Cardinals at Rams Picks and Week 1 NFL Odds
by Alan Matthews - 7/25/2013
The Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams each could be improved in 2013 from last year, and it may not show in their records. Why? They each have to play four combined games against the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, perhaps the NFL's two most-talented teams.
Actually, the Rams might not fear the Niners much. They tied the 49ers in Week 10 and nearly did again in Week 13 before winning on a field goal in the final seconds of overtime. That Week 10 game caused quite a seismic shift in the NFL as it gave birth to the Colin Kaepernick phenomenon. 49ers starting QB Alex Smith suffered a concussion in that game and would never get his job back because of Kaepernick's emergence. St. Louis split with Seattle last year, so maybe Jeff Fisher's club is ready to contend (I think 2014 more likely).
Arizona was one of the NFL's early-season surprises in 2012 with a 4-0 start. The Cards' Week 2 win at New England was one of the upsets of the season and ruined many a Survivor Pool. However, the Cardinals' terrible quarterback play and ghastly offensive line caught up to them after that as Arizona won just one more game. That cost coach Ken Whisenhunt his job, replaced by 2012 NFL Coach of the Year Bruce Arians from Indianapolis. This will be his first full-time head coaching gig; he was the interim for the Colts a year ago because of Chuck Pagano's illness.
Cardinals at Rams Betting Story Lines
That Kevin Kolb trade of a second-round pick and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to Philadelphia was a total bust for Arizona, with Kolb having been jettisoned. The team thinks it finally has a capable replacement for Kurt Warner in Carson Palmer. Arizona only had to give up a late-round pick switch with Oakland and got Palmer to renegotiate his deal, so it's a pretty low-risk, high-reward gamble. Palmer actually had pretty good numbers last year for a bad Raiders team, completing 61.1 percent of his passes for 4,018 yards with 22 touchdowns and 14 picks in 15 games. Arizona would gladly take that. Perhaps no one is happier than stud receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who was fed up with his quarterbacks. If Arizona can get a semblance of a running game with Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams, the offense should be much improved.
Fisher improved the St. Louis defense a year ago, but the offense still leaves a bit to be desired. Former No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford looks like a keeper, but the team still doesn't have much around him. The Rams let workhorse running back Steven Jackson and top receiver Danny Amendola go. They did land perhaps the most exciting player available in the 2013 draft in West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin. He'll be used all over the field and is a blur. I just don't like much else on that offense and definitely am not sold on a backfield of Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead.
Obviously as division rivals these two met twice in 2012. The Rams started the Cardinals' slide in Week 5 with a 17-3 win in St. Louis. The Rams overwhelmed that porous Arizona offensive line for nine sacks and held the Cards to 45 yards rushing. Bradford wasn't very good for St. Louis, starting 3-for-15 for 25 yards and finishing 7-for-21 for 141. He did have two touchdown passes. That win was notable because it improved St. Louis to 3-2, its first time over .500 since Nov. 4, 2006, a stretch of 93 games. Arizona was a two-point favorite.
In Week 12 at University of Phoenix Stadium, the Rams won 31-17 as one-point dogs. Rams rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who proved to be one of the steals of the 2012 draft, returned interceptions 36 and 39 yards for touchdowns. No rookie had returned two interceptions for touchdowns since 1960. Jackson rushed for 139 yards on 24 carries, while Bradford had two TD throws but was only 8-for-17. The Cardinals were playing QB roulette at that point and started sixth-round rookie Ryan Lindley. He threw for 312 yards, but it took him 52 attempts, and he had four picks.
Cardinals at Rams Week 1 Betting Odds and Trends
At WagerWeb, the Rams are six-point opening favorites with a total of 40. Arizona was 7-8-1 ATS last season (4-3-1 on road) and 7-9 “over/under” (3-5 on road; just 1-5 on turf). St. Louis was 11-5 ATS (4-4 at home) and 8-8 O/U (5-3 at home). The Rams, who tied for the NFL lead with those 11 covers, covered in five of their final six games. They were favorites only twice and never more than 3.5 points. Arizona alternated ATS losses and wins over the final eight games last year. They were a dog of between 6-7 points in five games and were 2-2-1 ATS.
Cardinals at Rams Picks and Week 1 NFL Betting Predictions
Whichever team wins this opener seems likely to sweep the season series. It has happened five of the past six seasons, with the other four by Arizona. The Cardinals have to learn an entirely new system and break in a new quarterback, while the Rams don't have such issues. I think that's relevant early in the season. Thus, I'd lean St. Louis here and the under.
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