Thursday Night NFL: Cardinals at Rams

Published on Oct. 4, 2012, at 9:30 a.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

Arizona (4-0 straight up, 3-1 against the spread) is the NFL’s biggest surprise, joining Houston and Atlanta as the league’s only remaining unbeaten teams. The Cardinals, off to their best start in 38 years dating back to the Jim Hart Era, will take their unblemished record to St. Louis on a short week of preparation to face their NFC West rivals Thursday night at the Edward Jones Dome.

As of early this morning, most betting shops had Arizona listed as a 1 ½-point favorite with a total of 39 for ‘over/under’ wagers.

Ken Whisenhunt’s team is coming off a non-covering 24-21 win over Miami in overtime as a four-point home favorite. Arizona trailed 13-0 at intermission and needed a 15-yard touchdown pass from Kevin Kolb to Andre Roberts on fourth down with only 22 seconds remaining.

Jay Feely stayed perfect on the year by drilling a 46-yard field goal to win the game in OT. The 45 combined points went ‘over’ the 38 ½-point total.

Kolb overcame a pair of interceptions to throw for 324 yards and three touchdowns. Roberts hauled in six receptions for 118 yards and two TDs, while Larry Fitzgerald had eight catches for 64 yards and one TD.

St. Louis (2-2 SU, 3-1 ATS) collected a crucial division win last week when it knocked off Seattle, 19-13, as a two-point home underdog. The 32 combined points easily stayed ‘under’ the 39 ½-point total.

The Rams defense stole the show by intercepting Seattle rookie QB Russell Wilson three times. Rookie place-kicker Greg Zuerlein buried all four field-goal attempts, including boots from 58 and 60 yards out. He’s now made all 12 attempts this year.

Sam Bradford threw for 221 yards. For the season, the Oklahoma product is completing 61.6 percent of his throws for 881 yards with a mediocre 4/4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Jeff Fisher’s team opened the season with a tough loss at Detroit, allowing a fourth-quarter lead to get away in a 27-23 defeat. Nevertheless, the Rams took the cash as nine-point underdogs.

In Week 2, St. Louis won a 31-28 decision over Washington as a 3 ½-point home underdog. Then in Week 3. the Rams lost 23-6 at Chicago.

Arizona has posted wins vs. Seattle (20-16), at New England (20-18) and vs. Philadelphia (27-6) prior to last week’s win over the Dolphins.

Kolb has connected on 62.6 percent of his passes for 752 yards with a 7/2 TD-INT ratio. Fitzgerald has 22 receptions for 245 yards and two TDs. The ground attack has been basically non-existent, as the Cardinals are 28th in the NFL in rushing, averaging only 68.8 yards per game.

Arizona’s stop unit is third in the NFL in scoring defense, allowing just 15.2 points per game.

The Cardinals will have back-up QB John Skelton available this week. He’s been out the last three games with a sprained ankle suffered in the season opener. However, stud defensive tackle Darnell Dockett is ‘doubtful’ with a hamstring injury that kept him out last week vs. Miami.

Arizona TE Todd Heap and RB/KR Larod Stephens-Howling are also ‘doubtful,’ while RB Beanie Wells remains ‘out’ with a turf-toe injury.

The ‘under’ is 3-1 overall for Arizona, 1-0 in its only previous road assignment. Totals have been a wash for the Rams both overall (2-2) and at home (1-1). The ‘under’ is 7-1 in the last eight head-to-head meetings between these teams.

The NFL Network will provide television coverage at 8:20 p.m. Eastern.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

–Arizona has won 10 of the last 11 head-to-head meetings against St. Louis, including seven in a row at the Edward Jones Dome.

–The Rams haven’t been over .500 through five games since starting 4-1 in 2006.

–St. Louis has the second-most interceptions in the NFL with eight. Cortland Finnegan, who played for Fisher in Tennessee, has been an outstanding addition to the secondary. Finnegan had a team-high eight tackles against the Dolphins and is tied for second in the NFL with three interceptions.

–Houston is the only team with a perfect 4-0 spread record, while Detroit is the only club with a 0-4 ATS mark. The Eagles are 0-3-1 ATS.

–Washington is the lone team that has seen the ‘over’ go 4-0, while Seattle has watched the ‘under’ go 4-0.

–Atlanta QB Matt Ryan has the NFL’s best QB rating (112.1).

– has adjusted its future odds to win the Super Bowl with the Texans now listed as the plus-350 ‘chalk’ (risk $100 to win $350). The next-shortest odds belong to the 49ers (5/1), Patriots (6/1), Falcons (7/1), Packers (8/1) and Ravens (9/1).

–Former Sports Illustrated writer Jeff Pearlman recently wrote a book about the late NFL legend and Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton, titled Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton. Eddie Payton, Walter’s brother, also wrote a book, Walter and Me, with former Bears coach and current ESPN analyst Mike Ditka writing the foreword. Ditka took some shots at Pearlman in the foreword and now Pearlman has fired back at Ditka on his website. For more details, check out this summary of the Ditka-Pearlman feud found on The Sherman Report, which is a great website run by Ed Sherman, who does a fascinating job of covering sports media.

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