The St. Louis Rams (3-6-1) and Arizona Cardinals (4-6) were two of the surprise teams early in 2012. After Week 5 (3-2 and 4-1, respectively) they were part of an NFC West Division that had more teams above .500 than all of the AFC.
The Rams seemed to officially fall out of playoff contention with a humbling home loss to the New York Jets last weekend. They can only reach nine wins, which won't be enough to advance.
The Cardinals showed progress last week, trying to recapture their early-season form. They came up just short, despite collecting five interceptions, and lost to the Atlanta Falcons 23-19.
This game is mostly about bragging rights in the division, but both teams can play a physical game to secure the win.
Following are the particulars for this matchup.
When: Sunday, Nov. 25 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Where: U of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
TV: Fox (check local listings)
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Listen (radio): 101.1 ESPN, St. Louis and the Rams radio network; 92.3 KTAR, Phoenix and the Cardinals radio network
Betting Lines (via Bovada and 5Dimes)
Moneyline: St. Louis +108, Arizona -128
Spread: Cardinals -1.5
These teams are fairly even on paper. Their defenses are stout, but St. Louis has a few areas where they are thin.
While the teams should be able to continue to improve, 2012 isn't their year. I'm leaning towards the Cardinals as the home team, but their quarterback situation pushed me the other direction.
Take St. Louis straight up in this game.
There comes a point in the over/under where oddsmakers would really like to lower the total even more but it could lead to too lopsided a result. I have a feeling this is one of those cases.
Two good defenses with offenses that have been struggling makes the under quite appealing. If the injury report on Kolb doesn't change, rush to the under in this game.
St. Louis Rams (via St. Louis Rams)
Mario Haggan, LB, Limited Participation (Thigh), Questionable
Austin Pettis, WR, Did not Participate (Toe), Questionable
Eugene Sims, DE, Limited (Knee), Questionable
Darian Stewart, S, Limited (Knee), Questionable
Kevin Kolb, QB, Questionable (Ribs), Ryan Lindley expected to start
Kerry Rhodes, S, Questionable (Back)
William Gay, CB, Questionable (Groin)
Todd Heap, TE, Knee)
Justin Bethel, S, Questionable (Shoulder)
Daryn Colledge, G, Questionable (Foot)
Early Doucet, WR, Questionable (Ribs)
William Powell, RB, Questionable (Shoulder)
Alfonso Smith, RB, Questionable (Other Illness)
LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB, Questionable (Ribs)
Calais Campbell, DE, Probable (Calf)
Jamell Fleming, CB, Probable (Back)
Jeff King, TE, Probable (Knee)
Beanie Wells, RB, Probable (Toe)
Mike Leach, LS, Probable (Back)
Greg Toler, CB. Probable (Hamstring)
Fantasy Big Plays
St. Louis: RB Steven Jackson
Jackson has been getting the bulk of the carries in recent weeks, and the Rams will likely lean on him Sunday. The Cardinals have a strong front, though, so yards could be tough to come by.
Jackson might be best used in a few swing passes and possibly down the seam. St. Louis may opt to put Daryl Richardson in for some of those snaps, though.
Projected Stats: 22 Rushes, 78 yards, 1 TD, 4 receptions, 36 yards, 0 TD
The Cardinals will be starting a new quarterback, perhaps their only "healthy" running back has been on injured/eligible to return since September and only has 76 yards on the season, their offensive line was already struggling and could be without a starter...need I go on?
Some will suggest the defense, but there are three key members of that unit that may not be available on Sunday.
Key to Victory
Neither of these teams have been accused of doing a lot to protect their quarterback and open running lanes. The Cardinals have one of the worst lines in the NFL, leading to several quarterback injuries during the season.
They will need Ryan Lindley to be ready to go on Sunday, as it isn't looking like Kolb will be able to play.
Arizona has better receivers, while St. Louis is better equipped at running back. But without improved play along the line, both offenses will struggle to move the ball.
Both of these teams have been up and down this season. It seems they've both been more down than up over the last month but one of them is likely to respond in this game.
If Arizona had one of their two rotational quarterbacks in the game I'd give them the nod, but with Lindley getting the start I just can't pull that trigger.
Final Score: St. Louis 13, Arizona 10
Darin Pike is a writer for Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team and a Featured Columnist covering the NFL and the Seattle Seahawks.