Cardinals at Rams NFL Pick September 16
We have a number of divisional showdowns taking place this week, including the Arizona Cardinals’ trip west to take on the Los Angeles Rams at the Coliseum. The Rams are fresh off a 33-13 thumping of the Raiders in Oakland this past Monday night, while the Cardinals where thwacked 24-6 at home by the Washington Redskins the day prior.
New Rams defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh actually has something of a beef with new Cardinals starting quarterback Sam Bradford. Back in 2010, the Rams actually took Bradford with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, while Suh was taken second overall by the Detroit Lions. Ever since being snubbed that night, Suh has said that he uses it was motivation, particularly when facing off against Bradford in a game. Suh and Bradford have only squared off 3 times in 8 seasons since both turned pro, but Suh has sacked Bradford twice in that span.
Bradford will be looking to take it to his former team in this one. The former Oklahoma Sooner spent 5 seasons with the franchise when they were in St. Louis, but his time was largely marred by a constant barrage of injuries. He was healthy for a full 16 games just twice in his 5 years in St. Louis, and he missed the entirety of the 2014 season, as well. Since then, he has bounced around to the Eagles, Vikings and now Cardinals. Suh is also on his third team after spending the first 8 seasons of his career with the Lions and Dolphins before joining the Rams as a free agent this offseason.
Bradford completed 20 of his 34 throws in the lopsided loss to the Redskins. He amassed just 153 yards, and averaged a little more than 5 yards per attempt. He’s going to have to take more shots downfield if the Cards are to have a serious chance of upsetting the Rams in this one. Bradford didn’t throw a touchdown and he was picked off once, as well. Considering he struggled in a home game against what is expected to be a mediocre Washington defense, he could be in for a rude awakening on the road this week against a loaded Rams unit.
In addition to Suh, Los Angeles also added a couple of talented corners in Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. Peters put a cherry on top of the team’s opening week win with a pick-6 against Derek Carr in the game’s waning moments. The duo effectively shut down the Raiders’ group of pass catchers on Monday night. Jordy Nelson and Amari Cooper, the Raiders’ top two receivers, combined to catch just 4 passes for 32 yards against the Rams’ dynamic duo.
The Cardinals are expected to have a solid defensive unit this season, but they could do little to stop Alex Smith, Adrian Peterson and the Redskins last week. They’re in for a far more difficult task this week against the Rams, who may have the best offense in all of football. L.A. let Sammy Watkins walk as a free agent this spring, but they replaced him by trading for a bona fide deep threat in Brandin Cooks. Cooks was featured heavily against Oakland, leading the team with 5 catches for 87 yards, with a long of 30. Todd Gurley also rumbled for 108 yards on 20 carries in what was a nice, balanced attack in the Rams’ season opener. Jared Goff threw a couple of touchdowns to Gurley and slot receiver Cooper Kupp.
The Cardinals fell into an early 21-0 hole last week, so David Johnson wasn’t particularly effective. He got just 9 carries in his return after missing most of last season with a torn ACL. He averaged 4.1 yards per carry and scored Arizona’s lone TD of the game, and he also caught 5 passes for another 30 yards. Things won’t be much easier, if at all, this week for him against the aforementioned stout Rams defense. Los Angeles held Marshawn Lynch to just 41 yards on 11 carries in the opener.
L.A. got off to a bit of a sluggish start last week against the Raiders, but that tends to be a theme around the league in Week 1. Once they found their footing, Oakland could do little to stop the Rams’ versatile attack. They should be able to breeze their way to another victory here against a lesser Cardinals squad, but the question is whether they will be able to cover the hefty spread, which is sitting at a whopping 13 1/2 points as of this writing.
Taking a team to win by nearly two touchdowns at the NFL level is certainly risky, but there’s plenty of reason to believe the Rams can make it happen. The Rams won’t sneak up on teams the way they did last season, which could lead to some hard-fought wins eventually. I just don’t think Arizona has nearly enough talent to give a team like the Rams a real run for their money over the course of a full 60-minute game.
The Cardinals are in a rebuilding phase. They gave Bradford plenty of money to come in as a free agent, but we know he’s merely keeping the seat warm for first-round pick Josh Rosen. If the opener against Washington was any indication, we’re likely to see Rosen hit the field sooner than later. The UCLA product was fairly impressive during the preseason, but the Cardinals want to take it slowly with him. If the Rams play up to their paper in this one, there’s even a chance we could see him on Sunday in mop-up duty late in the game.
I expect the Cardinals to give Johnson more touches in this one, even if they happen to fall into an early hole. The defense has talent, but the players are also having to adapt to an entirely new scheme, and there are plenty of new faces. As we saw against the Redskins, this unit is going to take plenty of time to gel.
As difficult as it is, I think the Rams cover the huge spread. We saw them beat Oakland on the road by nearly 3 touchdowns last week, and I tend to believe the Raiders are a more talented team than these Cardinals are. The Rams are at home, and I expect them to take care of business. It’s going to be a long season in the desert, but this year has the chance to be a special one in L.A.
The Rams are -910 favorites on the moneyline, so there’s zero betting value here. Take the Rams to cover the 13 1/2 point spread, as it offers way better betting value overall at -110..
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