Los Angeles Rams (2-1 SU, 2-1 ATS) vs. Arizona Cardinals (1-2 SU, 1-2 ATS)
Week 4 NFL
Date/Time: Sunday, October 2, 2016 at 4:25PM EST
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: LA +7.5/ARI -7.5
Over/Under Total: 43
The Los Angeles Rams come to visit the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday in key NFC West action. The Rams have really done well for themselves after getting shut out by San Fran in week one, 27-0. A 9-3 home opener win over the Seahawks was followed by a 37-32 win on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. They look to add a real nugget to their resume in week four against the Cardinals, who are a surprising 1-2. After flogging the Buccaneers in week 2, the Cardinals were beaten 33-18 by the Bills last week. They will be gunning hard at home to not fall to 1-3.
No one should be panicking about the Cardinals. Yet. But a loss here could have those alarms sounding a bit. It was one thing to lose to the Patriots in week one, but they appeared to have cleared the cobwebs with a full demonstration of their powers in week two. Against a Bills team pushing hard to avoid an 0-3 start, the Cardinals were pushed early and before they knew it, it was 30-7, Bills. Turnovers helped the Bills, as Arizona committed five on the day, one of which was brought back for a TD.
On Sunday, the Cardinals' aerial attack was not in-tune. Carson Palmer had four picks and compiled 287 yards in a robust 50 attempts. The only shining light was David Johnson, who scored twice on the ground. And John Brown, off to a slow start, led all receivers. Perhaps they just ran into two wrong opponents. Whatever the case, one should look for the Cardinals' offense to start flourishing, with Palmer, Johnson, Chris Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Brown, Michael Floyd (questionable), Jaron Brown, and others. A leading conference contender to start the season, the offense has been off, but don't expect that to continue.
The Cardinals defense was not a bright spot on this team in week three. They allowed under 300 yards of total offense to their credit, with the Buffalo ground game being the main issue, namely with the long run, which LeSean McCoy and Tyrod Taylor exploited to good affect. Corner Patrick Peterson had an interception. Tony Jefferson had a sack, as did Chandler Jones, who has one in each game so far. After giving up 23 to the Pats and 7 to the Bucs, the 33 points was a lot perhaps, but the turnovers played a direct role into that.
A lot of teams have had bad three-game windows before. Even good ones. When it happens in the beginning of a season, it can stick out like a sore thumb, but it's still a 3-game sample. There are some things the Cardinals can work on that are issues on both sides of the ball, but if we reclassify the Cardinals as something other than a good team based on their 1-2 start, we could be setting off down the wrong path.
The Rams have really done well to get out of this patch at 2-1, especially after a ghastly-looking week one shutout loss to the 49ers of all teams. Their week two win over the Seahawks was a testament to their defense, though it marked two weeks without a touchdown. They had five of them on Sunday. Case Keenum completed touchdown receptions to Brian Quick and Tavon Austin, while Todd Gurley ran in two scores, and Ethan Westbrooks ran in a fumble recovery 77 yards for a TD. It was good to see the LA Rams offense break through the way they did for the big road win.
Keenum being able to make some connections with his ball-catchers was a positive sign and should give him some more confidence moving forward. It's not an electrifying ball-catching crew, but it can provide production, along with monster back Todd Gurley, who has really not come to life just yet. He is under 3 yards per carry on just 183 yards through three games. Expect that production to get ramped up in the coming weeks.
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If Los Angeles is going to make a push this season, the defense will need to be a big part of it. And so far this season, the signs are pretty positive. The offense strung them out against Frisco in a week one loss, but holding Seattle to three points was a victory for this unit in week two. The 32 they gave up to Tampa was a step back, but it was a tough road game against a team that can put up points and 7 of those points came from a pick-six. The line, led by Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald, is fierce and top-notch against the run and in harassing opposing quarterbacks. The middle is bolstered by Alec Ogletree, whose presence is key for this defense. They weren't particularly resilient against the pass on Sunday, but a win is a win, especially on the road, where the Rams have three of their first four games, with this being the third.
This isn't an easy pick, with both teams having shown such wide ranges of form through just three weeks of play. We've seen Arizona and LA both cover the gamut in the short season. There are just so many ways of looking at it. But the one element that stands out is Arizona's resilience over the recent past and how they will be at home in front of a raucous crowd, doing their darnedest to avoid going to 1-3, where getting back on the right track starts to become a more-exhaustive process. They can win this game and get back to the business of being an NFC contender. I see them doing that, but I see a struggle ensuing with an LA team that was bottomed-out after week one and is now feeling pretty good. I'll take the points.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Los Angeles Rams plus 7.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today by signing up and betting the Rams vs. Cardinals game at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!