Arizona Cardinals @ LA Rams: No house of Cards with Carson back in rude health

Found his feet? Adrian Peterson has a running reputation to redeem both on and off the field
Found his feet? Adrian Peterson has a running reputation to redeem both on and off the field

Romilly Evans previews the latest London game, where he expects a tighter tussle to ensue at Twickenham before Carson Palmer emerges on top

"Peterson will downgrade the requirements on Palmer's throwing arm from necessary to well-advised"

Arizona Cardinals @ LA Rams
Start-time: Sunday, 18:00
TV: Live on Sky Sports Action


Arizona should be fresher team after easier passage to London

The NFL's Great British bandwagon rolls into Twickenham for its next tailgate this Sunday, and for once it promises to prefigure a genuinely competitive and consequential game. For both the LA Rams and the Arizona Cardinals are in the postseason mix (granted, it's only Week 7) and, more tellingly, in the hunt for top-dog status in the NFC West. Divisional rivalries, of course, always elevate players' collective thinking, together with their irascibility, so get set for some fireworks to follow the signature pyrotechnics which accompany every London game.

Speaking of sparks, Arizona finally found theirs last weekend when they came out of the blocks in white-hot mood, firing to a 31-6 lead at halftime against Tampa Bay. Pay no heed to the final score (which saw the Bucs pull within a touchdown) as most of that was down to taking their foot off the gas in the name of clock management and a proverbial prevent defense. The recent, controversial acquisition of Adrian Peterson has naturally grabbed the headlines, but it was the much-maligned Carson Palmer who has really rediscovered his form of old.

I've always demanded a lot from Palmer. Not in needy girlfriend sort of way, you understand. However, this former Heisman Trophy winner has been breaking hearts on and off the field since his stud collegiate days, as his career accomplishments struggled to match his towering talents. Perhaps repeated injuries and the natural passage of years now count against this veteran QB - not to mention those improving Hawks from Seattle, who remain odds-on to get their talons on this cut-throat division.

But Palmer can still carve up secondaries (alongside fellow old-timer Larry Fitzgerald), while his running man (headed by the aforementioned Peterson with plenty of points to prove) will downgrade the requirements on his throwing arm from necessary to well-advised. And if the 37-year-old can minimise the mistakes, he may yet belatedly validate his collegiate goldcard.

At the other end of the career continuum, stands 23-year-old Jared Goff. Then again, much of his surprising fledgling composure is due to operating behind one of the more robust offensive lines in the league. Despite those credentials, the LA offense's free-scoring pipeline has become blocked up over the past fortnight with a distinct lack of end-zone action (a grand total of two touchdowns) against both Seattle and Jacksonville. Goff looks particularly susceptible on the deep-field ball (thereby rendering wideout Sammy Watkins a frustrated spectator) and will need to narrow his focus here in the face of a stout Arizona D.

Instead, passing the pigskin off to Todd Gurley may be a better bet for Goff. After all, the RB returned to form, pounding the Jags with 23 carries for 116 yards, although he didn't register a run longer than 14 yards. So while nothing happens quickly for the Rams (I'm a solid seller of their total points as a result), they can gladly fall back on their own stud defense, who loom so intimidatingly that mismatched disharmony is probably the best for which Arizona's O-line can hope.

While I expect this Twickers tussle to prove far tighter than many of London's no-contests, Arizona have now found enough offensive balance under Palmer and Peterson to find the holes when they do appear. Palmer's Heisman gong may be long-since silenced, but the bell doesn't toll for him just yet.


Recommended Bets
Back Arizona Cardinals (+3) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 1.9520/21 or better
Back Arizona Cardinals (+1.5) to win on the First Half Points Spread @ 2.35/4 or better
Back Under 24.5 LA Rams Total Points @ 1.9110/11 or better
Back A.Peterson to score First / Anytime Touchdown @ 9.08/1 / 2.111/10 or better

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