Sep 19, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola (16) makes a catch as Washington Redskins strong safety DeJon Gomes (24) defends during the first half at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

NFL Thursday Night Game Preview: Arizona at St. Louis

Oh, how one’s fortunes can change in a month.

The New York Jets have come full circle, going from no TDs at all in preseason to the highest scoring team in the NFL after week one to being shut out at home against the San Francisco 49’ers last Sunday.

The Cardinals had similar issues that the Jets had in the preseason. The QB battle in Arizona seemed to be a race to the bottom as pricey Kevin Kolb and cheap John Skelton fought hard to see who “sucked the most.” Sorry, there’s really no pleasant way of putting it. When one’s age exceeds one’s QB rating, that usually means you’re a RB who has attempted two HB option passes, being successful on neither attempt or some such.

Unlike the Jets, however, the Cardinals have had success without an outstanding offense. In fact, the Arizona offense is ranked 31st in the NFL, just ahead of that of the powerhouse Jacksonville Jaguars. Let’s have a look at how tonight’s battling teams compare:

Sept. 30, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb (4) throws during the second half against the Miami Dolphins at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals beat the Dolphins 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

OFFENSE:
Arizona Total: 31st – 271 ypg
Arizona Rushing: 29th – 68 ypg
Arizona Passing: 25h – 203 ypg
Arizona Scoring: 18th – 22.8 ppg

St. Louis Total: 27th – 287 ypg
St. Louis Rushing: 20th – 90.5 ypg
St. Louis Passing: 28th – 196.5 ypg
St. Louis Scoring: 24th – 19.8 ppg

DEFENSE:

Arizona Total: 17th – 357 ypg
Arizona Rushing: T14th – 101 ypg
Arizona Passing: 21st – 256 ypg
Arizona Scoring: 3rd – 15.2 ppg

St. Louis Total: 14th – 338.8 ypg
St. Louis Rushing: 26th – 135.2 ypg
St. Louis Passing: 11th – 213.5 ypg
St. Louis Scoring: 18th – 22.8 ppg

Basically, the stats don’t reflect the Cardinals’ record. The Rams are 2-2 with wins over Seattle and Washington; losses against Minnesota and Detroit. However, The Cardinals are 4-0 as many of you know; wins over Seattle, New England, Philadelphia and Miami.

The only real powerhouse team in either bunch is the New England Patriots. The Cardinals were able to exploit the Pats’ shaky offensive line and still nearly lost the game when they had the ball to run out the clock, fumbled, and gave the Pats the ball in their own territory. Only a missed FG by New England with time expiring saved the Cardinals.

Arizona’s offense has been consistent – they’ve scored in the 20’s each game, but haven’t faced a team with a great defense yet. The closest is Miami, but I’ve said before that the ‘fins’ lack of playmakers on offense and starting a rookie QB doesn’t help their defense. St. Louis struggled against a very good Seattle defense and didn’t do much better against a very good Bears’ defense.

So when you look at the stats, remember who they’ve played. The Cardinals’ defense was in the top 5 after 2 weeks but has slid down to 17th after that same rookie QB, Ryan Tannehill, torched them for over 400 in an overtime loss at Arizona last week.

Frankly, I’ve been higher on the Rams this year than I have the Cardinals – Arizona has made some very opportunistic plays to help them win…again, ask aforementioned rookie Ryan Tannehill, who threw a pick in OT to give the Cardinals the game served up in their own territory. It’s nice to win on big plays like that, but you can’t count on timely plays going in your favor each week.

I see the Rams winning this one at home tonight. Notice that the Rams are 11th against the pass despite having played Washington and Detroit. They’ve got one of the better defensive end pairs in the league with Chris Long (yes, he’s Howie’s boy) and Robert Quinn. They’ve also got a good cornerback duo with Cortland Finnegan and rookie Janoris Jenkins. Certainly, they’ll have their hands full with Larry Fitzgerald but he’s about their only threat…Michael Floyd has only caught 5 passes and starter Andre Roberts is average at best. The Cards will struggle to score, especially with their own issues on the offensive line and no running game since Beanie Wells is on injured reserve.

The Cardinals’ defense has the same CB strength – Patrick Peterson and William Gay – but they may not have an answer for the Wes Welker-lite slot receiver Danny Amendola. Sam Bradford’s a better QB than people think, but he has the luxury of having a much more balanced offense than the Cardinals have. Steven Jackson is a punishing RB and rookie Daryl Richardson is averaging 5.0 yards per carry on 27 attempts.

Aside from Jackson, the Rams have no single “go-to” star on offense, although Amendola is having a great season so far after suffering a season-ending injury in week 1 last season. It also means they spread the ball around when passing, making them harder to defend in that sense. If they can get their running game going as they usually do, they’ll have the play-action passing game at their disposal – something the Cardinals’ offense does not have.

Any way you slice it, I don’t see either offense dominating this game. I think the Cardinals’ luck runs out and the Rams finally will get some respect.

Rams 21, Cardinals 17

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