Five to Watch: St. Louis Rams at Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals should be ready to rumble when they host the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. The game, which could decide the Cardinals division future, rides on key players and certain areas that need to be kept in check. Jason Harris breaks down the five most important players or units that could make or break the Cardinals' pending celebration.

Running Back Tim Hightower

The Cardinals have only rushed for more than 100 yards twice this season. The last time came in week nine against the Rams when Hightower ran for 109 yards on 22 carries, including a 30-yard touchdown. The Rams have allowed a 90 yard rusher in all four games since playing the Cardinals. Hightower has struggled running since week nine, averaging two yards a carry. Expect a struggling Cardinals rushing attack to get on track. It has to if the Cardinals want to win in the playoffs.

Wide Receiver Larry Fitzgerald

What more can you say? He is the kind of receiver who doesn't shoot himself in the leg weeks before a playoff run. Third in the league in receiving yards and fifth in grabs Larry Franchise is doing it all. Fitzgerald has pulled in 77 catches for 1075 yards and eight touchdowns in 12 games this season. Averaging six catches and 90 yards a game, Fitzgerald has terrorized opposing defenses all year with his size and speed. If Pro Bowl counter part Anquan Boldin shows any more signs of the dropsy's, quarterback Kurt Warner may look to Fitzgerald in pressure situation even more than usual. Just hope he isn't trying to force it.

Punter Ben Graham

Dirk Johnson was let go after struggling to perform under pressure all season long. Johnson's replacement, Graham should be an instant boost to an inconsistent Cardinals special teams. The Cardinals are Graham's third team this season. He punted in four games with the New York Jets and one with the New Orleans Saints. Graham had his best game of the season, averaging 48 yards a punt in week four with the Jets who were playing host to the Cardinals. Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt obviously took notice. Graham hasn't played in four weeks so watch for holding errors. A bad performance could have Graham exiting faster than he entered.

Defensive Pass Rush

Where has it been? The Cardinals have not recorded more than two sacks in a game since before the bye in week seven. The Cardinals recorded three sacks or more three times in the first six weeks including a game high five sacks against the Bills in week five. After being pushed around by the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles the last two weeks, look for the Cardinals to take it out on the 2-10 Rams by blitzing early and often.


In a new development the Cardinals are finally playing more disciplined football. Against the Eagles last week the Cardinals committed just one penalty for two yards. The week before against the Giants, just three for 29 yards. This is a good sign for the Cardinals, if they expect to compete with playoff caliber teams in a few weeks. Whisenhunt and the Cardinals seem to be focused even if it isn't translating on the field. With a chance to clinch the NFC West at home, the electric atmosphere that shows up week after week may hurt the Cardinals, causing the off sides and personal fouls they have been notorious for.

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