- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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2007-2011 NFC West Records
Trending: The Rams are 1-0 against the NFC West as they try to reverse the worst wrong turn in franchise history. St. Louis has lost seven in a row at home when facing the Cardinals. The Rams are 1-10 over their last 11 games against Arizona. As the chart shows, the Rams' division rivals went 26-4 against St. Louis and 86-124 against everyone else over the five-year period through last season. The Rams, at 2-2, have already matched their 2011 total for victories. A victory Thursday night would give them a winning record for the first time since 2006, a span of 93 games and the third-longest streak in NFL history. The Oakland Raiders went 101 games from 2004-2010. New Orleans went 97 games from 1971-77.
Motivation to spare: Real and perceived slights motivate competitive people. Ray Horton, Adrian Wilson and Paris Lenon come to mind for the Cardinals. Horton, the Cardinals' defensive coordinator, interviewed with the Rams before St. Louis instead hired Jeff Fisher as head coach. Wilson has played some of his best games against the Rams and, as he once told XTRA Sports 910 AM's Mike Jurecki, that might not be coincidental. According to Wilson, the Rams called him repeatedly during the 2001 draft and said they hoped to select him each time, only to draft three other defensive players instead. Wilson hasn't forgotten. Lenon, meanwhile, has been reborn in Arizona after the Rams decided against bringing him back following the 2009 season. Lenon and fellow inside linebacker Daryl Washington present problems with their inside blitzes.
2012 Play-action Game
Watch the (fake) handoff: Kevin Kolb completed 23 of 41 play-action passes for 389 yards with one touchdown, one interception, four sacks and an 86.3 NFL passer rating last season. He's been better than that through four games in 2012. Kolb completed all five play-action pass attempts for 115 yards and two scores against the Miami Dolphins in Week 4. He's been effective on play-action throws all season, as the chart indicates. The Rams have struggled against play-action throws this season. That's one area to watch Thursday night.
Strength on strength: Arizona is strongest at wide receiver with Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts and Early Doucet. St. Louis is strongest at cornerback with Cortland Finnegan, Janoris Jenkins and Bradley Fletcher. Can the Rams get enough pressure at home to force Kolb into riskier throws? The Cardinals have to like their matchups against the Rams' safeties in coverage, provided Kolb has time. Second-year tight end Rob Housler could be a factor that way. But if Arizona's ground game continues to falter, the Rams will have an easier time taking chances with their secondary.
Mismatches on the lines: Both defenses have to like their matchups against the opposing offensive tackles. Rams defensive end Chris Long matches up against Cardinals rookie right tackle Bobby Massie, who allowed four sacks to Cameron Wake last week. Arizona's Calais Campbell and Sam Acho should have advantages against the left side of the Rams' offensive line. And if Darnell Dockett (hamstring) is near full strength, his quickness should be a problem for the right side of the Rams' line.
Back in a bit. We'll be chatting through this game.