Cards, Rams clash
October 4, 2012
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ARIZONA CARDINALS (4-0) at ST. LOUIS RAMS (2-2)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Arizona -2 & 39.5
Opening Line & Total: Cards -2 & 38.5
Unbeaten Arizona visits Edward Jones Dome on Thursday night, seeking its eighth straight road win at St. Louis.
The Cardinals are 5-2 ATS during their seven SU wins in a row at St. Louis. Arizona still has some flaws on offense, but the emergence of WR Andre Roberts across from Larry Fitzgerald has given the team some semblance of balance in the passing game. The Cards defense has carried them thus far, though they struggled to contain the Dolphins' downfield passing attack in Week 4, allowing 394 yards. The Rams have made strides under first-year head coach Jeff Fisher, though their offense has topped 300 yards just once in their first four games. Both teams are 3-1 ATS this season. Sure, the Cards got a little lucky en route to their 4-0 SU start. But this team also has a really underrated defense whose biggest weakness -- the big-play passing game -- is not something the Rams can expose. Arizona is an NFL-best 11-2 SU in its past 13 games, and there is no reason the Cardinals can't win comfortably again on Thursday night against a Rams team that is 10-31 ATS versus good defensive teams (allowing 17.0 PPG or less) since 1992.
Kevin Kolb has been much-maligned in his young career for making too many mistakes, but he has turned the ball over just twice all season, while completing 63% of his passes for 752 yards (7.0 YPA) and 7 TD. Kolb has not always gotten rid of the football quickly though, taking 13 sacks in four games already. Roberts had a huge performance in Sunday's 24-21 overtime win over Miami, catching six passes for 118 yards and 2 TD. Rookie WR Michael Floyd also had his best game of the season by catching four of his eight targets. Fitzgerald has responded in a big way since his one-catch output in Week 2, grabbing 17 passes for 178 yards and 2 TD in the past two weeks. Despite the receiving heroics, Arizona may have an easier time gaining yards on the Rams' 26th-ranked run defense (135 YPG) than their 11th-rated passing defense (214 YPG). Ryan Williams will once again be the main ball carrier with both Beanie Wells (toe) and LaRod Stephens-Howling (hip) out with injuries. Williams had a nice effort in Week 3 against Philadelphia (83 yards on 13 carries), but struggled against Miami with just 26 yards on 13 carries. The Cardinals defense ranks second in the league with 16 sacks, places third in points allowed (15.2 PPG) and ranks fourth in forced turnovers (10) this season. This constant pressure should continue against an injury-depleted Rams offensive line, even if star DT Darnell Dockett (hamstring, questionable) cannot play.
Sam Bradford knows he will have to get rid of the ball quickly against this great Cardinals pass rush. Bradford has already taken 14 sacks this year, throwing an equal amount of touchdowns and interceptions (four). It will also help if RB Steven Jackson is more recovered from his groin injury that kept him out of practice for the majority of last week. Jackson has started slow this season with just 195 yards on 59 carries (3.3 YPC) with zero touchdowns. Assuming Bradford stays on his feet for the majority of the game, the Rams should be able to move the football through the air against Arizona's 21st-ranked pass defense (256 YPG). Danny Amendola has been targeted 44 times in four games, which is 25 more targets than any other teammate. Amendola (351 rec. yds, 2 TD) and Brandon Gibson (151 rec. yds, 2 TD) are the only Rams players with either 10 catches or 100 yards receiving. On the defensive side of the Ball, St. Louis has just six sacks on the year, but ranks second in the NFL with eight interceptions, three by cagey veteran CB Cortland Finnegan.