The Arizona Cardinals (10-3) maintained a share of the NFL’s best record with a 17-14 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, but the team is still no guarantee to make the playoffs. On “Thursday Night Football” in Week 15, they visit the St. Louis Rams (6-7), hoping to create some separation between them and the other teams vying for a postseason spot.
Six NFC teams have at least nine wins, and since none of them are in the NFC South, one club will be left out of the playoffs. The Cardinals are in a good position with 10 victories, including wins over the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions. However, they are no guarantee to reach the postseason, having to end the 2014 season against three quality teams.
It’s possible that the Cardinals will find themselves underdogs in each of their final three games. In their visit to St. Louis, Arizona is getting 3.5 points, meaning they wouldn’t be favored against the Rams on a neutral field.
St. Louis is all but eliminated from playoff contention, but they’ve played better in their last two games than any team in the league. After shutting out the Oakland Raiders 52-0 in Week 13, St. Louis kept the Washington Redskins off the board, winning 24-0 on the road.
The Rams have been victims of a difficult schedule, losing six games to winning teams, and they are a few plays away from having a chance to win a wild-card spot. While they’ve been beaten by some of the best teams the NFL has to offer, St. Louis has also gotten the better of a few playoff teams, with wins over the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.
Arizona beat St. Louis, 31-14, in their first matchup of the season, but a few differences from that contest will work in the Rams’ favor. Carson Palmer suffered his season-ending injury against St. Louis, but he didn’t get hurt until the fourth quarter. The rematch will take place in St. Louis, and the Cardinals, along with quarterback Drew Stanton, have been much better at home.
The Cardinals are one of just three teams that are unbeaten at home, going 7-0 at the University of Phoenix Stadium and covering all but one point spread. Stanton hasn’t put up big numbers, but he’s been much better at home, where he’s failed to record a passer rating of less than 88.1. Stanton’s best passer rating on the road was 72.0 in a loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Injuries and ineffectiveness have also forced the Rams to make multiple changes at quarterback. After the loss to Arizona, Austin Davis was benched in favor of Shaun Hill, who’s led the Rams to wins in three of their last four games. In those wins, Hill has thrown five touchdown passes and no interceptions, posting passer ratings of 102.7, 116.3 and 133.3.
Hill might not have to put up such impressive numbers in order for St. Louis to beat Arizona. The Cardinals offense ranks just 22nd in points per game (21.2), and the unit has had difficulty finding the end zone, since Palmer went down. Arizona hasn’t scored more than 18 points in any of their last four games.
Prediction: St. Louis over Arizona, 20-16