While the season for the Cardinals will end after the sixty minutes are up on the first day of the new year, the team will hope to use this last game as a springboard for what they hope to be a return to form come week 1 of the next football season. Against a team that has been notorious for giving them a hard time however, that could be easier said than done.
Palmer Returns To the Coliseum
It seems like a lifetime ago that Carson Palmer was wearing the Trojan red and yellow throwing deep balls against the best competition that the Pac – 10 could provide at the time. Yet this will be his first game back in the old Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum since his final year at USC. The Cardinals certainly hope that this trip to his youth can help him find his youth in some way or another as he has taken quite the step backwards compared to his previous campaign. Palmer started all 16 games last year and threw for over 4,500 yards and scored 35 touchdowns through the air. This season he missed one game but will likely just make it over 4,000 yards this year with 23 touchdowns going into the game. The Cardinals will likely not look for a quarterback in the offseason to compete with Palmer as he is too much of a hit in their bank roll to get rid of him now so it is unlikely to see anyone else under center for next season. So this game is certainly one that the front office will pay attention to in order to see if they perhaps gave the former Trojan his contract extension at the worst possible time.
Figuring Out the Wideouts
The entire year it seems the Cardinals wide receivers were not living up to their expected performances. Besides Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson, a running back, not a single other pass catcher has over 40 catches this season. John Brown and Jermaine Gresham are the closest as the two have 37 each now with Michael Floyd gone from the franchise. The Cardinals deep threats have not shown up until the last few weeks it feels like as J.J. Nelson has been able to stretch the defense deep the last couple of games. Up until then however nobody seemed to have a decent pair of hands and that hurts not only the quarterback but the running game as well. The fact that David Johnson has over 1,200 yards rushing is a testament to his ability alone. This could be the last live action opportunity for certain players to prove that they belong on the roster for next year or risk being replaced. Gresham specifically will be a free agent next year, while John Brown will be earning just over $800,000 in the final year of his contract. When a job is on the line, those facts are never too far out of a player’s head.
Pride for the Defense
Already this season the Rams have gone through the trouble of moving the franchise, benching the number one overall pick for a quarterback who gave some of the ugliest performances of recent memory, brought that rookie in only to watch him struggle mightily and then finally fired the head coach after announcing a contract extension just weeks prior. You would think that the Rams would keep the trash talk to a minimum. Not so. The Rams have already stated they will be looking to get Todd Gurley the ball to see if he can break the 1,000 yard barrier for the second straight year. That would require a monumental day by their offensive line who have played a huge role in why this team only ranks 31st in the league in rushing. Gurley would need 155 yards to eclipse that milestone and the second year back is going to be the target surely for the defense all day. Watch for Cardinals defenders to crowd the box just to get after Gurley as often as they can. The fear there is that they might just give the Rams passing attack some openings in the back half of the field. Yet considering the history with Rams quarterbacks this year, I doubt the defensive backfield is too concerned about the idea of them passing the ball.
The game will be played in Los Angeles this New Year’s Day at 2:25 PM on the FOX network.