Arizona (10-3) at St. Louis (6-7), 8:25 p.m. (NFL Network) Edward Jones Dome. A pair of NFC West rivals meet for the second time in the 2014 campaign and there is a lot on the line when St. Louis hosts Arizona in the Gateway City Thursday night.
Both teams come into the week 15 opener with wins under their belts.

Arizona ended their two-game losing streak at home, edging Kansas City 17-14 in Glendale Sunday afternoon. The Desert Angry Birds trailed 14-6 at the half before scoring 11 second half points unchallenged against the Chiefs, who lost their third game in a row. WR Jaron Brown connected with QB Drew Stanton for a 26 yard TD pass with 3:26 left in the third quarter gave them the lead for keeps. Stanton then connected with TE John Carlson for the two-point try for the final score in the contest. RB Keith Williams led all rushers with 100 yards (Arizona had 141, while Kansas City had 126) and the Cardinals defense sacked Chiefs QB Alex Smith five times and picked him off once. Arizona was 6-15 on third down conversions and held the ball for 30:01, while Kansas City went 6-14 and 0-2 on fourth down tries, keeping the ball for 29:59. The Desert Angry Birds in their nest are now 7-0 at home and their seven home wins are the most for the franchise in a single season since 1925 (when they were in Chicago), when the team won 11 of its 13 home games.

St. Louis used an 18-point third quarter to keep Washington in check last Sunday in Landover, as the Rams pitched their second shutout in a week, closing out the Redskins 24-0. Although he was sacked four times, QB Sean Hill threw a pair of TD passes in the win and the Rams defense held Washington to 27 yards rushing (they ran for 131) and sacked Colt McCoy six times, forcing the ‘Skins to replace him with Robert Griffin III. The Rams were 6-12 on third down tries in the shutout win, keeping the ball for 32:49, while Washington was 3-12 and 0-3 on third and fourth downs, holding the ball for 27:11. The Rams have recorded back-to-back shutout wins for the first time since 1945 when they were in Cleveland (September 30 and October 7) and are the first team to post consecutive shutout victories since 2009 (Dallas, December 27 and January 3). The last points the Rams gave up? 27 in a three point loss to San Diego November 23.

“You have to love the NFL schedule,” Cardinals  wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald told the Arizona Republic. “You want a tough game against a great football team. St. Louis again played a really good game and those guys are rolling right now. It’s always tough to play there but we’re going to be ready for the occasion.”

Fitzgerald enters this week’s matchup with 358 receptions for 4,697 receiving yards with 38 touchdowns against the NFC West since entering the league in 2004, the most of any player against his own division during that span. Against the Rams, Fitzgerald has 131 receptions and 16 touchdowns, the most against any opponent in his career. In his past three meetings against the Rams, Fitzgerald has 29 catches for 288 yards and three touchdowns.

Fitzgerald’s career receiving numbers against the NFC West:

OPPONENT – GAMES (RECEPTIONS/RECEIVING YARDS/RECEIVING TOUCHDOWNS)
St. Louis – 21 (131/1,601/16)
San Francisco – 21 (115/1,625/12)
Seattle – 20 (112/1,471/10)
Total – 62 (358/4,697/38)

“We are really focused in well right now and I thought it was huge to get two wins in a row,” says Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis. “We have to challenge ourselves really hard the next three days in preparation for Arizona on Thursday night. We have to lock it in and keep this thing going. There’s definitely momentum right now and we just have to keep fighting and keep stacking wins,” he told KMOX-TV, KMOX-Radio and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Laurinaitis (1.5), rookie defensive tackle Aaron Donald (one) and defensive end Robert Quinn (1.5) combined for four of the Rams’ seven sacks against Washington. Donald (Round 1, number 13 overall) leads all rookies with seven sacks in 2014. Quinn’s 10.5 sacks rank fourth in the NFC and he has led a defensive unit that recorded 13 sacks in the previous two games, the second most in the NFL during that span. For the season, St. Louis is tied for third in the NFC with 35 sacks.
On offense, rookie running back Tre Mason (Round 3, number 75 overall) leads all NFC rookies with 628 rushing yards. In his past three games at home, Mason has 363 scrimmage yards (315 rushing, 48 receiving) and has scored four touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving).

The NFC rookies with the most rushing yards this season:

PLAYER – TEAM (ATTEMPTS/RUSH YARDS, RUSH AVG./RUSH TDS)
Tre Mason – St. Louis (142/628, 4.4/3)
Jerick McKinnon – Minnesota (113/538, 4.8/0)
Andre Williams – New York Giants (158/524, 3.3/6)
Carlos Hyde – San Francisco (77/278, 3.6/4)

They met in week 10 in Glendale and the Desert Angry Birds took a 14-10 lead with them to the intermission to take a 31-14 win over the Rams. Arizona trailed 7-0 after the first 15 minutes of action and outscored St. Louis 31-7 the rest of the way. Neither club breached the 100 yard rushing barrier in the first meeting (Arizona had 28, while St. Louis won the rushing battle with 70) and Aaron Davis, subbing for Sam Bradford (knee) was sacked six times and picked off twice. Third down tries? Not a whole lot to talk about as the Cardinals were 6-15 and held the ball for 33:20, while the Rams were 1-10 and 1-2 on third and fourth down conversions and kept the ball for 26:40.

Arizona’s 17-point win help them cover the 7-point spread and the two teams covered the 43 over/under with 45 points. St. Louis is favored this time in the Gateway City by 3 1/2 and the over/under’s 39 1/2. Arizona’s trying to keep pace with Green Bay for the top seed in the NFC, while St. Louis is trying to make the post-season for the first time since 2002, when they lost to New England in Super Bowl XXXVI. History does have a way of repeating itself and it’ll favor the Desert Angry Birds. Cardinals pull the upset in the Gateway City and covers the 3 1/2.

Injury Report

Arizona
OUT: G Paul Fanaika (ankle), S Tyrann Mathieu (thumb)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Antonio Cromartie (ankle), DT Ed Stinson (toe)
PROBABLE: LB Lorenzo Alexander (knee), WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee), LB Larry Foote (foot), LB Matt Shaughnessy (shoulder), QB Drew Stanton (ankle, knee), T Jared Veldheer (ankle)

St. Louis
QUESTIONABLE: DE Chris Long (ankle)
PROBABLE: WR Kenny Britt (not injury related), DT Alex Carrington (thigh), TE Cory Harkey (knee), LB Will Herring (foot), LB James Laurinaitis (ankle), G Rodger Saffold (shoulder), C Scott Wells (elbow)

BROADCAST – NFL Network at 8:25 p.m. : Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson (Field reporter). Westwood One: Ian Eagle, Mike Mayock, Laura Okmin (Field reporter). SIRIUS: 88 (WestWood 1), 93 (Arizona), 92 (St. Louis). XM: 88 (WestWood 1), 225 (Arizona), 226 (St. Louis).

Broadcast information and injury report courtesy the National Football League, odds courtesy Don Best and USA Today, weather information courtesy The Weather Channel.

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