Cardinals-Rams Gameday Primer

The Cardinals shoot for a .500 record and their first-ever season sweep of the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. Both teams' grand finale will come complete with fireworks in the air. Get the latest on matchups from both sides of the ball in the season's final gameday primer.

When the Cardinals Run

Edgerrin James goes into the final game of the season 55 yards shy of a 1,175-yard season. If he hits that mark, he will earn the fifth-highest single-season rushing total in franchise history. The odds are in his favor -- only three times this season has James rushed for less than 55 yards.

Ken Whisenhunt has limited James' carries in the second half of the season. In Weeks 1-7, James carried 155 times for 603 yards (3.89 yards per carry). In weeks 9-16, he only carried 117 times for 525 yards (4.49 yards per carry).

James works best with limited carries; his highest per-carry average this season (5.7) came when he had just 10 attempts.

James got 26 carries against the Atlanta Falcons last week, but earned only 68 yards and one first down.

The Rams will not put up much of a fight against the run. They rank No. 20 in run defense, allowing almost 115 yards per game. The Rams allowed the Pittsburgh Steelers to pile up 166 rushing yards last week, despite losing leading rusher Willie Parker on the first play from scrimmage.

When the Cardinals Pass

The Cardinals' overtime win last week marked Arizona's 12th game decided by eight points or less, more than any other team in the league. The Cardinals find themselves leaning heavily on the pass in close matchups. Kurt Warner started in all but two of those close games and made 30-plus pass attempts in more than half of them.

Last week, the offensive line protected Warner better than they have all season. Warner authored his most pass attempts (53) without being sacked. The Cardinals improved from the two games prior, when Warner was sacked a total of seven times. Warner has gone five games without being sacked this season -- the Cardinals won three of them.

The Rams will bring a stout pass defense with them to Glendale, Ariz. LB Will Witherspoon has a team-high seven sacks and 106 tackles. A close second in the pass-rushing department is DT La'Roi Glover, who boasts six sacks.

In the Rams' secondary, the Cardinals must worry about FS O.J. Atogwe, whose seven interceptions are the second-most in the league.

Warner has five games this season without an interception. The Cardinals are 3-2 when Warner does not throw a pick.

The St. Louis secondary will have its hands full with the surging Anquan Boldin. With Larry Fitzgerald hurting (groin), Boldin stepped up last week and caught 13 balls for 163 yards and two touchdowns.

Antonio Smith and Darnell Dockett
Harry How/Getty

When the Rams Run

The Rams hit the ground running with Steven Jackson, who is 53 yards shy of a 1,000-yard season despite missing four games with a groin injury.

Jackson has only two 100-yard games this season but is hitting his stride late. His highest rushing average came last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers (7.1).

Arizona ranks No. 9 against the run, allowing less than 100 yards per game. Their success against the run could have to do with the pass-happy teams they've faced in the past few weeks.

In Week 14, the Seattle Seahawks made 28 attempts for just 80 yards (2.85 yards per carry). After Seattle, it was the New Orleans Saints (minus Reggie Bush), who picked up 3.9 yards per carry. The Falcons averaged a bit more (4.4), but barely broke the century mark (102).

On Sunday, Darnell Dockett will look to re-acclimate himself with the run defense. In Week 16, he logged just one tackle.

When the Rams Pass

When Marc Bulger throws, Torry Holt is usually the target. Torry is the older brother of Cardinals safety Terrence Holt.

This is the third time the siblings have faced each other in regular-season play. Terrence holds a 2-1 advantage in the win column. However, Torry remains the far more talented player. Torry has eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and recently earned his seventh Pro Bowl invite.

Looking to slow down Torry Holt is Roderick Hood, who is one interception away from doubling his previous career-high (three). Hood has also earned a career-high 52 tackles.

Last week, Bulger passed Warner for fourth place on the Rams' all-time career touchdown passes list (102). Bulger is following Warner's footsteps a little too close for Rams' comfort -- Bulger has 13 interceptions through 11 games, his highest interception rate since 2003.

Calvin Pace will try to force Bulger into some more bad decisions. He is on pace for more than 100 tackles and has already earned a career-high 6.5 sacks.

Just for Kicks

In week five, Donnie Jones had his best game against the Cardinals. He handled four punts for a 56.9-yard average and booted a career-long 80-yard kick.

Sunday's game will feature two of the best kickers in the league, Neil Rackers and Jeff Wilkins. Both average 63.8 yards per kickoff and both boast career field-goal conversion rates of more than 75 percent.

Amberly Richardson is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a correspondent for She has contributed to the official Web sites of several NFL players for Sixthman Communications.

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