It is game day! The Arizona Cardinals have their quest to start the season 4-0. To do so, they must defeat the St. Louis Rams, who are considered one of the most physical teams in football. What matchups matter most?
Arizona offensive line vs. St. Louis defensive line
This has been the most talked about matchup all week. St. Louis has a stable of defensive linemen and they are very physical. It is the first penetrating 4-3 defense the Cardinals have faced. Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin called second year player Aaron Donald a potential Defensive Player of the Year. Head coach Bruce Arians referred to him as a Tazmanian Devil. The best defensive line in the NFC -- and perhaps the league -- faces the best offensive line in the division.
Carson Palmer vs. ghosts of the past
I don't see this as an issue, but literally the last time he dropped back to pass against the Rams, his ACL popped. He is mentally strong enough to get past it and he has been playing very well this year without worrying about his knee, but surely there is something in the back of his head to remind him of it.
Todd Gurley, Tre Mason vs. Arizona defensive front
The Rams will want to run the ball. That is how they are built. They have two promising running backs. If they can get going, things open up for the rest of the offense.
Arizona's running backs vs. St. Louis' defensive line
Everyone has talked about how good the Rams front four are. They are. But they aren't the best at stopping the run. Seattle rushed for over 120 yards against them. The Redskins rushed fro more than 180. Arizona has rushed for at least 115 yards in all three of their games this season. How can the offense protect Carson Palmer? If they can run the ball effectively, then it will be easy. St. Louis will be back on their heels and when the Cardinals do throw the ball, the pass rush will not be as ferocious.
Jared Cook vs. Arizona linebackers, safeties
Cook is perhaps one of the most inconsistent tight ends you will find. He is also one of the most talented. Many times he has absolutely killed the Cardinals. Patrick Peterson explained that the offense basically runs through Cook. The linebackers and safeties will have to be aware of where he is.