Divisional games are always personal, this is especially true in the NFC West. This week the Los Angeles Rams will travel to Phoenix to play the Arizona Cardinals, and trust me, when it comes to these two squads there is no love lost.
The Rams have basically been all over the place this year. First they lost to the 49ers in San Francisco (28-0). Then they held the Seahawks to just 3 points, winning a divisional game deep in Starbucks country. After that it was the Bucs in Tampa Bay, where the Rams came out on top after an offensive shoot out (37-32).
The Cardinals are coming off of a bad loss in Buffalo. Lack of focus, trying too hard, early East Coast game, we’ve heard it all this week. Arizona prides it’s self on the “good teams don’t lose two in a row” philosophy, and this will be a clear cut test in determining what kind of ball club the Cardinals are in 2016.
The Rams (2-1) are actually leading the NFC West as of now, but a loss in Arizona (1-2) would shake things up dramatically. Given a perfect Sunday, the Cardinals could theoretically go from worst to first.
This is why I see Los Angeles bringing their “A” game this weekend. This is why I see Arizona bringing their “A” game as well. This Sunday’s match up could be the difference between home field advantage, a wild card birth, and maybe even not making the playoffs at all.
So it’s for half the marbles. It’s a test of one’s character and a legal brawl. The pride is on the line. It always gets chippy when these two play, but someone always shows up more pissed off than the other.
~ Give Me The Keys Playa ~
This game, in my opinion, will be won in the trenches. Whomever controls the line of scrimmage sets the tone and dictates the time of possession. Last year the Rams held the line in Arizona winning a very close battle, Rams 24 – Az 22.
Arizona then got their revenge in St Louis, Az 27 – Rams 3. Arizona played angrily, limiting the Rams to just 212 total yards, while the Arizona offensive line shoved their way to a 175 yard (rushing) day. The Cardinals averaged 4.9 yards per carry.
Side Note: In each game the team with the most rushing yards won. Carson Palmer threw for 352 yards in the Arizona loss, while Nick Foles threw for a mere 171.
This game will also be a defensive bout. I could sit here and tell you it’s the Cardinals (9th) that are a top 10 defense after three weeks, and that the Rams are ranked 19th overall, but none of this matters. If the Cardinals front plays up to their potential, it creates opportunities for the Arizona secondary. This means shutting down the run game and putting Case Keenum in vulnerable positions. There’s a reason the Rams moved up in the draft, the Cardinals defense has to exploit that reason.
Turnover free football. Best three words ever, Carson Palmer has to double hand that pigskin while scanning the field. David Johnson has to concentrate on ball security while dancing and waiting for lanes to open.
Last but not least, keep the deep shot alive. The deep threat is just that, it’s a treat that forces defenses to respect the top, preventing them from stacking the box. Calling all receivers… this Los Angeles secondary can’t cover you. These won’t be 50/50 balls, they will be more like 65/35, depending on how Carson Palmer is throwing of course.
~ Give Me The Key Players ~
Cardinals David Johnson vs Rams Todd Gurley
Same draft class, same football talents, I won’t say one is better then the other because they are both special. These two are what the game comes down to, sustaining drives pounding the ball, moving the chains and controlling the clock. Each keeping the other guy off the field. Word on the web is that these two guys are friends, from the draft, where they agreed that the running back should be regarded in a higher manner in the NFL Draft.
Cardinals Secondary vs Rams Duo
Patrick Peterson can’t cover both Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt at the same time. Tyvon Branch and Marcus Cooper will likely have their work cut out for them. I imagine the Rams putting Britt out on an island with Peterson, and having Tavon Austin creating chaos with the other 40 yards of the field. Branch and Cooper will have to be very focused on where they are supposed o be at all times.
Carson Palmer vs Case Keenum
Evan Mathis vs Turf Toe
This is one of those painful injuries, sure you can play on it, but for 60+ plays? The Cardinals need Evan Mathis badly, he had a full practice on Friday, hopefully he can play with the pain.
I’m no good at that. I don’t think the Rams will come in over confident or relaxed. Arizona will have to be ready and eager to defend the fort, starting in the first quarter. The Cardinals main concern has to be getting off to a better start on offense, if this is a low scoring game it favors the Rams. A lot is on the line in Arizona, literally.
Feel free to comment here or hit me up on twitter @ShawnRivard777.
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