The Rams enter week 13 at 8-3, a full game ahead of the Seahawks for first place in the division. The Rams will look to put down the Cardinals for the second time this season. While doing so, the Rams will look to maintain their NFC West lead over the Seahawks. Here are five things to know about the Cardinals ahead of this week’s matchup in the desert:
They’re on their third starting quarterback of the season
The Cardinals came into the season with high hopes and with Carson Palmer as their quarterback. Palmer broke his arm and was lost for the season the first time these two teams matched up, in London back in October. Drew Stanton was the next man up but after he suffered a minor knee injury and was ineffective, he was replaced by Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert will be making his third start for the Cardinals this Sunday, going 1-1 over the last two weeks. Gabbert was the #10 overall pick back by the Jaguars in 2011 but failed to live up to expectations. He spent the past three seasons with the 49ers, alternating between being backup and starter. He was mediocre and was not re-signed after the 2016 season, ending up in Arizona.
Adrian Peterson is banged up
Adrian Peterson immediately provided a spark to the Cardinals offense after being acquired in an October trade with the Saints. In his first game with Arizona, he rushed for 138 yards and the Cardinals easily beat the Buccaneers. It’s been up and down for him since then, as he’s seemingly alternated good and terrible rushing performances. The Cardinals have won all three games in which he’s had at least 79 yards, so his health is crucial to their success. He missed a lot of practice this week with a neck injury, and the Cardinals have been very vague about his status. As of now it still seems likely that Peterson will play, but it likely will not be officially determined until a few hours before game-time. Him playing at anything less than 100 percent would be a big boost for the Rams defense.
Bruce Arians loves to be aggressive
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians is perhaps the most aggressive coach in the entire league. No matter who his quarterback is, he’s going to dial up downfield passes and let his quarterback chuck it. As such their offense is always a big-play threat, and the Rams secondary will have to avoid getting beat over the top. Wade Phillips will surely have his unit prepared. The Rams defense will have to be on their toes and always suspecting the possibility of a deep-ball from Gabbert.
Larry Fitzgerald is still Larry Fitzgerald
Despite being in his 14th NFL season at the age of 34, Fitzgerald has somehow shown absolutely no sign of slowing down. He still is one of the league’s best receivers, never dropping passes and constantly making highlight-reel plays. He’s third in the league in receptions and ninth in the league in receiving yards. Fitz is still capable of taking over a game and will surely see a high volume of targets from Gabbert. Slowing him down will be essential for the Rams defense.
The Cardinals defense is underrated
It’s flown mostly under the radar because of the teams disappointing 5-6 record, but the Cardinals defense is quietly having a very good year. Their secondary has been good, not great but possesses two dynamic playmakers in Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. Rookie safety Budda Baker has also come on strong recently and is beginning to play at a very high level. The Cardinals run defense is elite, allowing a sixth lowest 3.7 yards per carry. They also have one of the league’s best pass-rushers in Chandler Jones, whose 12 sacks are second in the league. Overall it’s a very tough unit, and a harsh matchup for Jared Goff and the offense, especially being on the road.
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