St. Louis Rams at Arizona Cardinals
Sunday December 5, 2010 4:15 PM EST
Line: St. Louis -4
The St. Louis Rams are being picked as the odds on favorite to take the NFC West. Their defense is playing well and they have the best quarterback in the division in rookie Sam Bradford. While the NFC West is wide open, the 5-6 Rams look like they could seal a playoff birth with three more victories.
The Rams finally won last week on the road against the Broncos and will look to come away with another victory against the struggling Cardinals.
The Cardinals were seemingly knocked out of playoff contention last week, after being humiliated on Monday Night Football by the 49ers. Now, after having a shortened week to prepare, they will try to protect the nest to some sort of avail when they take on the St. Louis Rams. The last time they faced the Rams, the Cardinals took them out on the road, giving the Rams one of only two home losses this season.
Keys to the Game
Sam Bradford is having the best rookie season for a quarterback in recent memory. When a team selects a quarterback first overall and they are in the state the Rams were in, it is unlikely that the quarterback will succeed immediately. Bradford is having a record-breaking rookie season. Not only has he posted statistical firsts, he could take a team that only won three games in two years to the playoffs. His impact is immeasurable.
After having a rough day on the field, Derek Anderson had a melt down when asked about his sideline demeanor. The question asked Anderson where his laughter while being blown out in the fourth quarter stemmed from. Rather than explain the context, Anderson went on a tirade. This is conducive with the out of control fashion the Cardinals have been operating with since Warner left.
The 49ers exposed the Cardinals vulnerability against the power run game. Unfortunately for Arizona, the Rams have the personnel to duplicate what the 49ers did on Monday Night. Steven Jackson should expect to receive around 25 carries in this game. The Rams will likely try to exploit the Cardinal’s holes in their run defense early on, which will open up their passing game.
Larry Fitzgerald is the only real threat the Cardinals have on offense. They try to get him the ball, but although Fitzgerald has 122 targets, two behind league leader Terrell Owens, he only has 59 catches.
The Cardinals struggle running the ball, so if they are going to be able to remain close in games, they will need to get the ball into the hands of the one guy on their roster who can change games. Unfortunately, it appears as though Fitzgerald will continue to struggle as long as he has a Cardinal jersey on.
Who covers on Sunday?
Chris Long vs. Levi Brown
Forget about Chris Long’s sack total for a moment. Long leads the league in quarterback hurries. His relentless pursuit of the quarterback darws holding penalties and makes for a long day for any offensive lineman.
The Cardinal offense is already in disarray. If Long is able to get the best of Brown, Anderson is likely to make ill advised throws. It is critical that the Cardinals provide him with help, though James Hall is likely to come free with overcompensation to Long’s side.
I see the Cardinals as the most vulnerable team in the NFL. In their past six games, they have come away empty handed. The continue to look worse every week and the sight of the location has no effect on their play. The Rams do not play well on the road, but it appears as though they will be able to come away with a big win on the road this week.
Free NFL Pick: St. Louis -4