ARIZONA CARDINALS (3-3) vs. LOS ANGELES RAMS (4-2)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Twickenham Stadium, London. TV: FOX, Sam Rosen, Ronde Barber, Kristina Pink (field reporter).
NFL in London
SERIES HISTORY: 77th regular-season meeting. Cardinals lead series, 38-36-2. The Cardinals have won 15 of the last 21 meetings in a series that dates back to 1937 when the Cardinals were located in Chicago and the Rams were based in Cleveland. The Rams are the designated home team for Sunday’s game at Twickenham Stadium in London. The Cardinals have a three-game road winning streak vs. the Rams. Arizona won the last meeting at the Rams, 44-6.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Cardinals will be searching for the same type of balance on offense that they got last week against Tampa Bay, when they ran 35 times for 160 yards and two touchdowns and threw 22 passes for 283 yards and three touchdowns. Establishing a rushing attack behind Adrian Peterson will be paramount in allowing coach Bruce Arians to open up his playbook and utilize the play-action game and his customary four to six deep shots down the field. It not only will help keep the Rams’ defense honest, it will go a long way in protecting quarterback Carson Palmer for the duration of the season. A key for Peterson will be getting solid blocking on the edges by tight ends Troy Niklas and Jermaine Gresham, who were awarded game balls last week for those efforts.
Defensively, it will be interesting to see whether Patrick Peterson’s quadriceps issue keeps the All-Pro from playing at his usual high level. Evan an 80 percent Peterson is better than most; but, if he is assigned to shadow Sammy Watkins, there could be occasions when Peterson gets beat by a step on some deep routes. Peterson also could be more apt to clutching and grabbing to slow a receiver down, which could draw the attention of game officials.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals will have to make sure they don’t miss tackles when they get an angle on Rams running back Todd Gurley, who is as dangerous as they come in yards after contact. Look for safety Tyvon Branch to be actively involved in the box.
The Rams’ defense has settled down dramatically over the last 10 quarters, surrendering just 39 points, and there are valid reasons to believe they’ll keep that up as they continue to make the transition to Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense.
A similar effort this week against the Cardinals will put Jared Goff and the offense in good position to exploit sufficient chances to take control of the game. Gurley will be heavily leaned again, and Goff will then take some chances downfield in the passing game.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
–Rams LT Andrew Whitworth vs. Cardinals OLB Chandler Jones. Jones has at least one sack in each of his first six games — seven overall — but he will have his hands full in dealing with the veteran Whitworth, who uses his hands to defend edge rushers as well as anyone. Jones’ best bet is to try to beat Whitworth with repeated all-out bull rushes, hoping the big tackle loses some technique and gets surprised by Jones’ speed. If Jones gets to Jared Goff a handful of times, it should knock Goff completely off his game.
–Cardinals RB Adrian Peterson vs. Rams DT Aaron Donald. Peterson will line up 8 yards deep and get a mad running start before hitting the line and trying to squeeze through any hole provided up front by his blockers. The problem is Donald is like a wall that can quickly absorb those holes and make it impossible to penetrate. The key will be how well Peterson can juke and use his jump cuts to dance out of trouble and away from Donald at the point of contact. Peterson did it amazingly well a week ago against the Bucs, but this Rams’ defensive front is better.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
–Questionable: LB Karlos Dansby (hamstring), RB Andre Ellington (quadricep), DT Robert Nkemdiche (calf), DT Olsen Pierre (ankle), DT Xavier Williams (knee)
LOS ANGELES RAMS
-Doubtful: S Cody Davis (thigh)
–Questionable: LB Mark Barron (thumb)
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Rams TE Gerald Everett. The rookie from South Alabama recorded his first NFL touchdown reception on Sunday against the Jaguars — on a 4-yard shovel pass — and it’s obvious that QB Jared Goff feels comfortable going his way. They haven’t hooked up as much as the Rams would like, but they’ve been close recently on a couple of long balls and Everett’s ability to out-athlete linebackers and safeties puts him in position to make plays down the field. You get the sense he and Goff are inches away from busting a big one.
FAST FACTS: In the past four meetings, QB Carson Palmer has 1,251 passing yards (312.8 per game), seven TDs and three interceptions. He has 294 career TD passes — he surpassed Warren Moon (291) for 12th most in NFL history. … RB Adrian Peterson rushed for 134 yards and two TDs last week in his Arizona debut. He has 50 games with 100 yards, the ninth player in NFL history to hit 50. … WR Larry Fitzgerald led the team with 10 receptions for 138 yards and a TD in Week 6. He has 14,854 yards, surpassing Steve Smith (14,731) for seventh most all-time. … WR John Brown is aiming for his third game in a row with a receiving TD. He has 100 yards in two of the past three meetings. … LB Chandler Jones ranks fourth in the NFC with six sacks. He has 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in three career meetings. He has seven sacks and two forced fumbles in his past five road games. … Rams QB Jared Goff has 580 passing yards (290 per game), three TDs and two INTs in his past two division games. … RB Todd Gurley ranks second in the NFL with 766 scrimmage yards and is tied for first with seven scrimmage TDs. He has 393 rushing yards (98.3 per game) and four TDs in his past four games. … DT Aaron Donald had a sack and caused a fumble last week. He has 2.5 sacks and a fumble in the past three meetings. … In 10 career meetings, DE Robert Quinn has nine sacks and three forced fumbles. He has 3.5 sacks in his past four home games.
PREDICTION: The Cardinals’ defense is giving up 26 points per game, and the Rams are scoring a league-best 29.8.