While St Louis’ season is pretty much over at 5-7, Arizona is fighting to stay relevant in the NFC playoff picture. Their 7-5 record would tie for the division lead in two NFC divisions, but in the ultra-competitive West it is only good for third place.
Both sides come into this game on a loss. After a close loss to Philadelphia last week snapped a four game winning streak, the Cardinals are desperate to get back to winning ways in a hurry. If they are going to do that, it all rests on Carson Palmer. The quarterback was near-flawless during Arizona’s winning run, throwing eight touchdowns against just two interceptions.
The Rams, on the other hand, scored 80 points in two games before San Francisco brought them back down to earth. Jeff Fisher’s side, who have been surprisingly competitive with back-up quarterback Kellen Clemons, will be looking to throw a spanner in the works for the rival Cardinals’ playoff push.
Without further ado, here are three bold predictions for what may transpire at the University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday.
St Louis will record a season high 8 sacks – The Rams highest sack total for a single game this season is 7. Incidentally, the highest number of sacksCarsonPalmer has taken in a game is also 7. Both records will fall this weekend, as St Louis’ devastating pass rush gets the most favourable match-up of the season against the Cardinals woeful offensive line. Palmer has been sacked 11 times in the past three weeks alone.
The Rams pass rush is as dangerous as ever, coming off a 4 sack performance against the 49ers last week. The team ranks 5th in the NFL with 37 sacks, 13 of which have been provided by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Robert Quinn, who has been coming like a bullet off the edge all season. Chalk him up for 4 sacks against Cardinals offensive tackles Bradley Sowell and Eric Winston, who won’t have an answer for him on Sunday.
Tavon Austin will out-rush any single Arizona Cardinal – Let’s not beat around the bush here; he’s capable of it. With the Rams’ 25th ranked offence going up against the Cardinals 7th ranked defence (and 4th ranked rushing defence) this week, it’s likely that offensive co-ordinator Brian Schottenheimer is going to have to get creative to keep the chains moving.
It’s a safe bet that any creative offensive game plan is going to involve Tavon Austin, who has blossomed into an offensive weapon with three long touchdown plays in as many weeks. He can be an x-factor for the Rams on Sunday, and is easily capable of breaking a couple of big runs. Don’t be surprised to see him close in on 100 rushing yards on the day.
The Arizona running backs, meanwhile, are averaging just 88.8 yards per game on the season. They haven’t had a runner with 100 yards or more in a game since week 8.
Patrick Peterson will return a punt for a touchdown – Sometimes going bold is just about a feeling, not logic. That is the case here.
The Rams have the second best punt coverage in the NFL. They have given up 78 yards total, an average of just 3 yards per return. Patrick Peterson, on the other hand, hasn’t had a punt return touchdown or even a punt return longer than 26 yards since his incredible rookie season, when he broke 4 return touchdowns back in 2011.
By the stats, this makes no sense. The longest punt return surrendered by St Louis’ punt coverage team all season was 28 yards. But we all know that Peterson is capable of breaking a big one, and he is certainly due. Call me crazy, but I just have a feeling about this one.