An NFC West matchup will pit the 4-0 Arizona Cardinals against the 2-2 St. Louis Rams in Week 5 of this NFL season. Despite the knock on each team’s respective offense, this Thursday night game does offer a bit of intrigue in fantasy football.
It includes a consistent stalwart wide receiver in Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals, a hot name off the waiver wire in Andre Roberts (also an Arizona wide receiver) and a workhorse running back for the St. Louis Rams, Steven Jackson.
This game will also provide the nation with its first chance to see rookie kicking record-smasher Greg Zuerlein.
The story of this game from a fantasy perspective was supposed to be the defenses. Neither offense was expected to be especially productive heading into the season.
Arizona has temporarily debunked that idea with four straight games of 20-plus points.
On the St. Louis side of things, the highest-scoring fantasy player this season is the kicker.
So, there’s that.
Still, the St. Louis defense is an underrated unit (in both NFL and fantasy football circles). The team is getting better by the week and has eight total defensive interceptions to its credit.
The Rams quietly have become a starting-quality defense in fantasy leagues. Their defensive/special teams unit is currently tied for 10th in ESPN standard scoring, with no games of negative points scored.
The Cardinals D/ST unit has also proven to be adept at taking the ball away. Arizona has only picked off four passes this season, but it has recovered six fumbles through four games.
Both defenses have scored a touchdown in 2012.
Because of the defensive résumés in play, the offensive outlook for this game is predictably pessimistic. You’re not going to want to start Kevin Kolb or Sam Bradford if you can avoid it.
The Rams and Cardinals, like the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football three days prior, are in the most-stingy quadrant of the NFL in terms of fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks.
Where the teams differ is that the Cardinals have been stopping the run, while the Rams have not.
St. Louis has been without its first-round pick, Michael Brockers, in the middle of the defensive line to aid with stopping opposing rushers. Brockers was available for Week 4, but could not play the entire game as he was working his way back from an ankle sprain.
Nevertheless, Ryan Williams of the Cardinals is averaging slightly fewer than three yards per carry this season.
Steven Jackson, similarly, has a 3.3 yards-per-carry average on the year.
Arizona is allowing 3.8 yards per rush to running backs.
Points will have to be scored somehow, but this particular matchup might be more decided by defenses and kickers giving the scoreboard operator something to do.
You’re probably going to start Larry Fitzgerald and/or Danny Amendola if you have them, but expecting a lot of production from them in this matchup might prove to be fruitless.
Hot waiver pickup Andre Roberts might not see much statistical success this week, either.
Each of the last two times St. Louis and Arizona have met, then-rookie Patrick Peterson took a punt back to the end zone. Each time, it was a massive reason that the Cardinals won the game.
In the teams’ first meeting of 2011, Peterson’s touchdown ended the game in overtime.
Maybe the story is still about the defenses.