Nov. 25, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells (26) is tackled by St. Louis Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis (55) and defensive end Eugene Sims (92) during the second half at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Rams beat the Cardinals 31-17. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Week 1 Pendulum: Why Arizona Cardinals Game Will Shape The Season In St. Louis


 

Unless you just awoke from a coma, you are well aware that NFL regular season starts in two days, with the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens taking on the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos on Thursday Night Football. For those in St. Louis the wait for “meaningful” football will have to wait until 3:25PM CT, when the Rams take on the Cardinals in the Edward Jones Dome.

Naturally, like any team in the league, the St. Louis Rams would like to start off the year with a win, something they haven’t done since the 2006 season. However, this year things are a bit different. For once, the arrow is pointed up for the St. Louis Rams, with the majority of analysts and experts expecting the team to “take a step forward” during the 2013 season. Most believe the Rams will finish 3rd-place in the NFC West, trailing the overly-hyped Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers in, what is widely considered, the best division in the NFL.

It is easy to understand why there is some hype around this “new” St. Louis roster. Jeff Fisher is generally accepted as one of the top coaches in professional football. The Rams signed several “big name” free agents in the offseason, and claimed two top-tier prospects in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Sam Bradford will be working with the same offensive coordinator for consecutive years for the first time in his career. The list goes on…

Much like the Rams, though, the hype around the Arizona Cardinals has steadily grown throughout the preseason, brought on by a handful of solid performances by Carson Palmer in the preseason and the aura surrounding the presence of new head coach, Bruce Arians. The Cardinals’ struggles last season were well documented, highlighted by incompetent quarterback play and devastating injuries to both the offensive backfield and nearly the entire defensive unit. Had it not been for the collapse of the Philadelphia Eagles and the drama surrounding the Kansas City Chiefs, the Arizona squad from last season would have likely been considered the worst in the league. However, with a new high-profile coach and a handful of notable personnel changes on the roster, the Cardinals appear to be garnering some positive attention of their own.

In fact, there appears to be a divide in the mainstream NFL media on who will be the “surprise team” in the NFC West this season, split between the young, talent-filled  St. Louis Rams and the question mark-riddled Arizona Cardinals. Both could certainly make their mark on the season, with some natural volatility likely to occur within the division. However, one will have to rise as the challenger in the division. This is where Week 1 of the regular season will play a pivotal role.

Unlike the New York Jets or  Washington Robert Griffins Redskins, the St. Louis Rams get very little media attention. Worse, even that minuscule amount of coverage is predicated on some level of maintained success. A loss in the season opener to, what most would consider, an inferior team would make our climb back into media relevance nearly insurmountable. Moreover, the focus would certainly shift to the Arizona Cardinals as the rising star in the West, spotlighting the connection between Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald, and dramatizing the “rise from the ashes” of Tyrann Mathieu.

Naturally, if the St. Louis Rams were to finish .500, or better, they would receive some attention headed into the 2014 offseason. If St. Louis gets hot towards the end of the year, like Washington or Green Bay last year, they will obviously turn some head. However, if the Rams plan on keeping their postseason hopes alive this year they will need to pull in a “W” from every “should-win” game this season, and that includes the Arizona Cardinals.

And, while garnering media attention is likely not too high on the St. Louis Rams check-list for the season, all of Rams Nation can agree that we would much rather hear reports on the rise to prominence from Sam Bradford than sit through another season of hearing sports pundits refer to the Rams as “rebuilding.”

 

Tags: Arizona Cardinals St. Louis Rams

  • Richard

    Bonehead doesn’t even know where the game is.

    • ricdram

      Yes he does. YOU DON’T !

      • Richard

        He edited the story knucklehead.

        • ricdram

          Roger that !
          Got it B-)

  • Beer O’Clock

    Nathan, you may want to change “the hora surrounding the presence of new head coach Bruce Arians” to “aura” unless there really is a circle of Romanian dancers around him (which, considering how the press operates, could be an appropriate metaphor).

    You make a good point about this game being a large factor in the media’s perception of both teams depending on how they play. It’s a nice viewpoint that may have gone unnoticed by many fans (including me). I absolutely agree that, if one team dominates, it basically solidifies the presses perception of a “rising team” where the loser will be placed in the backseat until they clearly prove otherwise.

    The Cardinals did start 4-0 last season, including wins over the Patriots and Seahawks, until injuries took a terrible toll on the team, especially at QB. Their defense is young and talented. They should be better this year.

    The key to the Cardinals success, or lack of, is their offensive line. Carson Palmer is a good QB, infinitely better than Skelton & Lindley, when he has time to throw. The injury to Cooper and the fact the Rams have one of the best pass rushes in the league leads me to believe Palmer’s effectiveness will be limited in this game. Once the offensive line gels and Cooper returns, it may be a completely different offense the next time the Rams play them.

    Forgive me for this, being a Rams fan and all, but I believe the Seahawks and 49′ers have deserved the large amount of attention given to them so far this season. They both have weaknesses and may not be as dominant as the media believes, but the are supremely talented defensive teams that can put up 500+ yards on offensive in any given week.

    • Nathan Kearns

      That may have been the most eloquently stated “spell check” that I ever received in a comment. It almost made me want to keep it unchanged, simply for the comedic value.
      I think it would be foolish to underestimate the Arizona Cardinals, especially given the shear amount of questions marks on their roster concerning players “return to health,” new players and coaches, and potential rookie talent. However, both on and off paper, the St. Louis Rams should have the upper-hand, at least, on the offensive line, special teams, and defense. The skill position players and quarterbacks could certainly be debated, but overall, the Rams should be considered favorites… for now.
      No need to be forgiven. Aside from the unjustified hype surrounding Colin Kaepernick, both the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers have certainly earned their time in the spotlight. In fact, in No. 1 vote in the FanSided power rankings (soon to be coming out) went to the Seattle Seahawks… the 49ers were No. 6 (behind Seattle, Denver, Atlanta, Green Bay, and Cincinnati). Hard to imagine a team losing their top safety, nickelback, nose tackle, utility tight end, and top wide receiver repeating similar success to last season, especially with tape on Kaepernick…
      Let’s hope the Rams are in that same over-hyped conversation next year