This week’s Thursday night game is not exactly a marquee matchup, but it should be an interesting game. Arizona is one of three undefeated teams and has given up the third fewest points thus far. On the other hand three of their wins were by a combined total of just nine points, their quarterback Kevin Kolb is mediocre, and their inconsistent offensive line opens up no lanes for the running game while at the same time permitting opposing defenses to get too much pressure in pass protection. St. Louis is already down three starters on their offensive line and the results are similar: no pass protection for a pedestrian quarterback and nowhere to go for their running back.
The Rams rank 20th in both yards per carry (3.7) and rushing yards per game (90.5); as mediocre as they are in that regards it’s light years ahead of Arizona’s rushing game which is totaling just 68 yards per game on the ground (29th) and a meager 2.7 yards per carry (31st). Neither team is any better through the air; the Cardinals’ 203 passing yards per game places them 25th in the league while the Rams are 28th with 196.5 passing yards per game.
When Arizona has the ball keep an eye on LDE Chris Long versus RT Bobbie Massie. Long has two sacks and five pressures in four games, and the Rams as a team have recorded six sacks and eight interceptions. Defensively St. Louis is allowing 4.7 yards per carry and 135 rushing yards per game, but I don’t think Arizona can take advantage of that; Ryan Williams gets no blocking in front of him. The Rams also get Michael Brockers back to help their pass rush but I think it may be too soon to expect much from the first round draft pick.
In pass coverage the Cardinals usually put William Gay on the slot receiver in nickel situations. Danny Amendola is the Rams slot receiver and he has 351 yards receiving this year, which is second best in the NFL. Arizona would be better off putting Patrick Peterson on Amendola regardless of where he lines up and regardless of whether they are in a base defense, nickel or dime; make the Rams beat you with Brandon Gibson or Lance Kendricks. The other thing the Cardinals are very good at is disguising what they are doing on defense; Rams quarterback Sam Bradford on the other hand is not good at pre-snap reads. Arizona should be able to confuse Bradford often enough that at minimum they sack him for a loss, and they can probably coax him into a couple of turnovers.
This is a tough one to predict. Part of thinks last week’s overtime win against the Dolphins was a wake up call for Arizona, and they should be able to overwhelm backups like former Patriot Quinn Ojinnaka that are now starting on the beat up Rams offensive line. On the other hand the Cardinals are coming off a grueling overtime contest, traveling on a short week, and two starters on their defense – DE Darnell Dockett and ILB Paris Lenon – are injured and will be less than 100% if they do play. I wouldn’t put any money on either team (Cardinals are favored by 2½), but I’ll place two units of monopoly money on the under (39½).
Prediction: Rams 16, Cardinals 13
1. Texans – allowing league low 14 points per game
2. 49ers – have out-rushed opponents 668 yards to 318
3. Patriots – #1 offense with 33.5 points per game
4. Falcons – 112.1 passer rating, best in league
5. Broncos – opponents are gaining only 3.4 yards per carry (7th)
6. Ravens – 30.2 points per game on offense (5th)
7. Packers – 70% completion rate, best in NFL
8. Bears – defense leads the league with 11 interceptions
9. Vikings – have yet to throw an interception
10. Giants – defense allowing 372 yards per game (22nd)
11. Seahawks – allowing only 62.8 running yards per game but on offense has a league low 130.8 passing yards per game
12. Dolphins – allowing an NFL low 56.8 rushing yards per game
13. Eagles – would be higher if not for -5 turnover differential
14. Cardinals – league best 16 sacks, but no offense
15. Chargers – 79 rushing yards allowed per game (5th)
16. Lions – special teams do matter guys
17. Panthers – 4.5 yards per carry (8th best)
18. Rams – opponents have a passer rating of 64.2, best in the NFL
19. Bengals – defense seems to have taken a step backwards
20. Colts – 27.7 points per game allowed (24th)
21. Saints – defense allowing a league worst 463 yards per game
22. Redskins – #31 pass defense, 326 yards per game
23. Bills – defense is allowing 158 rushing yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry, both ranking 28th in league
24. Browns – league worst 60.4 offensive passer rating
25. Cowboys – #30 running the ball (67.8 yards per game); 16.2 points per game is 2nd worst in NFL
26. Buccaneers – #32 pass defense, 345 yards per game; league-worst 23 pass plays of 20+ yards allowed
27. Jets – so the team was going to win with ‘ground and pound’? The defense is 31st against the run while the offense is averaging 3.2 yards per carry; only NFL team completing less than 50% of their passes.
28. Steelers – league worst 2.6 yards per carry
29. Jaguars – 146 passing yards per game, 2nd lowest in NFL
30. Titans – pass defense allowing a league worst 75% completion rate
31. Raiders – one of only two teams without a pick by their defense
32. Chiefs – opponents have a passer rating of 114.7, 31st in NFL; -13 turnover differential is worst in NFL
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October 4, 1970:
Janis Joplin died of an accidental heroin overdose. Two years earlier I saw her at my very first concert at Ridge Arena in Braintree. To this day I don’t think my parents ever found out that I went (I think I was in 6th grade at the time).
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