Cardinals at Rams: 3 Things to Watch For on Thursday Night

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The Thursday Night Football matchup in Week 15 looks to be highly entertaining. The Arizona Cardinals (10-3), who are in first place in the NFC West, will travel to St. Louis to play the Rams, who are out of playoff contention, but may currently be playing better football than anyone in the NFC outside of the Green Bay Packers.

In their last meeting, the Cardinals won 31-14, but Arizona starting quarterback Carson Palmer was lost for the season with a left knee injury. Bruce Arians’s squad will be fighting for home-field advantage and a playoff bye in this game, but there is no doubting that the Rams will be ready to play against their division rivals from Arizona. Here are three things to watch for when the Cardinals play the Rams in St. Louis on Thursday night.

All statistics are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.

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1. Can the Rams defense pitch their third straight shutout?

The Rams have won their last two games by a combined score of 76-0, but no NFL team has shut out three straight opponents since the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers. While the odds are stacked against a third straight shutout for the staunch Rams defense, playing against a team with a sputtering offense like the Cardinals may make this feat achievable.

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2. Can Cardinals running back Kerwynn Williams follow up his unexpectedly strong Week 14 performance with another solid game this week?

Williams went from not really being a part of the Cardinals’ game plan to posting the first 100-yard game of his career in Week 14. Not only was it Williams’s first time topping the century mark in rushing yards as a pro, it was also the first time he touched the ball in a regular season NFL game. With Arizona starter Andre Ellington on injured reserve and out of the lineup again in Week 15, the Cardinals will be relying heavily on Williams to carry the load again against the Rams in Week 15. His performance in this game could be the deciding factor in a win versus a loss for the first-place Cardinals. 

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3. Can the Rams end their two-game losing streak to the Cardinals?

Over the past two weeks, the Rams have been playing better than nearly every other team in the NFC, going 2-0 and beating their opponents by a combined score of 76-0. Granted, those wins have come against the 3-10 Washington Redskins and the 2-11 Oakland Raiders, but the fact remains: Shutting out anybody in the NFL is extremely difficult.

At the same time, the Cardinals might be playing their worst football of the season despite beating the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 14. Drew Stanton has struggled mightily since taking over for Carson Palmer, but the Arizona defense remains one of the best in the league.

The Cardinals have a lot more to play for in this game, but the Rams have proven on multiple occasions in 2014 that they can play with and beat anybody in the NFL. This game will be an excellent matchup, and the home-field advantage of St. Louis may be enough to help the Rams to beat the Cardinals for the first time since September 8, 2013.