The Cardinals are set to face the Rams for the second time this season on Sunday. The first showdown took place in London and was a bad day for Cardinals fans, a crushing 33-0 loss. The game was tight just before halftime until the Rams scored 17 points within the last six minutes of the first half. However, the most notable occurrence in that stretch was the injury to Carson Palmer. The Cards are a new team since that loss, with a new man under center. Blaine Gabbert led the Cardinals to a win last week in his first start, performing well.
With Blaine Gabbert under center, the Cardinals passing game performed well last week. Adrian Peterson was also able to find his way for almost 80 rushing yards. Peterson’s ability to run the football has allowed Gabbert time to throw the football, something that will be crucial against the Rams. In London, the Rams were able to shut down Peterson, going for less than 25 yards. The lack of effectiveness running the ball allowed the opposing pass rush to tee off on Palmer and Drew Stanton. Wade Phillips loves to bring pressure on passing downs, and the Cardinals were facing plenty of third and longs.
Peterson’s ability to run the ball will be crucial to helping his team move the ball. In the last matchup between these teams, the Cardinals managed just 10 first downs, their fewest of the season by far. If the workhorse back is able to gain yards on early downs Arizona will be in a much better position to pick up first downs.
Gabbert will likely look to Ricky Seals-Jones and Larry Fitzgerald the most on Sunday. On third down when the Cardinals need a big play, Fitzgerald has been the guy for a long time. Seals-Jones is Gabbert’s redzone weapon and that likely will not change on Sunday, scoring three times on his seven catches.
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The Cardinals defense will have their hands full with the high-powered Rams offense on Sunday. Jared Goff is hot lately and Todd Gurley has had a very impressive season. The key to Sunday will be stopping Gurley, who usually is an indicator of the Rams success. The Rams losses come in games where Gurley cannot get going, although sometimes the Rams are able to overcome it.
At the end of the day, the Rams have such a multitude of weapons it is difficult to stop them all. However, if the Cardinals are able to stop the Rams running game without committing too many players to the box, they have a chance. Goff has played quite well lately but Robert Woods is out with an injury. Patrick Peterson will be called upon to defend Sammy Watkins, and Tyrann Mathieu will likely get a lot of time stepping up to cover Cooper Kupp in the slot.
Getting a win on Sunday will be no small task for this Cardinals team on Sunday, but would mean a lot. After getting absolutely throttled on an international stage in London, a win would be huge for the morale of this team. The Cardinals showed the potential to hang with the Rams last time around and could do so again.
I think they do so early, but the Rams pull away late.
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