The St. Louis Rams aren't going to the playoffs but no team wants to play them right now. Alas, that's who the Arizona Cardinals visit in the penultimate Thursday night game of the season. St. Louis is -3.5 on BetOnline NFL odds with a total of 40.
Cardinals Try to Hold off Seahawks
Arizona (10-3) leads Seattle by a game for first in the NFC West, but it's Seattle that's a -250 division favorite at sportsbooks with the Cardinals at +170. That's because the Seahawks already beat Arizona once and will be home favorites on NFL odds against the Cardinals in Week 16. So obviously a season sweep gives the Seahawks the tiebreaker edge.
The Cards ended a two-game losing streak in Week 14 with a 17-14 home victory over Kansas City. A win is a win, but the offense continues to struggle under backup quarterback Drew Stanton. He was just 15-for-30 for 239 yards against the Chiefs, although at least he didn't throw an interception. Stanton had five picks in the previous three games. It was Arizona's seventh home win of the season, the most for the franchise 1925 when it was the Chicago Cardinals.
The surprise star of the Kansas City game was unknown running back Kerwynn Williams, a 2013 seventh-round pick of Indianapolis who had never had an NFL carry. The Cards called him up from the practice squad last week when starting tailback Andre Ellington was ruled out for the season. Williams responded with 100 yards on 19 carries. Williams was Arizona’s first 100-yard rusher this season and Sunday was Arizona’s best rushing effort of the season as it finished with 141 yards. Late in the fourth quarter, behind by seven Williams’ runs, Arizona burned the 4:09 of the game.
Still, it was the fourth straight game that Arizona was held under 20 points. Stanton is last in the NFL with a completion percentage of just 54.5.
Injury-wise, Arizona got back star receiver Larry Fitzgerald on Sunday after he had missed two straight games. He had four catches for 34 yards. Starting cornerback Antonio Cromartie left the game with an ankle injury and is very questionable for Thursday. Starting safety Tyrann Mathieu sat out vs. K.C. following thumb surgery and he won't play this week, either.
Arizona is 9-4 against the NFL betting spread this year and 4-8-1 'over/under.'
Rams' Defense Dominating
Many liked the Rams (6-7) as a dark-horse playoff team this year, myself included. Those hopes essentially vanished when starting quarterback Sam Bradford was lost for the year to a knee injury in the preseason. The Rams started the regular season 1-4 and that was that. However, the team hasn't lost consecutive games since and has beaten Super Bowl contenders such as Seattle, San Francisco and Denver. In Week 14 at Washington, the Rams dominated 24-0 a week after crushing visiting Oakland 52-0. The Rams are the first team with back-to-back shutout wins since Dallas in 2009 and the first team in franchise history to do it since 1945 when it was the Cleveland Rams. The Rams limited Washington to 206 yards of offense and had seven sacks and two interceptions.
If you are looking for one big reason why the defense is playing so well of late, it's the pass rush. The Rams had one sack in the first six weeks, a league record for fewest through a team's first five games. But St. Louis has 34 of them since, which is the most in the league in that stretch. Robert Quinn has 10.5 sacks in that timeframe.
Against Washington, QB Shaun Hill was a solid 16-for-22 for 213 yards and two touchdowns -- both to Jared Cook -- without turning the ball over. The Rams are 4-0 on the season when they don't have a turnover and are also undefeated when they have had a positive turnover margin. St. Louis appears to have escaped the Redskins win pretty unscathed injury-wise.
The Rams are 7-6 against the spread at sportsbooks this season and 7-6 'over/under.'
Back on Nov. 9 in Glendale, Arizona was a 7-point favorite at sportsbooks and beat St. Louis 31-14. That was the game in which Cardinals starting QB Carson Palmer was lost for the season. Arizona was down 14-10 early in the fourth quarter when he was hurt and Stanton threw a 48-yard TD pass to John Brown a few minutes later to give Arizona a 17-14 lead it wouldn't relinquish. Patrick Peterson returned an interception 30 yards for a score and Cromartie brought back a fumble 14 yards for a TD. Austin Davis was the starting QB for St. Louis then but he threw two picks and lost a fumble, leading directly to those two Arizona defensive scores (also was sacked six times), and hasn't played since. The Rams had only 244 yards of offense. St. Louis did beat visiting Arizona in Week 1 last year, 27-24, on a Greg Zeuerlein field goal with 45 seconds left.
Free NFL Pick: St. Louis and the 'under' is our NFL pick for this game. That Rams defense should really give Stanton problems and another shutout is very possible.