In London England, on October 22nd the Rams obliterated the Cardinals by a score of 33-0. In that game Carson Palmer was injured, likely knocked out for the season. Drew Stanton came on in relief and his performance was awful, unable to get anything going against the Rams defense. Things are different now, Blaine Gabbert will be starting under center for the Cardinals on Sunday. However, LA is not too different. The young team continues to play at a very high level on both sides of the ball and is coming off their biggest win of the season. Will the same Rams team be able to find the same result against a different Cardinals team on Sunday, or will things change?
The Rams high-powered offense is hot and is coming off a big performance against a strong Saints defense. The young unit is packed with weapons, but will once again be without Robert Woods. Woods’ absence could be an issue against the Cards, because Arizona possesses a few talented players in their secondary, led by Patrick Peterson. However, the Cardinals can be exposed by teams with a multitude of targets because of their lack of depth in the secondary. Luckily for the Rams, Josh Reynolds performed well in Woods’ absence last week against the Saints. Reynolds could be in for a big day on Sunday if Arizona elects to shadow Sammy Watkins and Cooper Kupp. That would likely leave Reynolds matched up with Tramon Williams, who has been subpar this season.
The heart of the Rams offense on Sunday will likely be Todd Gurley. Gurley had a monster game in London, going for two touchdowns and over 150 all-purpose yards. The Rams star back carried the ball 22 times in the last matchup but is averaging closer to 15 carries recently. Lance Dunbar will likely be back on Sunday, giving Gurley more rest on passing downs. Sean McVay noted that Gurley needed to “stay fresh” because he was playing nearly every snap against the Saints. Dunbar’s return will allow Gurley to take a play off when needed, likely on pass blocking downs. That rest will allow Gurley to get more touches, likely leading to a big day for Gurley in the desert.
Jared Goff will look to stay hot on Sunday. He did not have an excellent statistical performance in London because he was not needed to carry the offense. Speaking of carrying the offense… Goff landed his first rushing touchdown of the season in London.
The mob squad defense was excellent across the pond, allowing less than 200 total yards of offense. Also forcing two turnovers, the defense consistently set the Rams offense up with short fields and easy scoring opportunities. More bad news for the Cardinals is that the Rams defense is on fire, putting up a dominant performance against the Saints high-powered offense.
The Cardinals offense is certainly not dense with weapons, but they seem to have an emerging star. Ricky Seals-Jones poses a big test for this Rams defense, as he is scorching hot and a preferred target of Gabbert. Covering Seals-Jones will likely be a task for the likes of Mark Barron, Lamarcus Joyner, and John Johnson III. The safety speed and above-average strength of those three players will be a good match for Seals-Jones, who will likely draw key redzone targets. The young target, who has come out of nowhere, has three touchdowns on just seven catches the past few weeks.
Adrian Peterson will be looking to bounce back after an awful performance against the Rams in London. After a burning hot start with the Cardinals, the Rams completely neutralized Peterson. The Cardinals feature back, in the absence of David Johnson, went for just 21 yards on 11 carries against the Rams defensive front. Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers both had dominant days up front, closing up running lanes. Those clogged running lanes do not always lead to stats but open up tackles for linebackers.
The Rams are the better team on Sunday, it is that simple. While Peterson may try to neutralize Watkins on the outside, Reynolds and Kupp will have a shot against far worse defenders. Gurley had a great game the first time around, and he should be doing a lot of the same on Sunday. While Blaine Gabbert for a whole game will be better than any game Stanton was a part of, the Rams defense just shut down Drew Brees last week.
All things considered, the Rams should win this game. I expect this game to be a battle early on, but the Rams to pull away comfortably in the second half.
– Andrew Kelly is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Rams. He covers the Los Angeles Rams and is also the Divisional Editor for the NFC West. Like and follow on Follow @Andrew_K47 Follow @FPC_Rams and Facebook.