The NFC West takes the Thursday night stage for a showdown between the undefeated Arizona Cardinals and the improving St. Louis Rams. Here’s the tale of the tape for this divisional matchup:
The Cardinals are on their second QB of the season after No. 1 John Skelton went down with an ankle injury in Week 1. Kevin Kolb has stepped in under center, helping Arizona to a 4-0 mark. Kolb has a 7-2 TD-to-INT ratio, a 62.6 percent completion rate and a QB rating of 97.6. It helps having a WR like Larry Fitzgerald (245 yards, two TDs) and a budding target in Andre Roberts, who has hauled in four TD catches. The Cardinals' rushing attack is ranked 28th in the league, averaging only 68.8 yards per game. Rookie Ryan Williams leads the team with 131 yards but has already fumbled twice.
The Rams offense is among the worst in the NFL, averaging only 19.8 points on 287 yards per game. Quarterback Sam Bradford has struggled the past two games, posting a 52.4 completion rate, zero TDs and three INTs. St. Louis’ big offensive weapon, RB Steven Jackson, has been slowed due to injury, rushing for only 195 yards - 3.3 yards per carry – and has failed to find the end zone.
Arizona’s stop unit has a bend-but-don’t-break mentality, sitting 17th in yards allowed (357 per game) but third in points allowed (15.2 per game). The Cardinals’ speedy pass rush is getting to opposing QBs, totaling 16 sacks on the year so far – second most in the NFL. Linebacker Sam Acho leads the team with three QB kills. Arizona is allowing 101 yards on the ground per game, 14th in the NFL, and locked Miami down for just 86 yards rushing in Week 4. The Cardinals have forced seven fumbles, recovering six of those – one for a TD.
St. Louis is among the best ball-hawking teams in the league, picking off eight passes through the first four weeks of the schedule. Three of those came against Detroit last week. Corner Cortland Finnegan has three INTs in his first four games since being acquired this offseason. While the pass defense has been respectable, the Rams have been rolled by the run, giving up 135.2 yards per game on the ground. Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch rumbled for 118 yards and a TD against St. Louis last Sunday.
Edge: St. Louis
Arizona kicker Jay Feely gave the Cardinals a 24-21 win over Miami in overtime with a 46-yard FG. He’s 7-for-7 on the season and is 3-for-3 on FGs of more than 40 yards this season. Arizona has punted a league-high 26 times, averaging 47.5 yards per punt. On the other side of that, the Cardinals have averaged only 7.9 yards per punt return and 24.9 yards per kickoff return. Top return man Patrick Peterson’s longest punt return has been 17 yards.
The Rams have also been perfect on FGs with kicker Greg Zuerlein going 12 for 12, including going 3 for 3 from 50-plus yards. St. Louis is averaging 46.6 yards per punt while allowing foes to return those for just 8.2 yards per punt. The Rams return team ranks last in the league in kickoff returns (17.8 yards per) and 18th in punt returns (9.1 yards per). Receiver Danny Amendola has been fielding punts, with his biggest return standing at 22 yards this season.
Word on the street
“Honestly, it’s going to feel the same as any other game. It doesn’t matter how many people are watching, you just go out there play the game." – St. Louis K Greg Zuerlein about kicking under the pressure of a primetime game.
“That’s the confidence we have late in games. Our offense believes in our defense and our defense believes in our offense. That’s what helps us win.” – Arizona WR Andre Roberts on the team’s success late in games.