The Arizona Cardinals can all but lock down a postseason berth with their 11th victory of the season, but achieving that goal could prove difficult against a red-hot St. Louis Rams defense.
The two sides will meet for “Thursday Night Football” at Edward Jones Dome, with the 10-3 Cardinals trying to keep pace with the Green Bay Packers for the best record in the NFC, and fending off the rising Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West. Arizona hasn’t made a trip to the postseason since 2009.
Blanking their last two opponents 76-0, the 6-7 Rams are four games back in the division race and three back of the final wild card in the conference, but mathematically are still in contention for the postseason. However, St. Louis needs to win out and requires losses from the Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings in the coming weeks for those hopes to stay alive.
Having claimed their Week 10 matchup 31-14, the Cardinals also seek their first season-sweep of the Rams since 2011.
In that same victory, Arizona also lost starting quarterback Carson Palmer for the season to a torn ACL and the offense has sputtered under back-up Drew Stanton.
Since taking over starting duties, Stanton’s completed four touchdown passes compared to five interceptions and the Cardinals have gone 2-2, losing both of their road matchups including a critical division blow at Seattle.
Stanton’s received little help from Arizona’s 30th-ranked rushing attack, and earlier this week the team placed starting running back Andre Ellington on the injured reserve after it was learned his sports hernia required surgery.
However Arizona received an encouraging performance from rookie running back Kerwynn Williams, who was called up from the practice squad and gained 100 yards off 19 attempts in last week’s 17-14 victory over Kansas City.
Stanton will also have leading receiver Larry Fitzgerald in the fold for a second straight week. The former All-Pro sat out Arizona’s two losses to the Atlanta Falcons and Seahawks due to a knee injury, and returned last week to make four receptions for 34 yards against the Chiefs.
Williams’s emergence and a healthy Fitzgerald should provide the Cardinals a boost, but they face a tall order against the Rams punishing defense. St. Louis hasn’t let up a touchdown in eight straight quarters and only three touchdowns in its last four games.
The surge on defense has helped the Rams win three of their last four games, and they would be riding a four game winning streak if quarterback Shaun Hill hadn’t thrown an interception on their last possession against San Diego in Week 12.
Hill tossed two interceptions in that game, but he’s largely played error free since assuming the starting role a month ago against the Denver Broncos. The 13-year veteran’s thrown six touchdowns to three interceptions, and has a 117.4 passer rating in St. Louis victories.
Rookie running back Tre Mason has also opened the offense up for Hill and his receivers. In the last four games, the former Auburn star has rushed for 358 yards and two touchdowns, and he’s totaled five receptions for 74 yards and another score.
Start Time: 8:25 P.M. ET
TV Channel: NFL Network
Live Stream: A live stream is available through the NFL here
Betting Odds: St. Louis -4.5
Over/Under: 40.5 points
Prediction: St. Louis over Arizona, 20-16