Week 1: Cardinals-Rams matchup analysis

The SportsXchange

Arizona Cardinals (0-0) at St. Louis Rams (0-0)

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, at Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis - TV: FOX

*TV announcers: Dick Stockton, Ronde Barber, Kris Budden

*Keys to the game: Carson Palmer is the seventh different starting quarterback for the Cardinals since Kurt Warner retired after the 2009 season. He still has plenty of arm and good downfield weapons. Problem is, he has a shaky offensive line and an unproven backfield. If the Rams stop the run, DEs Chris Long and Robert Quinn will pin their ears back and make life extremely uncomfortable - and potentially painful - for the immobile Palmer. Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson will also see some snaps on offense, but he's just as critical in helping contain the speed the Rams' offense has accumulated on the outside. The offensive line is the most veteran unit on a young St. Louis roster. While RB Daryl Richardson leads an underwhelming backfield, QB Sam Bradford can lead a pass-heavy attack if the line holds up as expected.

*Matchup to watch - Cardinals TE Rob Housler vs. Rams pass defense: Arizona wants to feature Housler, who runs the 40-yard dash in around 4.5 seconds and can be the blitz-beater for Palmer on quick passes underneath. However, he is also battling an ankle injury that threatens to limit his speed if he's available. If Housler is sidelined, the drop-off is significant to blocking-oriented backups Jim Dray, Kory Sperry and D.C. Jefferson.

*Player spotlight - Rams WR Chris Givens: The second-year speedster burned the Cardinals for six catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns in two meetings as a rookie.

*Fast facts: Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald's 764 career receptions is more than any current Pro Football Hall of Fame member had through his first 140 games. ... MLB James Laurinaitis has led the Rams in tackles each of the past four seasons. ... The Cardinals have not had an offensive lineman reach the Pro Bowl since 1996.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

This is a statement game for a pair of teams with stated beliefs they can be factors in the loaded NFC West. St. Louis is a year ahead in its retooling effort, and has too much defense to stumble in its home opener.

*Our pick: Rams 24-19
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