Los Angeles Rams (8-3 SU, 7-4 ATS) vs. Arizona Cardinals (5-6 SU, 3-7-1 ATS)
NFL Week 13
Date/Time: Sunday, December 2, 2017 at 4:25PM EST
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
by Scott, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: LAR -7/ARI +7
Over/Under Total: 45.5
The Los Angeles Rams come to Glendale on Sunday for an NFC West showdown with the Arizona Cardinals. Both teams scored nice wins on Sunday. After falling flat to a conference contender in the Vikings the previous week, the Rams were able to snap the Saints eight-game win streak with a 26-20 win on Sunday. At 8-3, they now visit a Cardinals team that was resolute on Sunday in a 27-24 win over the streaking Jaguars. Some nice clutch play late set up a long FG attempt, which Phil Dawson nailed to send the Cardinals to 5-6. On October 22, the Rams shut the Cardinals out at home, 33-0, in the first game between these division teams. In that game, the Cardinals lost Carson Palmer. Maybe at home and in a more-stable spot, they can do better this week.
The win for the Rams on Sunday was critical. If they were unable to beat either the Vikings or Saints, it would put a dent in their contender-status. The win over the Saints confirms their standing and it came against a team that was really riding high on the heels of 8 straight wins. They got good performances on both sides of the ball. The improved offense took control of the game, while the defense was able to mostly contain the Saints offense. They gave up some big plays, but were otherwise very solid. They cant afford to take their foot off the gas this week against a team they beat with ease the first time around.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff could be the most-improved player in the league this season. After being stifled by a rampaging home Vikings defense, he performed a lot better on Sunday with 354 yards through the air. Rookie WR Cooper Kupp led all ball-catchers with 116 yards, while Josh Reynolds and Sammy Watkins hauled in touchdowns. They will still be without WR Robert Woods, who was putting together a nice season before hurting his shoulder. On Sunday, Todd Gurley ran for 74 yards, while adding another 54 yards aerially. This Rams offense has really orchestrated a dramatic turnaround, as they are basically doubling last seasons output. An offense that couldnt get much right is now the second highest-scoring team in the NFL.
The Rams defense didnt start the season looking like the same group, as they were being scored on with frightening regularity. Good thing the offense was riding high or they would have lost more games. In recent weeks, however, we are starting to see the old tough Rams defense. Giving up 20, with a garbage score late, to the Saints was a nice showing. We saw strong play on the second level with Alec Ogletree, Mark Barron, and Samson Ekubam making a ton of key plays on Sunday. Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn both had sacks on Sunday and are real difference-makers up front. They got good corner play from Trumaine Johnson and Kayvon Webster on Sunday against a vital Saints aerial-attack. In their last seven games, following some uneven passages, the Rams are allowing less than 15 points a game.
The Cardinals are just 5-6, but have been resolute in the face of crippling adversity. They have suffered injuries across all phases of the team and have worked really hard to patch something together to keep their noses above water. And having the wherewithal to beat a surging team like the Jaguars shows a lot. It was a back-and-forth battle on Sunday for the Cardinals and it looked like it was getting away from them, especially after QB Blaine Gabbert fumbled the ball and had it returned for a TD. But with time running out, Gabbert made a few clutch completions to set Dawson up for a long 57-yard FG and the win.
The fumble and another interception were bad, but Gabberts play wasnt without merit on Sunday, as he connected on long TD passes to Jamon Brown and Ricky Seals-Jones. The rookie Seals-Jones has been stepping up with three TDs in his last two games after being silent the whole season. With a still very effective Larry Fitzgerald, Gabbert has some nice targets with which to work. After some rough performances, Adrian Peterson added some nice production with 79 yards on the ground and four catches. Again, they are showing a lot of resolve, having lost guys up-front, their top offensive weapon in David Johnson, and now being three-deep on the QB depth-chart.
The Arizona defense is not as bankable as it has been in years past. A lack of the same support on offense, along with injuries has zapped them of some firepower. But theyve been a little better in recent weeks. A lot of times this season, they have faded late in games, which has led to some losses. But on Sunday, they had some of their heavy-hitters start to surface, with Patrick Peterson covering receivers well, Tyrann Mathieu getting an interception, and pass-rusher Chandler Jones adding two sacks. The line is getting a big boost from surging Olsen Pierre, who also had a sack against the Jags. Rookie safety Budda Baker has started to unveil a nice ability to make plays, while veteran LB Karlos Dansby continues to be very active in the middle. Again, they can still exploited, but theyve been putting the team in a position to win lately more often than not.
After putting a lot into the Saints win last week, a mental letdown could be in store for the Rams facing a team they already crushed this season. The Cardinals, however, look to score the big revenge win to get back to .500, which would be quite a feat considering the conditions they have faced. While the Cardinals should be enlivened and ready to perform at home, there are matchup issues on both sides of the ball that put them at a disadvantage. Even so, I see them keeping the Rams within distance this week for the cover.
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