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This NFC West rivalry has been very one-sided in the recent past.
NFC West rivals will clash tonight when the St. Louis Rams host the Arizona Cardinals at 8:20 pm EST on the NFL Network. The Cardinals have been one of the better stories in the NFL after one month, as Ken Whisenhunt’s club is one of only three undefeated teams in the league. Arizona has won 10 of the last 11 meetings against the Rams, but St. Louis has won both of its home games under new coach Jeff Fisher.
When the Arizona Cardinals have the ball:
The Arizona offense began the season with John Skelton at quarterback, but Kevin Kolb replaced the injured starter in Week 1 and has been very effective. Kolb has totaled seven touchdowns against only two interceptions, and his efficient play has been a key in the Cardinals 4-0 start. Larry Fitzgerald is still the top outside threat for Arizona, but the contribution of Andre Roberts (229 yards and four touchdowns) was huge in September. The Cards still need to get the running game on track, as Arizona has only rushed for 2.7 yards per carry on the season.
The Rams defense has played fairly well under Fisher and staff, ranking 15th in the league after four games. St. Louis held Seattle to 13 points last week, and the defense will need a similar performance tonight versus another division rival in Arizona. The Rams have only six sacks on the year, but they do rank second in the NFL with eight interceptions. The defensive unit has struggled some against the run, but the Cardinals have yet to establish success in that area.
When the St. Louis Rams have the ball:
Quarterback Sam Bradford played well (310 yards and three touchdowns) in the Week 2 home win against the Redskins, but has been pretty pedestrian otherwise. His favorite target by far has been fourth-year receiver Danny Amendola, who already has 31 receptions on the season. The next highest total on the club is Brandon Gibson with 10 catches. The Rams will be looking for more from veteran running back Steven Jackson, who has been battling a groin injury while averaging only 3.3 yards a carry so far.
The Arizona defense has been all about pressuring opposing quarterbacks, and getting after the youthful Bradford will be a top priority. The Cardinals lead the NFC with 16 sacks, and they have totaled 10 takeaways on the season. Despite giving up over 250 passing yards per game, the aggressive Arizona defense ranks third in the NFL in points allowed at only 15.3 per contest.
Both teams have given up 14 sacks (tied for second-worst in the NFL), so protecting the passer will be the critical element in this divisional battle. Red zone success and special teams will also be key, and Rams rookie Greg Zuerlein and Arizona veteran Jay Feely have both been perfect on field goals this season. It should be a tight, low-scoring affair, and we’ll take the Rams (hosting their first primetime game in five years) to spoil the Cardinals perfect record.
Rams 23 Cardinals 20
---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)