The Undefeated Arizona Cardinals (4-0) will travel to the Edward Jones Dome to face the St. Louis Rams in NFL Thursday Night Football. The Cardinals come into this game with more confidence than they have had since the Superbowl run with Kurt Warner. Coming off a comeback overtime win against the Miami Dolphins, the Cardinals showed their willingness to win tough battles despite not playing their best football.
St. Louis is coming off a huge victory against the Seattle Seahawks. The Rams special teams unit helped beat the Seahawks with a little bit of trickery on a fake field goal. The Rams are obviously a much better team than last year and they still have a lot of upside as the youngest team in the NFL. They will definitely have to pull something out of a hat to beat one of the toughest teams in the league right now.
The Cardinals are still doubted, but like I have said before, winning removes all doubt. So, let’s take a look at the probable starting lineups for the week 5 matchup and highlight 3 key players from each team.
Quarterback: Kevin Kolb
Running back: Ryan Williams
Fullback: Anthony Sherman
Wide Receiver: Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts
Tight end: Jeff King
Offensive Line (from the left): D’Anthony Batiste, Daryn Colledge, Lyle Sendlein, Adam Snyder, Bobbie Massie
Quarterback: Sam Bradford
Running back: Steven Jackson (probable)
Fullback: Brit Miller
Wide Receiver: Brandon Gibson (Go Cougs), Danny Amendola
Tight end: Mathew Mulligan
Offensive Line (From the left): Rodger Saffold, Quinn Ojinnaka, Robert Turner, Harvey Dahl, Barry Richardson
Cardinals Defense (Base 3-4)
Defensive Line: DE Calais Campbell, DT Dan Williams, DE Darnell Dockett (game time decision)
Linebackers: OLB O’Brien Schofield, MLB Daryl Washington, MLB Paris Lenon, OLB Sam Acho
Secondary: CB Patrick Peterson, CB William Gay, SS Adrian Wilson, FS Kerry Rhodes
Ram’s Defense (Base 4-3)
Defensive Line: DE Chris Long, DT Kendall Langford, DT Kellen Heard, DE Robert Quinn
Linebackers: WLB Jo-Lonn Dunbar, MLB James Laurinaitis, SLB Rocky McIntosh
Secondary: CB Cortland Finnegan, CB Janoris Jenkins, SS Darian Stewart, FS Quintin Mikell
(Side note: The Cardinals once again lose the contest between which team has the sweetest names.)
Arizona Key Players
Marshawn Lynch torched the Rams defense for 118 yards on the ground last weekend. They knew he was going to run the ball, but still couldn’t stop him. This is as good of time as any for RB Ryan Williams and the Cardinals to finally get the running game going. They are currently ranked 29th in the league in rushing, a number that needs to improve for the Cardinals to continue to win games.
Last week, the Cardinals missed Darnell Dockett coming off the edge. The Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill had way too much time to throw the ball, and it showed. Over 400 yards passing is not appropriate for a defense that could prove to be top five in the league. So my second key player is Sam Acho. He rushed the passer effectively in week 4 and will need to get to Sam Bradford early and often to break the young quarterback’s confidence.
Finally, I may sound like a broken record, by the entire offensive line has to do a better job at run blocking. The Cardinals line needs to get used to playing on the other side of the ball. Most defenses these days don’t have to worry about the run game against Arizona, which makes their 4-0 record even more impressive. The Cardinals need to get better on offense and it starts with the offensive line, skips everybody else, and goes directly to Kevin Kolb.
St. Louis Key Players
The Cardinals defense finally showed weakness on the defensive side of the ball this week. So, Sam Bradford is the Rams’ number 1 key player. With Steven Jackson being slowed by the short week, I look for Bradford to fire the ball down field and open some lanes for Jackson to run the ball late in the game.
Second, the Rams defense needs to be able to stop the run. Kendall Langford and Kellen Heard are the big guys in the middle, so they come in a pair for my second key player. The big boys need to do a better job of clogging run lanes, so the linebackers can fly around and make plays.
Lastly, the Rams will do their best to stop Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Roberts, the newest dynamic duo in the NFL. The entire secondary is my last key player(s). I realize that is a cop out, but it’s true. If the Cardinals can’t run the ball, than there will be a lot of pressure on the Rams secondary. Kolb is a man on a mission, and if he gets hot, it’s going to be a long day for the guys in the back in St. Louis.
Everybody knows a 4-0 record comes with a target on your back, as every team wants to beat an undefeated team. It comes with a feeling of satisfaction that no other team can take away from you. The Rams want that satisfaction. However, they are going need to be good at darts to take down the target on this Cardinals team.
I picked the Cardinals to lose in the first three weeks of the season. After picking the Cardinals to win on Sunday my record improves to 1-3. Here’s to picking the Cardinals to win until they lose.
Prediction: Arizona 24, St. Louis 10