In Week 12, the 3-7 Arizona Cardinals are facing off against the 2-8 St. Louis Rams. The theme of the year for both teams could easily be that of disappointment. The Rams were the prohibitive favorite to win the NFC West coming into the season and the Cardinals, with Kevin Kolb the prize of their offseason acquisitions, were supposed to compete as well.
For both teams the quarterback play has been disappointing. Rams starter Sam Bradford did not make the strides that were hoped he would between his first and second season, and Kolb has been inconsistent in a new offensive system and injuries. Before getting hurt, he had lost six straight starts, mostly very close games, but his play was more uneasy as the season progressed.
While it looked all week that Kolb would probably be able to return, coach Ken Whisenhunt said on Sirius NFL on Saturday that "John Skelton is probably gonna go." Kevin Kolb will be tested on the turf to see how his toe and foot react, but it now looks doubtful that he will play.
The Cardinals have had a lot of success in St. Louis. They have won six straight games there, including the season opener in 2010. Yes, much of that was with Kurt Warner at quarterback, but considering how bad the Cardinals have played on the road over the years, this is truly a feat.
The all-time series is currently deadlocked at 32-32-2.
To illustrate how different the Rams and Cardinals are, despite the one-win difference in wins, we can look at their statistics. The Cardinals have scored and allowed the same number of touchdowns -- 24. The Rams have a 18-TD deficit. They have scored only 11 and allowed 29.
However, they are similar in deficits in many other stats. The yardage per game deficit is about 74 yards per game for the Cards and about 66 for the Rams. The Cardinals are minus seven in turnovers and the Rams are minus four.
Offensively, the Cardinals rank 25th overall in the league in yards per game. The Rams are 30th. Defensively, the Cards are 28th overall and the Rams are 22nd.
The end of the story is that these deficits have hurt both teams. When in Arizona, it took a blocked field goal at the end of regulation by the Cardinals to avoid getting defeated by St. Louis. Thanks to the overtime punt return touchdown by Patrick Peterson, the Cardinals came away victorious.
Playing on the road in an early game, the Cardinals will need to do more than get a couple of fortunate plays. Special teams could play a key role. Peterson has three returns for touchdowns. The Rams have allowed five on the season.
Stopping Steven Jackson will also be important. In their last meeting, the Cardinals kept him out of the end zone, but he ran for 130 yards. If he is to have that sort of success at home, it could be a long day for the Cards.
With six games remaining on the season, a solid run could put the Cardinals back to respectability. While the playoffs are probably out of the realm of possibility, playing well to end the season could build enough positive momentum to rebound in 2012 for true competitiveness.
We will soon find out what the players' collective heart looks like.