NFL Thursday Night Football Betting Picks: Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams

Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams
Edward Jones Dome – St. Louis, Missouri

Thursday, December 11, 2014, 8:25 pm Eastern, TV: NFL Network
Opening Line: St. Louis -2 1/2
Current Line: St. Louis -4
Opening Total: 41
Current Total: 39 1/2
Opening Money Line: Rams -185 / Cardinals +160
Current Money Line: Rams -200 / Cardinals +170

Arizona is a 4 point road underdog at St. Louis Thursday night in a key NFC battle.
Arizona is a 4 point road underdog at St. Louis Thursday night in a key NFC battle.

The 10-3 Arizona Cardinals are tied with the Green Bay Packers for the best record in the NFC. However, with games remaining against the three other NFC teams, the Cardinals aren’t even guaranteed to make the playoffs much less win the division. It starts with a trip to St. Louis to take on the 6-7 yet still dangerous Rams Thursday night. The Cardinals are only a game ahead of the Seattle Seahawks in the division. Arizona hosts Seattle next week. St. Louis is in last place but only a game behind the fading San Francisco 49ers. With six teams at 9-4 or better in the NFC, Arizona can’t afford to slip up against the Rams.

Since 2001, Arizona leads the series 14-11 against St. Louis. The Cardinals have won two straight against the Rams, including 31-14 last month in Arizona. Before moving to the desert in the late 80’s, the Cardinals franchise was located in St. Louis for many years.

Arizona is coached by Bruce Arians. The only losses for the Cardinals came at the Denver Broncos 41-20, Seattle Seahawks 19-3 and Atlanta Falcons 29-18. The Cardinals have home wins over the San Diego Chargers 18-17, San Francisco 49ers 23-14, Washington Redskins 30-20, Philadelphia Eagles 24-20, St. Louis Rams 31-14, Detroit Lions 14-6 and last week against the Kansas City Chiefs 17-14. The win against KC snapped a two game losing streak for the Cardinals. Arizona also has road wins at the New York Giants 25-14, Oakland Raiders 24-13 and the Dallas Cowboys 28-17. The Cardinals are 9-4 ATS and the total is 4-8-1 this season. Arizona was a 2.5 point underdog against Kansas City and the total was 41.5.

St. Louis is coached by Jeff Fisher. The Rams have wins at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19-17, at the San Francisco 49ers 13-10 and last week at the Washington Redskins 24-0, along with home wins over the Seattle Seahawks 28-26, Denver Broncos 22-7 and Oakland Raiders 52-0. St. Louis has home losses against the Minnesota Vikings 34-6, Dallas Cowboys 34-31, and  49ers 31-17,  along with road losses at the Philadelphia Eagles 34-28, Kansas City Chiefs 34-7, Cardinals 31-14 and Chargers 27-24. St. Louis has won 3 of their last 4 including 2 straight by a combined score of 76-0. The Rams are 7-6 ATS and the total is 7-6 this season. St. Louis was a 2.5 point favorite against the Redskins last week and the total was 44.5.

Arizona is outscoring teams 21-18 this season. The Cardinals are #3 in points allowed and #22 in scoring. Arizona is averaging 325 yards per game on offense including 246 passing and 80 rushing yards per game. The Cardinals are #23 in total offense and #30 in rushing. On defense, Arizona is allowing 355 yards per game including 263 passing and 92 rushing yards per game. The Cardinals are #27 in pass defense and #6 in rush defense. Arizona is 80/185 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 72/188. The Cardinals have forced 31 sacks and allowed 21 this season. Arizona is +10 in turnovers. The Cardinals have four defensive and and one special teams touchdowns and have allowed a defensive touchdown.

What has made the Cardinals’ great start even more remarkable is the fact that Arizona has used 3 quarterbacks this season. Carson Palmer missed three games with a nerve issue in his throwing shoulder. He was replaced by Drew Stanton. Even rookie Logan Thomas took some snaps against the Broncos when Stanton was injured. Palmer tore his ACL in the last game against the Rams and is out for the season. Stanton will start for the rest of the season. Palmer  started the last 5 games before the injury. He has completed 62.9% of his passes for 1,626 yards with 11 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Stanton has thrown for 1,602 yards with 7 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, along with 23 carries for 60 yards. Thomas was only 1/8 against the Broncos but the one completion was an 81 yard touchdown pass.

