The Cardinals are looking to rebound from a Week 13 loss when they host the Rams on Sunday. Both teams are coming off losses to potential playoffs teams, and while the Rams are likely out of postseason contention, the Cardinals are still very much alive for a wild card spot. This is a "must win" game for the Cardinals, who are behind the Eagles and 49ers in contention the last playoff spot in the NFC.
Meet the Cardinals
Arizona had won four straight games coming into their loss against the Eagles in Week 13. The arrival of Carson Palmer this season has featured mixed results. Wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd have been an impressive pair, with the latter developing into a major threat in the passing game. The Cardinals have found a successful running pair with backs Rashad Mendenhall and Andre Ellington.
On defense, the Cardinals have remained solid, even with the transition from Ray Horton to Todd Bowles. The Cardinals rank fourth against the run and 16th against the pass. Newly-acquired pass rusher John Abraham is among the Top 20 in sacks (8.0).
Meet the Rams
The Rams are currently on the outside, looking in on the playoff race. At 5-7, the Rams have a small shot at a postseason appearance but would be probably be happy to play spoiler to the Cardinals. St. Louis has been without Sam Bradford since midseason and have been mediocre with Kellen Clemons at the helm.
On defense, the Rams feature two very impressive pass rushers. Veteran Chris Long has kept up his prowess as a top sack artist, but his counterpart Robert Quinn has been absolutely dominant. Quinn currently ranks second in the league with 13 sacks this season. On top of the pass rush, the rest of the front seven has played well. However, the defensive backs have been a bit of a letdown.
Local Takes: Cardinals
Randy Fields of Revenge of the Birds is sick of seeing Carson Palmer throw downfield when he has proven to be inept at doing so:
Carson Palmer and the Offensive Play Calls - One week, just one week after we open our arms and say "Hey, the light bulb is on! The offense has arrived, and this guy is playing smart clean football" he throws two interceptions. One stat provided by ESPN Stats & Information is that "Carson Palmer threw both of his interceptions on passes thrown deeper than 30 yards" and has a "20% completion and 3 interceptions (tied for most) on passes deeper than 30 yards". I realize the game plan calls for trying the deep strikes out, but Palmer just doesn't have the arm strength to be going for the deep strikes that often, and statistics are showing that 80% of the time he does notcomplete his passes for those distances.
So why do the Cardinals keep forcing this play into the game plan? Palmer should be making the deep throws on busted plays when someone is wide open, or to shorter distances where he has a higher percentage of completions. His first attempt was purely underthrown and should have been enough to make the play callers reduce the number of calls going over 30, but instead he attempted four over 30, two becoming interceptions, one missed his target, and the only one being caught was a jump ball by Michael Floyd. Survey says, that's 25% completion and two turnovers. That's not smart football, not the play calling and not the performance, and especially not smart after the first one was intercepted.
Local Takes: Rams
Ryan Van Bibber of Turf Show Times is looking forward to the offseason after another tally in the loss column:
The biggest difference for the offense, to me, was the inability to run. That exposed the passing game. Receivers dropped four catchable balls, and Clemens' throws kept going way too high for anyone to get. Interestingly enough, Clemens wasn't that bad under pressure, well, wasn't any worse when pressured is a better way of saying that.
On defense, well, the problems in the secondary just won't go away.
There's plenty to be positive about through 12 games. If the Rams can iron out those issues, make the right offseason moves and get the young players more experience, things should really be looking up in 2014.
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Cardinals vs. Eagles review: Arizona defense goes back to blitzing ways http://t.co/iKvzgjhkEn— Revenge of the Birds (@revengeofbirds) December 4, 2013
To clarify, the Rams have attempted one FG of 50 or more yards all season, and it missed.— TurfShowTimes (@TurfShowTimes) December 4, 2013
SB Nation Week 14 picks:
When the Rams can't run the ball, the offense falls apart. Last week the Niners exposed that fundamental truth of having Kellen Clemens under center. Arizona's defense is limiting opponents to a miserly 83.2 yards per game on the ground, and just 3.5 yards per attempt. So then it becomes Kellen Clemens against Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. Chris Long and Robert Quinn can do some damage against whatever awful pass protection the Cardinals provide Carson Palmer, but unless they can give the Rams 14 points or so, it's just too much to ask.
The pick: Cardinals
The Cardinals are currently seven-point home favorites against the Rams, according to OddsShark.