Week five of the 2012 season kicks off with a NFC West battle, as the undefeated Arizona Cardinals head to St.Louis to take on the .500 Rams in what could be a very entertaining game.
Not many people are talking about the Cards despite being one of three teams unbeaten (Atlanta and Houston are the other), and they have done it with a reborn Kevin Kolb, who has stepped in playing well for an injured John Skelton.
With three victories by four or fewer points, Arizona is a team that has already learned what it’s like to win close games.
“We are a good team,” said coach Ken Whisenhunt, whose club’s eight wins in 2011 came by seven or fewer points – four in overtime. “We play well together and our guys make plays.”
The Cards will enter Thursday brimming with confidence, as they have dominated this series, winning 10 of 11 against the Rams (2-2), and seven straight at the Edward Jones Dome since a 17-10 loss there September 12th, 2004.
Though the Cardinals have fared well in St. Louis, the teams’ last two games there were decided by a combined seven points. Both of the Rams’ victories this season have come at home – by nine total points.
“They’re excited to be able to play,” coach Jeff Fisher said after the Rams hung on for a 19-13 win over Seattle on Sunday. “It’s prime time and we hope things work out well for us.”
St.Louis has to get pressure on Kolb, making the Cardinals QB step up in the pocket to make plays. Arizona has been bad in the run game, ranked 29th with 68.0 rushing yards per game entering the contest.
In other words, if Kolb can’t make plays, the Rams should be able to keep this game low scoring, which is right where the Rams want it.
Kolb has completed 62.6 percent of his passes while throwing seven touchdowns and two interceptions. Larry Fitzgerald has 17 receptions for 178 yards and two TDs over the last two games after catching five for 67 without a score in the first two.
Look for the Rams to push help over to cover Fitz, making Andre Roberts a target for the Cardinals.
On offense, it’s about ball control for Sam Bradford and St.Louis. Defensively, Arizona ranks third in the NFL with 15.2 points allowed per contest and is fourth with 10 turnovers forced, including a league-high six fumble recoveries, meaning the Rams can’t be sloppy with the ball.
With Bradford ranking in the bottom half of the league with an 80.1 passer rating and Steven Jackson rushing for 195 yards and no touchdowns, St. Louis’ biggest offensive contributor has been rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein.
The sixth-round pick from Missouri Western State has converted all 12 of his field-goal attempts. He made four Sunday, including a franchise-record 58-yarder that he topped when he connected from 60 yards in the third quarter.
The Rams will keep this close with field goals, but the Cardinals are playing well right now, and even on the short week with the trip to the midwest, they have the edge and will use it.
Look for a close game, but in the end, the Cardinals offense will have a few drives in them to produce enough points to pull out a close win to get to 5-0 on the year.
Arizona 19 St.Louis 13