s job is to avoid turnovers, and against the Cardinals this calls for finding — possibly avoiding — CB Patrick Peterson.

With CB Antonio Cromartie (Achilles) ailing, Hill might get extra room to work underneath to TE Jared Cook and WR Stedman Bailey. Arizona gives up just 92.1 rushing yards per game, and 18 of the 25 touchdowns allowed by the Cardinals have been passes.

*Matchup to watch – Cardinals DE Calais Campbell vs. Rams offensive line: Campbell has five sacks in the past five games, including two against the Rams in November. He’ll be a whiteboard topic for the Rams all week. Third-down defense was Arizona’s calling card until the past two games, when opponents converted 13 of 30 chances. Hill throws early, but takes very few risks in the second half and has just three 20-plus-yard pass plays after halftime this season.

*Player spotlight – Cardinals RS Ted Ginn: Ginn averages 10.2 yards per punt return, including a 71-yard score, and his chances will be meaningful in a field-position struggle. The Rams have allowed an NFL-high nine return touchdowns this season, mostly on opponent’s defensive scores.

*Fast facts: The Cardinals’ season rushing average is 3.2 yards per carry. Williams averaged 5.3 yards on 19 carries last week. … The Rams allow an average of 2.46 points in the first quarter this season.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

A tight game could come down to special teams. Throw out the records — these are very evenly matched teams with a similar approach and “win it in the fourth quarter” philosophy. Arizona might be overmatched in terms of pure talent, but the Cardinals still believe this is their division title to lose.

*Our pick: Cardinals 19-17


About The Sports Xchange

Avatar

Since 1987, the Sports Xchange has been the best source of information and analysis for the top professionals in the sports publishing & information business