Game Scout: Cardinals vs. Rams

SERIES: 60th regular-season meeting. Rams lead, 30-27-2, but the Cardinals have won four consecutive games in the series, including a 34-13 win in St. Louis on Nov. 2. In the four-game winning streak, Arizona has scored 34 or more points in each game, and has outscored the Rams, 150-83.


KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET

GAMEDATE: 12/07/08


TV: FOX (Matt Vasgersian, JC Pearson, Nischelle Turner)

PREDICTION: Cardinals 34-20

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Cardinals are looking to shore up their defense after giving up 85 combined points their past two games. The Rams are as healthy offensively as they have been in quite some time, although RB Steven Jackson's touches will still be limited as he regains strength in his leg. But the ground game is vital to the Rams, who need make opponents pay for so much double-teaming on their wideouts.

Overwhelm the secondary: Cardinals WRs Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald combined for 12 catches for 186 yards in the first meeting, and there's little reason to believe they won't surpass that output at home. Looking toward the playoffs, Arizona does want to improve its ground game that has produced just 170 combined yards the past four games, and the Rams' 30th-ranked run defense is a good place to start.

Specialties: P Ben Graham will be the fifth punter for the Cardinals since training camp of 2007. Dirk Johnson was released after posting a 35.2-yard net average.

Key Injuries: Rams: LB Chris Draft (foot) is expected to start in the middle after missing four games. Cardinals: CB Rod Hood (ribs) should play.

Need to know: Arizona clinches the NFC West with a win or a loss by San Francisco. ... The Cardinals have averaged 37.5 points in winning the past three meetings.


--LB Chris Draft was announced officially as the starter Sunday at middle linebacker. Draft had another good day of practice Thursday as he returns after missing four games because of a broken foot.

--LB Will Witherspoon was limited in practice Thursday, but did take reps with the nickel defense, and will likely see action there this week.

--WR Donnie Avery, who rested for parts of practice Wednesday because of a hip injury, participated fully on Thursday.

--WR Keenan Burton had full participation Thursday as he nurses a knee injury. Burton will have his knee drained before the team leaves for Arizona Friday afternoon and is expected to play Sunday.

--DE Victor Adeyanju missed practice Thursday with a neck injury, but is expected to play Sunday against Arizona.

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