The St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals both made strong pushes to improve this offseason, particularly on offense. The Rams beefed-up the offensive line to give Sam Bradford time to facilitate an offense with young playmakers at running back and wider receiver. The Cardinals added veteran Carson Palmer to provide some stability at quarterback and hopefully help Larry Fitzgerald bounce back from a poor 2012. Both teams figure to have two of the league's strongest defenses once again.
It may be somewhat surprising, then, that experts are resoundingly picking the Rams to roll over the Cardinals in what could be a fascinating matchup between NFC West dark horses. All but two of ESPN's 11 expert picked the Rams to win. CBS Sports' crew were 9-for-9 in agreement that the Cardinals will fall. Pete Prisco explains:
"These two are improved from a year ago, and one of them might be able to make a playoff push. Both teams have good defenses, so it's all about the quarterback play. Carson Palmer and Sam Bradford have to get off to good starts. I think it will be Bradford who does it in the home opener here. The Rams pass rush might be too much for Palmer."
The Rams' pass rush is indeed fearsome, finishing the 2012 season tied for the league lead with 52 sacks during the regular season. The Cardinals' offensive line, meanwhile, has much to prove still. The addition of Eric Winston at right tackle was nice, and Levi Brown can hopefully bounce back at left tackle after spending the 2012 season out with a torn triceps. Unfortunately, the loss of rookie guard Jonathan Cooper to injured reserve with a broken leg is an enormous blow.