Arizona Cardinals (6-8-1 SU, 5-10 ATS) vs. Los Angeles Rams (4-11 SU, 4-10-1 ATS)
NFL Week 17
Date/Time: Sunday, January 1, 2017 at 4:25PM EST
Where: Los Angeles Coliseum, Los Angeles, California
by Scott, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: ARI -6/LA +6
Over/Under Total: 41
The Arizona Cardinals come to the City of Angels to take on the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday in week 17 NFC West action. The game has no postseason ramifications, as both teams have long been out of playoff contention. The Cardinals, considered a conference favorite before the season, looks to close out the year with a win and last Sunday, they showed some gumption with a road win over division champion Seattle. The Rams, on a stretch of 6 straight losses and 10 defeats in their last 11, fell to the 49ers at home, losing the season-sweep to one of the worst teams in the league. What can they come up with at home this week?
The Rams didnít have the season they wanted in their first year back in LA. They looked horrible to open the season, before going on a 3-game winning streak, including a 17-13 win over this Cardinals team on the road in week 4. Things went downhill after that. Jeff Fisher was canned. Sure-thing future star Todd Gurley didnít deliver. Quarterback play has hampered this unit and has been mismanaged. A defense with a lot of upside was wasted with the offense hanging them out to dry time and again. Of all the things they expected to go right, none of them did. A team that looked to be up-and-coming has just gotten worse and worse with each passing season. And to not even be able to come up with the win at home against a one-win SF team and to let them score a last-minute TD and convert the two for the win was just awful.
Granted, the Ramsí offensive line and a stripped-bare cast of skill-players hasnít helped, but Jared Goff has failed to impress in his rookie season. Itís not clear if itís based on his shortcomings or if maybe there arenít many quarterbacks that can thrive in this setting. Gurley just hasnít delivered, averaging a paltry 3.2 yards per run and rarely showing the form from his promising rookie season. The only real contributor on this offense is Kenny Britt, who is over 1000 yards receiving. Tavon Austin is a versatile weapon. Other than that, itís a bunch of role guys in starting spots, players who would struggle to even make other teams. The rankings are damningódead-last in total offense and points scored at just 14.5 a game. They are ranked 30th in passing offense and 31st in rushing offense. Truly, itís a bad offense for the ages.
The real tragedy of the Rams offense is that itís rendered a potentially-special defense moot. There have been teams where great defenses carried the whole team, but they got some support. This defense doesnítóscoring 10 of fewer points an alarming eight times this season. The defensive line could be special, with Aaron Donald a monster at DT. The middle has upside with Alec Ogletree and Trumaine Johnson. And the secondary has managed to remain stout despite being run ragged. Itís just that being the only good thing about the whoie team and carrying the weight has started to wear on them and a really good offense has looked ordinary at times this season.
For the Cardinals, the season hasnít gone appreciably better, especially considering the expectations that were set after they made it to the conference title game last year. Things started badly for the Cardinals and they were never really able to get things on the right track. To their credit, theyíve been playing hard for the past month. They beat a pair of good teams in the Redskins and then the Seahawks last week. They were competitive in losses to the Dolphins and Saints. Theyíre still fighting, despite this season being a raging disappointment.
Carson Palmer is near 4000 yards with some better performances of late. The offense has gotten good play from David Johnson, who has run for 1233 yards with 841 yards through the airówith a total of 20 touchdowns. Heís a really good weapon and so is still-viable Larry Fitzgerald. Itís just that the line didnít do a very good job of protecting Palmer. And after a season where they had three receivers near or over 1000 yards, only Fitzgerald maintained form, with John Brown well off-the-mark this season and Michael Floyd going off the rails and now in New England. That all caused Palmerís numbers to be way off his recent seasons and the Arizona offense went from a top group to a middling bunch.
The Cardinals can play some defense. It hasnít always been very consistently-applied, as their W-L record would attest. And they have allowed a combined 79 points in their last two games. But they are third in total defense, while being fifth against the pass. The front-seven can still get after it, with Calais Campbell, Corey Peters, Chandler Jones, Markus Golden, and others doing a good job. The secondary lost Tyrann Mathieu and Tony Jefferson for the season, a few bad blows, but still have Patrick Peterson, Marcus Cooper (questionable), and safety DJ Swearinger. The losses have hurt. This group has secured 25 turnovers on the season, scored a few times, and made a lot of plays.
Neither team has anything substantive to play for, making issues of pride and effort more important for the purposes of handicapping this game. Both teams will be happy to put 2016 in the rearview-mirror. The Rams look lousy, but not any more than they did in the middle of the season. I see a good game with both offenses having moments of success with even a big special teams or defensive play thrown in. Iím taking the over.
Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Iím betting over 41 points in the Cardinals vs. Rams game.
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