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Los Angeles Rams vs. Arizona Cardinals: The Professor’s preview

Back at home.

Los Angeles Rams v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images


The Los Angeles Rams open a series of three home games this Sunday. First up are division rival Arizona Cardinals

No matter how many years I go through this, the first home game is always met with gleeful anticipation, joy and happiness. It’s a time when for three hours you can put aside all the chaos of life, politics and world events to meet old friends, diehards like me, all sharing the same gleeful anticipation that this will be the year our Rams bring home Lombardi Trophy to Los Angeles.

Better yet, this game comes off an impressive second half with 20 unanswered points against the Oakland Raiders on Monday Night with capped off with a pick-six by CB Marcus Peters.

It will be an chance for Rams fans to demonstrate to the team how much we appreciate them, how good we felt after the beatdown the Rams gave Jon Gruden’s Raiders in Oakland and an opportunity to welcome home our own DT Aaron Donald.

It is in this environment that the Cardinals take the field after a humiliating loss suffered at home against Washington.

The Cardinals still have WR Larry Fitzgerald, a Ram killer, RB David Johnson and annual Pro Bowler CB Patrick Peterson, but beyond that the Cardinals have nothing. If the Cardinals think that signing QB Sam Bradford to play quarterback was all they needed to go to the Super Bowl, Arizonians found out last week they were sorely mistaken.

The Cardinals problems starts and end with the their offensive and defensive lines. This is the Cardinals weakness and it must be exploited by the Rams if they want to win the game.

I’m not saying that this is a lock game for the Rams—anytime you face a division rival you have to come out and play with intensity and take care of business.

If the Rams do their job, then victory will be ours

What the Rams need to do on offense

Start the game as if the Rams are still in the second half of the Raiders game. Run that ball with RB Todd Gurley, and get him started early. This will open the passing game up. I would like the Rams’ gameplan to use swing passes, screens and slants in the passing game and let the receivers use their individual talent to pick up YAC.

Most importantly when down in the red zone, finish off the drive with touchdowns.

In my opinion, QB Jared Goff showed growth last week. He did a great double pump on a swing pass, and ,with accuracy and with urgency, marched the Rams down the field on a five-minute drive taking valuable time off the clock to give the Rams a two-possession lead with less then three minutes left in the game. Down in the red zone on that drive, he showed his smarts by throwing the ball away and out of bounds when he saw Gurley covered understanding three points at that point in the game was more important then making the wrong play.

But he also made youthful mistakes.

Goff had TE Tyler Higbee wide open in the end zone on a drive. Instead of reading the play as it developed, Goff tried to force a hurried throw. He can get this corrected once he’s had a chance to review the tape and see it for himself.

The offensive line must play well again. The Cardinals’ defensive line isn’t great and far better then the Raiders showed. I wouldn’t expect Goff to get as much time back there as he did last week, but if he does, watch out.

The Rams offense needs to dominate this game at the line scrimmage. If they do that, their 30-point average should be easy to achieve.

What the Rams need to do on defense

First and foremost, the Rams need to shut down the Cardinals’ $30m man, RB David Johnson. He’s a force in the run game as well as the passing game. The Rams must contain him making tackles at the point of contact and not getting rolled over as they did with the Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch.

This leads to the most interesting part of the game.

Cardinals QB Sam Bradford is not Raiders QB Derek Carr. He’s an extremely accurate quarterback when he gets time to throw. When pressured, he’s a liability because of his fragility. He knows he’s prone to getting hurt, so he tends to try to protect himself from getting hit by taking the sack rather then stepping up and trying to make the play.

If he gets time, he can shred any defense, but maybe not the Rams with Peters and CB Aqib Talib blanketing WR Larry Fitzgerald

The key here is the edge rushers getting pressure and the Rams not allowing the Cardinals’ TEs Jermaine Gresham and Ricky Seals-Jones to do what Raiders TE Jared Cook did last week.

The Rams’ questionable young linebacking corps may once again be without the experienced ILB Mark Barron due to injury, but now that have a had a chance to play in a real game, I expect improvement in both soft zone coverage and tackling.

If the Rams don’t get the edge rush against a weak Cardinals offensive line and are unable to improve upon their coverage in the soft zone, Bradford could find the Rams easy pickings.

I don’t see this as likely, but one never knows how a division game like this is going to play out.

The Cardinals need this win badly. The Cards don’t want to fall two games behind the Rams in the division early and possibly on a course of not having any hope of making the playoffs after a mere two weeks into the regular season.

Special Teams

With WR/KR/PR Pharoh Cooper placed on injured reserve and his backup WR Mike Thomas still out due to injury, the Rams signed PR JoJo Natson.

Ram fans, watch out. This kid’s got shine. This guy is fast, and I was very high him during the preseason. I wanted him to make the squad. The Rams cut him instead. He’s back now to prove that the Professor can get at least one thing right.

As for the rest of the special teams game, no worries.


2018 home opener—advantage Rams

Coaching—advantage Rams.

While no one can predict penalties or turnovers as long as the Rams don’t lay it on the carpet and Goff continues to grow and mature playing smartly, we should be okay even if we make a mistake now and then.

The only X-factor I see is the desperate situation the Cardinals now find themselves in having lost badly last week against Washington. The Cards have to play better. They have to. Otherwise, this is going to be a long season for their fans under first-year Head Coach Steve Wilks.

With that said, my take is...

“Come on. The Cardinals lost to Washington who stinks. You expect that team who lost to Washington to beat my Rams? Ain’t gonna happen!”

Even if the Cards have a great game and play well, they’ll still lose to the Rams. We’re too good. GO RAMS!

I look forward to seeing all of you in the Coliseum this Sunday as we make home field advantage mean something in Los Angeles. It’s gonna be a fun day topped off with Victory Monday happiness!