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Rams at Cardinals: What to Watch

What are the keys to an Arizona Cardinals victory on Sunday?

Arizona Cardinals v St Louis Rams Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

Happy Saturday Arizona Cardinals fans! Tomorrow the team begins a journey which includes two division games in six days, and can very well be either the turning point for the season or the week we point to in December where we talk about “what if”. We’re going to break down the keys to the game against the 2-1 Los Angeles Rams and their All-Star running back, Todd Gurley.

Key 1: Play this game with the importance it deserves

The 1-2 Arizona Cardinals have an opportunity to wake up Friday 3-2 and 2-0 in the NFC West Division. They need to treat this game like a playoff game and recognize that ending Sunday 1-3 will only make them more vulnerable to waking up Friday 1-4. From Super Bowl favorites they could be in a whole new conversation about favorites for a top five pick in the 2017 draft. Following a season of that type it would more than likely be a rebuilding year in which the Cardinals would more than likely lose seasoned veterans such as Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald to retirement and there would definitely be coaching changes. Not at the Arians level, but most certainly below him.

You may be thinking, “Randy, this is crazy, it’s not that bad, our whole season doesn’t hinge on the next two games!” But I would counter, a Friday morning 1-4 team has a different team chemistry and long term outlook than a 3-2 team. If you look at the NFC West, the Cardinals are at the bottom of the standings with a 2-1 Rams and 2-1 Seahawks team looking down at them. If the Cardinals don’t climb out of this hole now, they’ll be in a ditch by Friday with 11 games left to the season and they’d need to win at least nine of those games to be competitive for a playoff slot based on the average win totals of playoff teams over the past two years. Don’t forget, this team is tooled to win now, so win now is exactly what they need to do.

Key 2: Contain Todd Gurley

The Cardinals have been gashed in the run through the first three games and the Defense has lacked their smash mouth style against the run. Well this is the week where they put up or shut up, because the Los Angeles Rams don’t have a prolific passer, or a mobile quarterback, so the majority of the offensive workload is going to run through number 30.

Key 3: Score points in the first quarter

You may have spilled your drink when you read that key, but yes, it’s a fact the Cardinals have not scored a point through three games in the first quarter. Get anything on the board, just break that by getting a safety, kicking a field goal, blocking a two-point conversation and returning it for two points, or dare I say SCORE A TOUCHDOWN! Just get some points up there so we can all breath.

To do this, Bruce Arians will need a new game plan that adjusts to the new reality, people have figured out ways to reduce the big plays in his offensive scheme. In fact, they have so far eliminated them. So now it’s time for Bruce to put on his thinking cap and scheme to win, because if not now, when?

What are the other keys to the win this week?