Well, I never thought I’d be sitting here thinking that this 2017 NFL London game could very possibly be the pick of them all this season.
I’ve mentioned a few times now that I’ve been thinking this was going to be the dullest of the four games this year because the Arizona Cardinals are one of those teams that I just have no interest in. I’d go as far as to say that it’s been a bit of a chore to watch them at times this season. I don’t dislike them, it’s more that I find them a bit, “Meh!” and can take them or leave them.
That was until this last Sunday and the explosion that was their offence with new signing Adrian Peterson as the ignition. Did you see that game? If you didn’t, I’d go and watch it now – well, the first half anyway.
Peterson lit it up right from the start with his ability to find the hole and run through it. He ended the day with 134-yards and 2TD’s. In one single game, Adrian Peterson has embarrassed all of the other running backs that are/were on the roster this season by putting up much better stats in one game than the rest have managed in the previous five. That’s how bad this team’s running game was – it was none existent.
Not only has AP’s inclusion in the team massively improved the run game but it has opened up the offence and seemingly massively improved the passing game (as usually happens). This Arizona Cardinals offence looked fantastic on the first few drives of their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and it would be great if we see that offence again at Twickenham this coming Sunday.
To me, the Cardinals defence hasn’t looked bad but it hasn’t looked great either. I’d say more kind of average. I would be annoyed if my defence had given up 27 points in the final quarter of a game especially when going up against a Ryan Fitzpatrick led offence. They’re currently sitting fourth worst in terms of points conceded and 22nd out of 32 for yards given up per game.
Highlights for me on this defence come from their secondary. According to PFF, both safeties, Antoine Bethea and Tyvon Branch are playing ‘high quality’ football with ratings of 86.0 and 89.2 respectively. CB Patrick Peterson is also classed as ‘above average’ with a rating of 81.0. This could be the difference in this game as the LA Rams have quite a few good targets for QB Jared Goff to throw to these days and so to have good DB’s is a must.
Where they might struggle a bit is the stopping of RB Todd Gurley. The defensive line doesn’t look great except for DT Corey Peters but they have done well against the run and currently sit as the 9th best team in terms of run yards given up per game with 90.3. In my opinion, Todd Gurley will be the toughest test they’ve faced so far this season on the ground. They have faced Ezekiel Elliott who took them for 80-yards and a TD and LeGarrette Blount who went for 74-yards and a 5.3-yard average and I think Gurley and this Rams offence are capable of putting similar or better numbers up against the Cardinals defence.
I’ll be at the game this Sunday with my Cleveland Browns jersey on and, maybe, my LA Rams cap to show who I’m supporting on the day.
Unlike last year when the Rams gave up a home game to come to Twickenham to play the New York Giants, I’m actually looking forward to seeing them play this year. They are a much-improved team under Sean McVay and have become one of the more exciting teams to watch.
QB Jared Goff has had a season to get used to the NFL environment and Sean McVay has implemented a system that works for him as well as bringing in some much-improved targets for him to throw to. He’s now got Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee, who are all good receivers, running routes. Add to this passing game the big threat that is Todd Gurley on the ground and you’ve got a great offensive unit at all skill positions.
I thought that the offensive line was going to let the Rams down again as it has done for seasons previous, but they’re actually looking ok. They’ve added the excellent veteran Andrew Whitworth at left tackle and the good veteran centre John Sullivan. Right tackle Rob Havenstein appears to have matured into a good player as well, giving the offence a pair of good bookends to their line. Rodger Saffold is solid at left guard leaving third-year right guard Jamon Brown as the only weak spot in my opinion on that line.
Todd Gurley, Rob Havenstein and Jamon Brown were the teams top three picks (in that order) of the 2015 NFL draft and the team has stuck with them and grown them together since then. It would appear to me that Gurley and Havenstein have progressed quicker than Jamon but even he’s helping the LA Rams have one of the best offences in the league – they currently sit in the top ten for both running and passing and in the top five for total offence as well as only having allowed nine sacks putting them in joint sixth place with the Minnesota Vikings for sacks allowed. Well done Mr McVay, you’ve added to this offensive unit and got them playing to their strengths.
The LA Rams defensive unit might start with DT Aaron Donald but it certainly doesn’t end with him as well. According to PFF, he’s one of the few ‘Elite’ players in the league through the first six weeks of the season with a rating of 95.6. Not only is he graded as the top interior defender by PFF but he’s the top graded player in the entire league and we’ll get to see him play at Twickenham.
Like I said, this defence isn’t all about him anymore. With the likes of fellow lineman Michael Brockers, linebacker Mark Barron, cornerbacks Nickell Robey-Coleman and Kayvon Webster as well as safeties John Johnson and Cody Davis all playing well, this defence is looking good under the guidance of defensive guru Wade Phillips.
So, who’s going to win?
For me, it’s difficult to see an Arizona Cardinals win in this game, but after that performance in the first half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, anythings possible. If Adrian Peterson can keep playing like that and being a threat then there is a definite chance that we could see an offensive shoot-out that could end up going in either team’s favour.
Now that the Cardinals appear to have a running game again, they are in with a much better chance of getting the win as the LA Rams currently sit 29th out of 32 teams for yards given up to the run game of the opposition with 139.5-yards per game.
I guess what I’m saying is that the Adrian Peterson trade could be a game-changer in this game. I know that I’m certainly looking forward to seeing him in a much more involved role than he was at Wembley during his brief time with the New Orleans Saints.
So, who will win? I’m going to stick with my hunch that is telling me the LA Rams will have too much offence for the Cardinals defence and the Rams defence will be able to handle the Cardinals offence much better than the Buccaneers did leading to an LA Rams win.
What do you think? Have I got this all wrong and will the Cardinals be leaving the UK with the win? Let me know in the comments below.