We are already heading into week four of the 2016 NFL season. We always seem to wait for forever and a day for the season to get here, but as being a month in already proves, it goes by so fast.
In week four the Los Angeles Rams will face off against the Arizona Cardinals for the Rams third NFC West showdown in three weeks. Arizona is easily one of the most talented teams in the NFL and boasts one of the best coaching staffs as well. On paper it should be an easy win for the Cardinals. But what events might play out that might dictate the outcome of the game and shake things up.
Lets have a look at what to expect:
- Rams DT Aaron Donald will finally get his long awaited first sack. This shouldn't come as a surprise for anyone considering he is the best interior defensive linemen in the game today, and arguably the best defensive player as well. Teams have focused on slowing him down, and to some avail they have succeeded. Though Donald still ranks as the top interior defensive linemen in the NFL through the first three weeks according to PFF, he has yet to record his first sack, and fellow Rams DT Michael Brockers claims he's pissed about it. It should come as no surprise to see Donald come away from this game having delivered a multi sack performance to make up for the first three weeks.
- Rams QB Case Keenum is going to have a career game. Yes surprise surprise... Even against a secondary which has both CB Patrick Peterson and FS Tyrann Mathieu, Rams OC Rob Boras is going to come out throwing. Mathieu is coming off of an ACL tear for the second time in two years. He's not yet playing like the problem child we know him to be. Outside of himself and Peterson, this secondary does not have much to threaten opposing teams QB's with. Peterson is most likely to shadow either Rams WR Tavon Austin or WR Kenny Britt. Expect Keenum to feed whoever is not covered by Peterson early and often. In fact, the Rams will be looking to take a deep shot within the first four plays of their first offensive possession. Keenum will finish with his first ever 300 yard passing game and two touchdowns.
- The purpose in the philosophy of throwing the ball and taking shots will be to loosen up the box to give RB Todd Gurley more running room. Cardinals HC Bruce Arians is no fool and will recognize this, refusing to unload the box; that is until the second half. At some point in the third quarter Gurley will get going breaking off two long runs of 20+ yards and finally eclipsing the 100 yard mark in a game for the first time in 2016. The Cardinals run defense has been poor to say the least for this season thus far, however even with going over 100 yards for the first time, the Arizona defense will hold Gurley out of the end zone.
- While the Rams offense will rack up over 400 yards from scrimmage in this game, the Rams defense will equally allow a big day for the Arizona offense. Carson Palmer has struggled thus far this season with consistency. If not for WR Larry Fitzgerald making a number of great catches through the first three weeks, it can be argued his numbers would be a lot lower. However, the Rams secondary is in shambles right now, and playing against such an elite talent like Fitzgerald will render them motionless at times. Fitz is going to open things up for RB David Johnson as well as he will have 85+ yard rushing. Johnson will not stop there as he will also put together 70 yards receiving. Between Johnson and Fitzgerald, there will be 230+ yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.
- The Cardinals will win a nail biter. They"ll likely win this one in the last five min of the game. A late touchdown will give them the lead, followed by a late turnover from the Rams will seal the deal. The Rams will put forth their best offensive performance thus far, but will fall short due to issues in the secondary. While the defensive line has routinely destroyed the Arizona offensive line over the last five seasons, and it will continue in this one, it will not be enough to slow down the offensive attack, and the late push the Cardinals will bring to the table.