This Thursday night has an NFC West showdown that figures to be a very interesting one. The Cardinals come into the game with a 10-3 record, but have been shaky since Drew Stanton came into the starting role after Carson Palmer’s season ending knee injury. On the other hand, the Rams have been great their past few games with two straight shutouts. Mathematically, the Rams aren’t eliminated from playoff contention yet so it should be an interesting defense oriented battle.
In the four games since Drew Stanton became the Cardinals starter, the team has only averaged 13 points per game. Granted, they’ve played some difficult defenses and tough road games, but that number is too low in a Bruce Arians offense. In the passing game, Stanton does have the weapons to make things happen. Larry Fitzgerald is once again the Cardinals leading receiver, but he’s not the player he was four or five years ago. Fitzgerald is still very effective, but has done a lot of work on shorter throws.
Michael Floyd showed last year what he’s capable of, but while the downfield targets have been there, the inconsistent quarterback play hasn’t helped. Rookie John Brown is the most intriguing option in the Cardinals receiving corps. With blazing speed, Brown runs a similar role to what T.Y. Hilton did when Arians was with the Colts. Since Andre Ellington is out for the year, it wouldn’t be surprising if Brown saw more action on shorter routes or screens.
If last week was any indication, Kerwynn Williams who was signed off the practice squad last Friday should lead the team in carries. Williams impressed Sunday rushing for 100 yards on 19 carries. Stepfan Taylor would figure to see work as well. For fantasy purposes, this is a situation to avoid against a stout Rams front seven.
While the Rams defense has been the main focal point of the team, Shaun Hill has helped since taking back the starting quarterback role. Minus the Chargers game, he hasn’t made many mistakes, and has also gotten contributions from the rushing attack. Tre Mason has been a big spark for the Rams offense. Mason is averaging 4.4 yards a carry for the year and has made some contributions as a receiver. Considering the Rams limit their passing attempts, it is tough to see which wideout will be Hill’s top target going into each game.
The guy you’d think it would be this game is tight end Jared Cook. Coming off a two touchdown game, Cook has a matchup against a Cardinals defense that has struggled covering his position all year. However, through six years inconsistency has plagued Cook throughout his career so there’s no telling what you’ll get. Stedman Bailey has gotten more involved in the offense lately and based on his matchup could have a nice day. Assuming Kenny Britt draws Patrick Peterson, Bailey has the quickness and route running ability to do some damage against a banged up Antonio Cromartie.
Considering both teams are well coached with strong defenses, this game is a tough one to predict. In the end, I think I’m going to have to go with the Rams. I’m expecting guys such as Robert Quinn, Aaron Donald and Chris Long to step up providing the offense with shorter fields. My prediction is Cardinals 16 Rams (-3.5) 23