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St. Louis Rams vs. Arizona Cardinals Preview and Prediction

Larry Fitzgerald

Larry Fitzgerald

The undefeated Arizona Cardinals (3-0) welcome their divisional rival St. Louis Rams (1-2) Sunday in a game featuring two of the best defenses in the league. With the return of Carson Palmer, the Cardinals have looked like the best team in the NFC through the start of the season, ranking first in points scored and third in points allowed. They're coming off a dominant 47-7 beat down of the San Francisco 49ers and could feast once again on a Rams offense that is near the bottom of the league in all categories.

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While the Rams' offense might be not be much cause for concern for Arizona, the same can't be said for St. Louis' defense, one of the most talented and disruptive in the league, and one that can change the course of a game with a single play. The Rams are 12th in points allowed and seventh in passing yards per game. Aaron Donald already has 3.5 sacks, complementing 2014 NFL sack leader Robert Quinn, who is a force on the edge and has three sacks himself.

The Cardinals are clicking in all aspects right now so the Rams' defense will have to have their best game of the season to give St. Louis a chance to win. If Palmer can have a big day against them, the Cardinals will firmly be in the conversation for the NFC Super Bowl representative.

St. Louis at Arizona

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET

Network: FOX

Line: Cardinals -6.5

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Three Things to Watch

1. Carson Under Pressure

There might not be a better one-two pass rush punch in the league than Quinn and Donald, and they'll test Arizona's pass protection like it hasn't been tested before. Carson Palmer has nine touchdowns and just two interceptions, and picked up right where he left off when he went down with an ACL tear in 2014 against these same Rams. The game will most likely be won or lost with how well the Cardinals can keep Donald and Quinn off Palmer.

2.Paging the Rams' offense

The Rams have been equally ineffective running and passing the ball, culminating with just two field goals last week against the Steelers. Still they did put up 352 yards of offense against Seattle in their Week 1 overtime win, so perhaps the potential is there despite the ugly performances of the last two weeks. But playing well offensively at home is one thing, doing it on the road against a divisional rival is something else. They better wake up soon or the season will quickly be going down the drain.

3.Cardinals Make a Statement

This was the same game last year that Palmer tore his ACL and that moment changed the course of the season for a Cardinals team that looked on pace to challenge Seattle for the division. This year the Cardinals have looked even better, and while divisional games are almost always competitive, a convincing victory over the Rams would put 2014 behind Palmer in more ways than one. With a two-game lead in the division already, the Cardinals could put an early stranglehold on playoff spot with a win.

Final Analysis

The Rams have a talented defensive front that can give any offense problems and they should be a strong test for a Cardinals offense that has put up more points than anyone else. The problem for the Rams will be keeping pace on the scoreboard. Simply put, settling for field goals will be unacceptable this week. Unless the Rams can force multiple turnovers that swing field position, the Cardinals should roll.

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Prediction: Cardinals 28, Rams 10

— Written by Mike Dussault, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and writer/editor of (@PatsPropaganda), a comprehensive blog covering the New England Patriots.