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[Editor's Note: Stampede Blue welcomes new writer Christopher Price into the fold for his second week of spread-killing picks. Christopher knows a thing or three about sports betting... ask Vegas. Going 2-1 last week on his top picks, let's see how he fares in this week's action!]
Cardinals (4-0) @ Rams (2-2)
Pick – Rams (+2)
Good Call: Three Stars (Out of Five)
I'd be lying if I said that once I first saw this line a few days ago that I wasn't confused as to why the Arizona Cardinals (4-0) weren't at least 6-point favorites to the St. Louis Rams (2-2). Then, after watching more snippets of last week's OT game against Miami, while crunching the numbers as hard as humanly possible, it got me to the realization that the Rams have exactly what it takes to pull this kind of game off and "stun" so many people way out West. I know for many of you this may take some convincing, but stay patient and hear me out.
For those who have recently began following my picks and listening to my rants (yes, both of you), it’s common knowledge that I feel the Cardinals are pretenders amongst the list of undefeated teams in the NFL – hell, or just overall. Their lack of offense and ranks amongst the bottom-feeders in the league is a huge reason behind why I'm such a skeptic. When examining their passing offense (25th – 203.0 YPG) combined with the inability to run the ball (29th – 68.0 YPG), you may not be able to stop asking yourself how, in fact, they’re 4-0?! The only thing I can come up with is the trifecta of a good defense, luck and prayer. How else can you explain averaging only 307 yards of total offense throughout 4-games and not dropping one? Let’s be honest – the Seahawks have virtually zero offense, the Patriots played terribly and missed a chip-shot for the win, Philadelphia went 1-5 in the red zone and Miami throttled them up and down the field all game long. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that they have a solid defensive unit, but let’s not be too quick to give them all of the credit for their record. Again, we must remember that there’s also a lot of luck and prayer that’s gone into this, too. How much? We’ll never be certain.
Furthermore, with QB Kevin Kolb (97.6 QB Rating - 752 YDS, 7 TD’s, 2 INT’s) having mid-level numbers and starting off undefeated, it may also be difficult to understand why he has been drawing so much skepticism from fans so far this season. It comes down to his inability to take leadership and look comfortable throwing the football. No matter who you are, if WR Larry Fitzgerald (22 REC, 245 YDS, 0 TD’s) is wearing the same jersey, it’s ok to have faith in your Pro-Bowl receiver and throw up a jump-ball every now and again instead of over-thinking it and collecting 8 sacks like Kolb did against Miami. Plain and simple, Kolb was replaced at the beginning of the season by QB John Skelton (out since week 1 with an ankle injury) for a reason; but once you retain that starting position, you should probably take charge of your team, show some confidence and… wait for it... LOOK LIKE A STARTER! None of the aforementioned being Kolb's forte.
I haven’t even began to mention the inability Arizona’s offense has running the ball with RB Beanie Wells (29 ATT, 76 YDS, 0 TD’s) in the starting spot. But, now they must try moving the ball on the ground in their second game without their starter, relying on RB Ryan Williams (44 ATT, 131 YDS, 0 TD’s) to carry the load? Oh, hell no! Whether facing a good rushing defense or not, Williams compiled only 26 yards on 13 carries last week against Miami – dreadful numbers, especially when the passing scheme looks to be virtually non-existent. Those stats aren't even good enough to make the varsity football team at my podunk high school! I mean, ummm... GO, TIGERS!
On the Rams side of the ball, I look for RB Steven Jackson (59 ATT, 195 YDS, 0 TD’s) to finally have a breakout performance – by "breakout" I mean topping that elusive 60-yard mark that he’s yet to find in his first 4-games of the season. Given the shortened week, I think St. Louis should look for QB Sam Bradford (80.1 QB Rating - 881 YDS, 4 INT’s, 4 TD’s) to rely on mostly quick, screen-type passes to WR’s Danny Amendola (31 REC, 351 YDS, 2 TD’s) and Brandon Gibson (10 REC, 151 YDS, 2 TD’s). The Rams can help improve their extremely low passing stats (28th – 196.5 YPG) by allowing Jackson to first open up the run game and then exploit whatever holes they can find in Ray Horton’s 3-4 defense - who looked extremely tired and worn out towards the end of Sunday’s match-up with Miami.
Finally, and probably most importantly, is K Greg Zuerlein’s (12/12 FG, 5/5 XP) 3 Wood that he has for a leg. Yes, out of Kolb, Fitzgerald, Bradford, Jackson and Amendola, I think the weight of this game falls directly on the success of "Zipline" Zuerlein’s (copyright pending) so far perfect season. When a team’s offense is needing help putting points on the board and can rely on their rookie kicker to not only hit 58 and 60-yarders in the same game, but to also throw a touchdown pass to boot; I think it’s safe to say he’s a crucial part of this team's overall success.
Traveling cross-country after an overtime game to play on Rams’ turf (where they're unbeaten on the season) for St. Louis’ first primetime game of the season, all while giving up points is just too much for anyone, let alone a team whose already on their backup RB and QB. As happy as I am to say it, your borrowed time is up and it’s time for your long, steep fall from grace, Arizona.
Just So Ya' Know:
- Rams are 3-1 ATS this season
- Rams are 2-0 at home this season
- Cardinals 3rd consecutive road game