BALTIMORE - OCTOBER 30: Beanie Wells #26 of the Arizona Cardinals runs the ball against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on October 30. 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Cardinals 30-27. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Six months ago if you told anyone that the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams would meet in week 8 with a 1-6 record apiece you would have been laughed out of the room. The two favourites to take out the division in the preseason find themselves in desperate times midseason, playoff chances down to almost nil, and winning out the rest of the season seems the minimum requirement for either if they wish to sniff the postseason. However that does not take away from the edge that this divisional game always provides and this first meeting in Arizona could prove to be a tremendous game, even if it looks like it might be John Skelton vs A.J. Feeley at the quarterback positions. If the Cardinals wish to come away with a victory, their second of the season they are going to need to outperform the Rams in some key areas. Hit the jump for more.
Run the Ball - If the Cardinals want to win this football game they need to take advantage of one of the Rams biggest weaknesses and that is their run defense. Currently the Rams are allowing opposition teams to run for 165 yards per game at 5.2 YPC marks that rank 32nd and 31st in the league respectively, Beanie Wells is still getting over his knee injury, but he was able to go and be a weapon against the Ravens and the Cardinals will need him to be a full go on Sunday. If the Cardinals commit to the running game and Beanie is ready to carry the ball 25 times it could be a huge day for the man from Ohio State and would lay the platform for the Cardinals to build a victory.
Stop the Run - Last week as the Rams recorded their first win of the season and a massive part of their victory was the play of Steven Jackson as he was able to record 159 yards on the ground at 6.4 YPC, currently the Cardinals rank 6th in the NFL in allowing opposing runners to gain just 3.8 yards per carry, if Arizona wants to beat the Rams in front of their home fans they will need to produce that type of run defense, negate the ability of Jackson to take over the game and put the game on the arm of AJ Feeley, who looks like he will start in place of Sam Bradford for the third straight week as the former #1 overall pick recovers from an ankle injury. It is a case of strength against strength here, and whomever comes out on top will have the upper hand in the game.
Force Feeley to throw deep - It seems a little contrary to common football logic, but the Cardinals need to try and force AJ Feeley to throw the ball past 10 yards in the air, test his arm and accuracy the further he goes down field, it might lead to a first down or two and big play here or there, but it could also lend a hand to creating favourable 3rd and 10 situations. So far this season Feeley is just 2-13 with an interception when he has thrown the ball 10 yards or further downfield, and in other situations has completed 63% of his passes including a touchdown. Arizona needs to use their linebackers to play the short passing game and force Feeley to take chances into the secondary, especially early on in the game, a slow start for the Rams could mean the Cardinals can get out to an early lead and take the ball out of Jackson's hands.
Win the Turnover Battle - Only once this season have the Arizona Cardinals won the turnover battle and while that did not result in a win it did result in a 3 point loss to one of the NFL's best teams. The Cardinals defense needs to help out the offense with a couple of turnovers that either take points from the opposition or generate points for the Cardinals and the offense needs to help themselves by taking care of the football and being able to sustain long drives. Turnovers win football games, they give you an extra chance to put the football in the endzone and take away a chance for your opposition to do the same. Patrick Peterson and Adrian Wilson need to step up their ball skills on the back end and the Cards need their pass rush to stay solid.
Give Skelton easy throws - I am working here under the assumption that Kolb will be unable to go this weekend with the turf toe and sprained/severely swollen foot, so John Skelton the second year QB from Fordham will be tossed the gameplan and handed the start at Quarterback. The coaching staff needs to ease him into the game and given him some simple throws early that will allow him to find some rhythm, give him some throws in 2nd and 5, 2nd and 4 after a good first down gain, and keep the defense focused on the run and dropping 8 guys into the box. If Skelton gets into a rhythm he could be a dangerous QB, but the Cardinals cannot allow the game to but put onto his shoulder, especially early in the game.
It should be a pretty simple gameplan for the Arizona Cardinals, run the ball early, often and well, mix in playaction and catch the defense keying too much on the run, then go back to actually running the football. On defense they need to play disciplined, play their gaps vs the run, don't let Jackson get past the line of scrimmage without taking contact, tackle well, and create a turnover or two. If the Cardinals can manage to do that they will come away with a .victory over divisional rive the St Louis Rams