Running back Andre Ellington has 201 carries for 660 yards with 3 touchdowns, plus 46 catches for 395 yards and 2 touchdowns. He is out for a season with a hip injury. Jonathan Dwyer, Kerwynn Williams and Stepfan Taylor will split the carries without Ellington. The trio has combined for under 300 rushing yards and only 2 touchdowns. Taylor does have 3 touchdown catches though.

Receiver Larry Fitzgerald has 50 catches for 692 yards and 2 touchdowns. John Brown has 39 catches for 569 yards and 5 touchdowns.  Michael Floyd has 35 catches for 592 yards and 4 touchdowns. Tight end John Carlson has 29 catches for 318 yards and a touchdown. Seven defensive players are questionable to out for the Cardinals.

St. Louis is scoring 21.9 points per game and allowing 21.9 as well. The Rams are #17 in points allowed and #14 in scoring. St. Louis is averaging 317 yards per game on offense including 208 passing and 109 rushing yards. The Rams are #20 or worse in all three categories. St. Louis is allowing 345 yards per game on defense including 240 passing and 105 rushing yards. The Rams are #14 or better in all three categories. It was only a few weeks ago that the Rams had one of the worst defenses in football, but two straight shutouts will improve your defensive stats quickly. St. Louis is 64/167 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 62/173. St. Louis has 35 sacks and has allowed 39 this season. The Rams are +4 in turnovers. St. Louis has 5 defensive/special teams touchdowns but has allowed 9 this season.

Quarterbacks Austin Davis and Shaun Hill have split the snaps. Hill himself took over from Sam Bradford who tore his ACL in the pre-season. Davis has completed 63.4% of his passes for 2,001 yards with 12 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, along with 36 rushing yards. Hill has started the last 3 games. Hill has completed 62% of his passes for 895 yards with 6 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, along with a rushing touchdown.

Running back Tre Mason has 142 carries for 628 yards and 3 touchdowns, along with 12 catches for 112 yards and a touchdowns.  Zac Stacy has 72 catches for 284 yards and a touchdown along with 15 catches for 135 yards. Benjamin Cunningham has 59 carries for 233 yards and 3 touchdowns, along with 33 catches for 253 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Kenny Britt has 30 catches for 542 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jared Cook has  41 catches for 534 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Brian Quick had 25 catches for 375 yards and 3 touchdowns, but he is out for the season with a shoulder injury.  Lance Kendricks has 23 catches for 197 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Arizona is 5-0 ATS after allowing 250 passing yards or more, 8-1 against teams with losing home records, 12-2 against teams with losing records, 6-1 in December, 5-1 after a win, after a cover, and after gaining more than 350 total yards, 11-3 against NFC teams, 7-2 overall, 10-4 after allowing 350 total yards or more, 7-3 in road games, 2-7 in week 15, and 0-4 in Thursday games. The Cardinals are 10-4 ATS in the last 14 against the Rams and 7-3 in St. Louis.

St. Louis is 4-0 ATS overall, 7-1-1 against teams with winning road records, 4-1 after allowing less than 90 rushing yards, and against teams with winning records, 14-6 after a straight up win of 14 points or more, 2-5 against NFC West teams, 3-9-1 in week 15, 1-4 in Thursday games, and 2-10 after allowing less than 250 total yards. The under is 9-4 in the last 13 games in this series.

St. Louis is 6-7 but they can be very dangerous as evidenced by upsets over 3 of the final 4 teams from last season’s playoffs, the Seahawks, 49ers and Broncos. Arizona started off red hot but injuries have caught up with them and they could be in trouble for making the playoffs. The Cardinals need a win on the road to hold off the hard charging Seahawks. I think Arizona wins a close low-scoring game.

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