Rams could have opportunities against Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals are 4-0 this season behind their high-pressure, man-coverage-heavy defense. They have had tremendous success with it, befuddling high-powered offenses in Philadelphia and New England, but struggled last week surrendering 431 yards to rookie Ryan Tannehill and Miami’s typically underwhelming passing attack. The Rams are coming off a big win over the Seahawks and are going to look to use Danny Amendola to exploit the weaknesses the Cardinals displayed in their pass defense. The “Playbook” crew breaks down Thursday night’s matchup.

Expect a heavy dose of pressure with press man behind it tonight once again from Arizona’s defense. The Cardinals’ corners typically press the outside receivers, while bringing pressure up the middle. This leaves them vulnerable in the intermediate middle of the field against slot receivers, where Miami’s Brian Hartline was able to shred them for 253 yards and a TD last week.

While the Rams’ outside receivers might have a tough time getting off the jams of William Gay and Patrick Peterson, they do have one of the league’s most potent slot receivers in Amendola who could exploit the hole in the middle of Arizona’s defense. Look for St. Louis to follow the blueprint the Dolphins set: keep extra men in protection, get the ball out of Sam Bradford’s hand quickly and get it to the middle of the field. The Rams’ ability to protect Bradford, and his ability to step up and take a hit will have a huge bearing on the game’s outcome -– he will be hit in this game.

This is one of the many interesting matchups to watch in this game and one the Rams must take advantage of if they want to knock the Cardinals from the ranks of the undefeated. One other matchup to look out for on the other side of the ball is Rams DEs Chris Long and Robert Quinn against the Cardinals’ tackles, rookie Bobby Massie and D’Anthony Batiste. Massie and Batiste are both backups, filling in for the injured Levi Brown and Jeremy Bridges. The talented Rams pass-rushing duo will have the means and opportunity to wreak havoc on Kevin Kolb, who was sacked eight times last week. St. Louis has the blueprint for success against Arizona. Now the Rams have to go out and execute it, which is easier said than done.

“Playbook” — the ultimate football Xs and Os show — airs Friday at 8 p.m. ET (NFC) and 9 p.m. ET (AFC) on NFL Network. Check the NFL Network broadcast schedule for further details. Follow “Playbook” on Twitter @NFLN_Playbook.

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