The St. Louis Rams are on the road this week with a tough draw against a division rival. The Rams swept the Arizona Cardinals last season, and beat them again to open the 2013 season. But things have changed for both teams since then, and the betting lines show that.
Arizona rode the league's best defense to a surprising 7-5 record with a month left in the season. By virtue of being in the NFC West, the Cardinals playoff chances are virtually nil, despite a winning record.
As for the Rams, the season's moved in fits and starts. A Week 1 win over the Cardinals was followed by an ugly three-game losing skid that exposed the team's limitations. By Week 5, the Rams had switched over to a run-first philosophy, and improvement followed.
The Cardinals are favored by seven points, a full touchdown, for this week's game. Arizona is 7-4-1 against the spread this season, with a 3-2-1 record against the spread at home. The Rams are 5-7 against the spread this season, with a 2-4 mark against the spread in road games. St. Louis is 4-8 against the spread in the last 12 against Arizona, and 2-4 when playing in Arizona.
What about the over/under, you ask? It's set at 41.5 points from most books, and a majority of bettors are taking the under. That's not a bad decision when you consider the defenses for both teams. The Rams are capable of causing problems for Carson Palmer with the pass rush. The Cardinals defense figures to be a tougher challenge for the Rams and their running game than the 49ers.
The Rams are averaging 86.7 rushing yards in road games this season, ranked 24th. Arizona is allowing an average of just 77 rushing yards in home game, the third best mark in the NFL. St. Louis' strategy of running the ball to set up the play action has worked well against lesser defenses like the Colts and Bears, but the 49ers exposed that approach and the limitations of the backup quarterback last week.
The scoring total has gone over in seven of the Rams last nine games, but that number flips against the Cardinals. The score has gone under in eight of the last 11 games between the Rams and the Cardinals. In Arizona, the total has been under in four of the last five.