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NFL Betting: Cardinals vs. Rams Thursday Night Preview

Posted by Stan Jenkins on 12/12/2014 12:37:47 PM

The Arizona Cardinals still have the best record in the NFC and in the NFC West, but the Seattle Seahawks are closing quickly. Can the Cardinals stay in front in both races this Thursday?

Arizona Cardinals @ St. Louis Rams – Thursday, December 11

The Arizona Cardinals are hanging on in the NFC West, with Seattle making a late-season push. The Cardinals had lost two straight games to fall to 9-3, and so when Seattle won to get to 9-4 this past weekend, would the Cardinals be able to stay in front? They trailed the Kansas City Chiefs at halftime, 14-6, and their offense was stagnating with quarterback Drew Stanton struggling in place of starter Carson Palmer. The Cardinals needed to play one of their better halves in the 2014 season in order to beat a Kansas City team that is still very much in the playoff hunt, and is coached by Andy Reid, who has led teams to five NFC Championship Game appearances with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Arizona managed to do just that.

The Cardinals’ defense, which has been a team strength all season long despite losing John Abraham, Darnell Dockett, and Daryl Washington – among others – to injuries, managed to shut out the Chiefs in the second half. The offense scored 11 points in the third quarter to give the team a 17-14 lead, and the defense made it stand up by recovering a fumble late in the fourth quarter when the Chiefs were driving. Arizona missed a field goal in the final two minutes, so the Chiefs got the ball back with over a minute left in need of only a field goal to tie the game and send it into overtime. However, Arizona’s defense easily parried the Chiefs’ last meager thrust, and the Cardinals moved to 10-3.

Against the Rams, many will doubt the Cardinals because they already have the 30th-ranked rushing offense in pro football and will be without running back Andre Ellington, who has been injured and just had surgery. The Cardinals will also be doubted because the Rams have won their last two games by a combined score of 76-0 and are playing the best defense in the NFL right now. St. Louis was supposed to be good this season, but the preseason injury to quarterback Sam Bradford prevented the Rams from having the quarterback they wanted. It took some time for the Rams to adjust, and they’ve still made enough mistakes in close games that they aren’t going to make the playoffs this year. However, St. Louis has shown what it is capable of in recent weeks, and so while this team is 6-7, it is playing like a 9-4 or 10-3 team.

Ultimately, should a bettor trust the Rams’ form or the Cardinals’ toughness? The Rams have looked great, but they beat two bad teams, the Oakland Raiders and Washington Redskins. It would appear that the Rams need to cement their rise by beating a good team late in the season. The Cardinals have too much to play for to lie down and play dead. Arizona has Larry Fitzgerald back from injury and should be able to play well enough on offense to win.

Pick: Cardinals +5.5

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