The Arizona Cardinals will host the St. Louis Rams at University Phoenix Stadium on Sunday. The Cardinals will come into this game having lost six games in row. The Rams are in last place in the NFC West, but a win on Sunday will move them into third place. Cardinals’ Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt currently fighting for his job. A loss on Sunday might cement his departure at the end of the season.
Arizona will have the benefit of having RB Beanie Wells. He will probably not start, but his ability to get two or three yards on a carry is still better than RB LaRod Stephens-Howling. The Rams will come into this game expecting to ride the broad shoulders of Steven Jackson. The Arizona pass defense picked MVP candidate Matt Ryan off five times in a loss. If Rams’ QB Sam Bradford has a performance similar to that, they will lose hard. The do not have the same personal as the Atlanta Falcons.
From a fan standpoint, this will probably not be a great game to watch. The overall sense is that this game will be dominated by defense. The Cardinals’ offense is terrible, but their defense is also good enough to shut down the Rams’ offense completely.
What does this mean?
This is the Cardinals’ game to lose. Lets take a look at the probably starting lineups and highlight three key players from each team.
Quarterback: Ryan Lindley
Running back: LaRod Stephens-Howling
Fullback: Anthony Sherman
Wide receiver: Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts
Tight end: Jeff King
Offensive line (from the left): Nate Potter, Daryn Colledge, Lyle Sendlein, Adam Snyder, Bobby Massie
Quarterback: Sam Bradford
Running back: Steven Jackson
Fullback: Brit Miller
Wide Receiver: Brandon Gibson (Go Cougs), Danny Amendola (questionable)
Tight end: Lance Kendricks
Offensive Line (From the left): Rodger Saffold, Shelley Smith, Robert Turner, Harvey Dahl, Barry Richardson
Cardinals’ Defense (Base 3-4)
Defensive line: DE Calais Campbell (questionable), DT Dan Williams, DE Darnell Dockett
Linebackers: OLB Quentin Groves, MLB Daryl Washington, MLB Paris Lenon, OLB Sam Acho
Secondary: CB Patrick Peterson, CB William Gay, SS Adrian Wilson, FS Kerry Rhodes (probable)
Ram’s Defense (Base 4-3)
Defensive Line: DE Chris Long, DT Kendall Langford, DT Michael Brockers, DE Robert Quinn
Linebackers: WLB Jo-Lonn Dunbar, MLB James Laurinaitis, SLB Rocky McIntosh
Secondary: CB Cortland Finnegan, CB Janoris Jenkins, SS Craig Dahl, FS Quintin Mikell
Arizona Key Players
Like I said before, the Cardinals will get Beanie Wells back on Sunday. I’m guessing he will be limited to less than 15 carries, but it is up to him to use those carries efficiently enough to take the job back from Stephens-Howling. He has to average 3.5 yards per carry or there will be no point of making a change going into the next week. Stephens-Howling is a bigger threat to break one in open field. Wells better show fans something this weekend.
Next, WR Larry Fitzgerald is going to get his touches this week. Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt knows the organization does not spend millions of dollars a year for him not to catch passes. The quarterback on Sunday will be Ryan Lindley. At this moment, fans would rather see this team force the ball to the future Hall of Fame player than have another game like he did on Sunday.
Finally, lets go to the defensive side of the ball. DE Darnell Dockett has to get this defense pumped up. He is a great run stopper, but he also needs to get after the quarterback. If the Cardinals win this game it will be because the defense stepped up in a big way. However, if they lose, chances are it will not be their fault, so no pressure means the Cardinals can fly around the field like they have nothing to lose.
St. Louis Key Players
Since the Cardinals defense was able to intercept Matt Ryan five times last Sunday, Sam Bradford will get the nod for key player. He cannot throw the ball all over the field and expect to win this game. He has to play smart and reserved and hand the ball off to their future Hall of Fame running back.
That brings us to the next key player, RB Steven Jackson. Jackson’s ability to keep his motor running on some terrible Rams’ teams it truly amazing. He will have to have a great effort this weekend against a defense that is pretty stout in the passing game. Jackson will have to average five yards per carry on first down, or they will struggle on second and third down because of the tenacious Cardinals secondary.
The Rams’ have one of the best long field goal kickers in the NFL. In a game that will be dominated by defense, your best friend is always going to be your kicker and punter. They will share the last key player for the Rams. Johnny Hecker will need to keep the Cardinals deep in their own territory and the Greg Zuerlein cannot miss long field goals and give up field position battle. One bad punt or missed field goal could be the difference in this game.
The Cardinals and Rams are set for a showdown. Both of these teams have looked quite good during this season for a game or two. The Cardinals have struggled for the past seven weeks. The Rams have been a bi-polar team, but their best game of the season is a tie with the San Francisco 49ers. Whoever wins this game will be in last place. Chances are they will stay there the rest of the season.
My prediction record this season evened up at 5-5 last week for Cardinals’ games. I have a chance to go over 500 for the first time this year.
Prediction: The Cardinals’ offense shows some life. Cardinals 24, Rams 13
Follow Kase Brammer on Twitter @KBlive33