The Arizona Cardinals offense suffered through an uncharacteristically poor performance in Week 3 and will look to rebound against an improving Los Angeles Rams squad in an NFC West matchup at U of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday.
Carson Palmer endured a miserable afternoon in a 33-18 loss to the Buffalo Bills. The veteran quarterback was intercepted four times and was sacked five times, while the Cardinals offense combined for just two yards of net offense and no first downs on their first five possessions.
Arizona didn’t get on the scoreboard until running back David Johnson’s four-yard touchdown scamper with a little over a minute remaining in the first half. Johnson would finish with 83 rushing yards and added another touchdown late, but Arizona’s poor 5-for-15 rate on third-down conversions denied Bruce Arian's squad of any comeback hopes.
The Cardinals boasted one of the NFL’s best offenses last season but are off to a slightly slower start in 2016. After averaging 30.6 points and 408.3 yards per game last season, the Cardinals are averaging 26.3 points and 369.3 yards this season.
Pass protection is expected to remain a top priority. Guard Evan Mathis, who was signed from Denver in the offseason, returned to practice this week but has been limited in limited and his game status remains uncertain, according to Arizona’s official injury report.
Palmer, who has never had a reputation for mobility, may have more time to pass on Sunday. The Rams' pass rush has just four sacks this season, while the defense has just one interception.
Still, the Rams are riding high and seek their third victory of the season after waiting until Week 7 to pull off the same feat last year.
Behind running back Todd Gurley’s 27 carries for 85 yards and two scores, and quarterback Case Keenum’s long touchdown tosses to Brian Quick and Tavon Austin, the Rams pulled off a 37-32 road victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3. The effort was a huge confidence builder for a Rams offense that scored a total of three points on 468 yards in their first two games of the year.
The Rams' offense still has plenty of room for improvement. Better accuracy from Keenum will likely draw defenses away from Gurley, who entered the season as Jeff Fisher's top offensive weapon. Keenum has the league's worst completion percentage (53.8) and second-worst passer rating (66.1), which has led to defenses stacking the frontline against Gurley and resulted in a poor 2.9 yards per carry.
But Arizona’s previously mighty defense has been poor against the run. The Cardinals have allowed 399 rushing yards through three games (fifth-worst in the NFL), though the secondary has forced five interceptions and is holding quarterbacks to a 62.2 rating, second-best in the league.
Game Time: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
Betting Odds: Arizona -8
Over/Under: 43 points
Prediction: Arizona over Los Angeles, 27-13