Daily Grind 12.11

Today is game day for the Rams, and that makes today great.

I have not been shy about ripping the Arizona Cardinals. Frankly, they are who we thought they were and the Rams better not let them off the damn hook this time around.

Having said that, Arizona does have 10 wins, and this league is about winning football games– something the Rams are still trying to figure out. A win tonight would clinch a playoff spot, the teams first since 2009. They certainly would like to prove Vegas wrong as a four point underdog, despite sharing the best record in the NFL.

I wrote a game preview for Last Word On Sports, which you can read here.

Long story short, I fully expect the Rams defense to harass Drew Stanton, forcing him into crucial mistakes that have plagued him throughout his career, specifically on the road, away from the comfortable digs where the Cardinals are 13-2 since last season. Don’t forget we are talking about four-year backup who is more accustomed to holding a clipboard than recognizing defensive schemes.

I think St. Louis wins tonight, but here are a few reasons to worry:

There are at least two games that should haunt any Rams fan under Jeff Fisher. Both took place at home in 2012 with playoff implications on the line. Though the Rams playoff chances are <1%, like Harry in Dumb and Dumber, there is a chance.

I’m referring to Week 11 versus the Jets and Week 15 against the Vikings. The Rams were playing relatively good football after the infamous tie in San Francisco. They come home and lay an egg against Mark Sanchez and the Jets. Fast forward four weeks later, the Rams had won three straight games (Arizona, San Francisco, Buffalo) only to let a Christian Ponder led Vikings squad take a 30-7 lead into halftime. They lost.

Both contests were incredible letdowns.

Secondly, Bruce Arians is a mastermind. This man has balls of steel. Remember five weeks ago when Carson Palmer tore his ACL? Arians inserted Stanton, and proceeded to dial-up a bomb to John Brown, which went for a 48-yard score. No dink-and-dunk… he went for the throat. And Arizona scored 21 points in a four-minute span to wipe out the Rams’ 14-10 lead with eight minutes left in the game.

Tonight will be an absolute battle. Both teams are very good at defending the run, and ultimately the game will come down to turnovers. The Rams have 15 takeaways the last six games, most in the NFL. Arizona has a -4 turnover ratio the last three weeks.

The Rams know they let the game slip away in Glendale. They remember the game-changing “blind side block” call on Lance Kendrick’s that negated a 41-yard pass to Jared Cook. They also remember Week 6 on Monday Night Football blowing a 14-0 lead to San Francisco. They want revenge in the spotlight.

This team is fired up. I hope you are. Buckle in.
Most importantly, get loud tonight. #FillTheDome

KEY MATCHUP

DT Aaron Donald vs. Arizona guards Jonathon Cooper and Ted Larsen.

By now, anyone unaware of Donald lives under a rock. Pro Football Focus rates Donald as the highest-graded interior lineman.

As for Cooper and Larsen? Larsen has been OK against the run, but brutal in pass protection. His pass blocking efficiency ranks 35th amongst guards. Cooper is making his second career start tonight, and after struggling against Kansas City four days ago, a short week is not exactly ideal.

NFL HITS

Johnny Manziel is a punk, but I hope he beats the tar out of Cincinnati this weekend.

I think Jay Gruden is toast in Washington.

Jeff Fisher told Albert Breer of NFL Network he wants Sam Bradford back next season, at the right price.

All for now, thanks for reading.

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