The Arizona Cardinals have not had good luck with quarterbacks since the retirement of Kurt Warner. They hope they have a guy who can stick around for a while as they line up to face the St. Louis Rams in a division game to kick off the NFL season, taking place at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis at 4:25 PM ET on Sunday.
According to the NFL betting odds that have been posted at BetOnline, the Rams are the favorites in this NFC West matchup:
St. Louis Rams -3.5
Arizona Cardinals +3.5
Over 41.5 Points -110
Under 41.5 Points -110
Carson Palmer, the former Heisman Trophy winner, is 33 years old and the Cardinals may be the last stop in his career. He had a pretty fair season for the Oakland Raiders last year, throwing for over 4000 yards for the first time since 2007 and tossing 22 TD passes. But Oakland decided to go in a different direction at the position and Palmer was sent packing. In Arizona he has joined up with Bruce Arians, who earned his opportunity to be a head coach with his run at the helm of the Indianapolis Colts while Chuck Pagano was undergoing treatment for leukemia.
The Cards (-125 to score over 17.5 points at BetOnline) hope they can get some consistency out of Palmer, who isn’t necessarily the most mobile quarterback and would seem to be vulnerable to the kind of protection the Arizona offensive line offered to its passers last season (58 sacks allowed). But Levi Brown, the left tackle who missed all of last year, is back to action.
And what the Cards want to do now is establish Rashard Mendenhall, the former Pittsburgh Steeler, as the back who can carry most of the load. Mendenhall put together back-to-back 1000-yard seasons in 2009 and 2010, but has been slowed by injuries since, and he has battled tendinitis in his knee for most of the pre-season.
If there is one dependable target for Palmer to work with, it would have to be Larry Fitzgerald, who would certainly opt for normalcy at the quarterback position after a 2012 campaign where he had just 798 yards, compared with 1411 yards the season before. Palmer may be just the guy who could help him invigorate his career.
The Cards have the kind of defense that could help the team stay afloat, although all too often the until has spent far to much time on the field as the offense hasn’t produced. They allowed only 201 yards a game through the air, and the 22 interceptions were second in the league.
What can the Rams (-190 to win straight-up in the NFL betting odds at BetOnline) do against that defensive unit? Well, that’s a good question, because St. Louis lost Steven Jackson to free agency (he signed with Atlanta) and didn’t make a move to add an established back, electing to go with the combination of Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead. Richardson actually had 475 yards on 4.8 yards a carry last year. But Sam Bradford may have his work cut out for him in moving the ball through the air. Danny Amendola, who was a great outlet for him, moved on to the New England Patriots, who had to replace Wes Welker. Brandon Gibson went to the Miami Dolphins. That means the rookie duo of Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, both of whom came from West Virginia, will have to step up quickly.
Jeff Fisher took on a ship that looked like it was sinking and has started to bring the Rams back toward respectability, finishing 7-8-1 last season. He’s known as one of the NFL’s outstanding coaches, so few people doubt that he can get to the post-season eventually, but it will take a big effort from Bradford to get that done.