|Rams defensive end Chris Long has 20 QB hurries through four games. (US Presswire)|
Cardinals at Rams -- Week 5
Where: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis (FieldTurf)
When: Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET (NFL Network)
Spread: Cardinals by 1
Records: Cardinals (Overall: 4-0, NFC West: 1-0); Rams (Overall 2-2, NFC West 1-0)
Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Nov. 27, 2011: Cardinals 23, Rams 20; Nov. 6, 2011: Cardinals 19, Rams 13 (OT). Series record: Cardinals have won 10 of the past 11 meetings and lead 33-32-2 all-time.
What matters: Arizona leads the NFL with six fumble recoveries. The Cardinals rank third with 10 takeaways and tied for fourth with a plus-4 turnover margin. So all Rams skill players must be on alert. At the same time, the Rams rank second with eight interceptions (three by Cortland Finnegan). Kevin Kolb has thrown seven TD passes against two INTs this year but is susceptible to picks; he's thrown 22 career INTs against 20 TDs.
Who matters: The Rams can't expect defense and special teams to carry them again. For the Rams to win their third straight home game, players like WR Chris Givens have to make difficult grabs when they get behind the defense. RB Steven Jackson has to get going. He's averaging 3.3 yards per carry and just 49 rushing yards. G Quinn Ojinnaka could get QB Sam Bradford hurt if he doesn't improve. Ojinnaka has allowed 14 QB hurries, hits or sacks in three games.
Key matchups: The Cardinals gave up eight sacks at home to Miami last week, and now face a defense that pressured Seattle's Russell Wilson on more than half his drop-backs. DEs Chris Long (20 QB hurries) and Robert Quinn (three sacks) should terrorize Arizona tackles D'Anthony Batiste and Bobby Massie, the lowest-rated tackles in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. Arizona WRs Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Roberts get their toughest test yet against the Rams' elite secondary, led by Finnegan, Bradley Fletcher and rookie Janoris Jenkins.
Inside stuff: Not counting drops, Bradford has been accurate on 70 percent of his throws when pressured. He's gone deep (20-plus yards) 13 times this season, completing five. Givens and Brandon Gibson each has dropped one deep ball. … Despite missing a slew of tackles overall, the defense is thriving on third down, allowing a conversion rate of 31.1 percent. That's seventh-best in the NFL.
Stats you should know: QBs throwing at Fletcher have posted an awful 25.0 passer rating. … Arizona has won seven straight games at the Edward Jones Dome. … The Cardinals have won 11 of their past 13 games overall. They're allowing 15.2 points per game this season, third-fewest in the NFL. … Backup RB Daryl Richardson has averaged 3.2 yards a carry over the last two games. … Greg Zuerlein is 12 for 12 on field goals this season, including 60- and 58-yarders last week. Both set franchise records. … WR Danny Amendola ranks second in the NFL with 31 catches.
Looking ahead: The Rams get extra rest before their Oct. 14 game in Miami. Then they host Green Bay and play New England in London before the bye. A win Thursday would put the Rams over .500 for the first time since 2006, and make them a surprise contender in the NFC West.
Prediction: Rams 20, Cardinals 17
Get more Rams updates and analysis from Larry Hartstein @CBSRams.