When this season’s schedule opened up, this Thursday night matchup was set to be one of the most boring on tap. However, after four weeks of play, this NFC West battle will be one of the more interesting games this week. The most surprising 4-0 team, the Arizona Cardinals travel to St. Louis to take on the scrappy 2-2 Rams. Both of the teams have been debunking their negative preseason predictions with great play on the defensive side of the ball. Each offense has been managing the game, but these two teams are defensive teams and are going to be ready to pounce on the opposing offense.
With that being said, let’s see if the Cardinals can remain undefeated or can the Rams continue their climb back to relevance in the NFL.
In the opening game of the season, Arizona lost its starting quarterback, John Skelton to an ankle injury. They had to turn to Kevin Kolb, whose inconsistent play did not back up the large contract the Cardinals signed him to two off seasons ago. Although, Kolb led a fierce comeback and shocked the Seattle Seahawks. Since then, Kolb and this sturdy Cards defense have been one of the best teams in the NFL, and their record is a testimony to that. After shocking the likes of the Patriots and the Eagles, the Cardinals have convinced many that they are not here to fool around and are prepared to make some noise in the league. Arizona must keep up their solid offensive play and their lights out defense. With the weak offense of the Rams, the Cardinals know what is necessary in order to take this one on the road.
St Louis Rams:
After being in the basement of the NFL since Sam Bradford has been with the organization, the Rams have been plagued by injuries, and lack luster play. Now, with future hall-of-fame coach Jeff Fisher controlling the squad, and Sam Bradford at full strength, this Rams team might be starting to develop a contender in St Louis. After Sunday’s impressive victory over the Seattle Seahawks, the Rams are 2-2 right in the thick of things in the NFC. This game could be considered a must-win for St Louis who is trying to develop a potential contender and may be ahead of schedule. Now, on prime time, at home, the Rams have an opportunity to beat an undefeated team and make a statement to the league that they too can play with the elite teams in the NFL. Like the Cardinals, balanced offensive play and a shutdown defense could be the recipe to success for the Rams in this ball game.
What to Watch:
Ryan Williams: The second-year pro out of Virginia Tech has had a difficult start to his career. Battling a ruptured patellar tendon in the pre-season of last season, Williams missed his entire rookie campaign. Now he has returned with high hopes, especially when Beanie Wels went down with a toe injury that will put him out for a majority of the season. Now Williams’s steps into the lime light of the NFL. In his first start last week, Williams faced a tough Dolphins run defense, and many began to doubt if the second-year pro has what it takes to start in the pros. Williams must impress in this game for Ken Whisenhunt and his staff to give them his trust. The Rams defensive line is sub-par, so this could be the breakout game Ryan Williams has been waiting for.
Rams Secondary: After giving Russell Wilson absolutely no where to look down-field, the Rams defense came up with three interceptions, giving them eight through four games, second in the league. With such a terrific secondary, headed by all-pro cornerback Cortland Finnegan, this defense is sure to make this a difficult time for Larry Fitzgerald to get open down the field. The Rams also do not have to worry about such great quarterback play to begin with, for Kevin Kolb will be making the throws. With such a tough secondary to navigate, designed by coach Jeff Fisher, Kolb will have trouble deciphering through the defensive backs and finding receivers. The Cards must depend on short routes and running games because pushing the ball down field through the air will be difficult against St. Louis.
Andre Roberts: I just spoke of the tough time Kevin Kolb will have against this difficult St. Louis secondary. It is expected that the Rams will look at Larry Fitzgerald as a priority, so Andre Roberts must keep up his high-level of play like he has played up to date. Roberts has scored at least one touchdown in every game but one, and with Larry Fitzgerald facing double and sometimes triple coverage’s against teams, Roberts has excelled. His great play must continue to get something going for the Cards against St Louis as Roberts has great speed and could break open this defense with one quick pass. With the game expected to be close, Roberts may be the difference in this one.
These two teams are used to playing meaningless games over the past couple of seasons, but now they face a big one here on Thursday Night Football. I think that the Cardinals have played great thus far, but I think that the Rams are going to keep their great defensive play up and be the first team to take down Arizona this season. Sam Bradford and Danny Amendola are sure to keep up their great chemistry, and Jeff Fisher is sure to have a great defensive strategy to slow down this mediocre Cards offense. So, I’ll take the Rams in a relatively low scoring affair coming down to defense.