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The Cardinals vs. Rams Game Embodies the NFC's Weird West

One team is a perennial NFC favorite with a 1-3 record. The other was a laughing stock in Week 1—they're now 3-1.
Weird, weird stuff. Photo by Joe Camporeale—USA TODAY Sports

Let's just break down the Cardinals' and Rams' bizarre situations, shall we?

One NFC West team is a perennial NFC contender, pegged by many as the favorite to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LI. It's now 1-3, and the wheels are falling off. The other is a perennial also-ran, which made itself a laughingstock in Week 1 with the ugliest loss in recent memory. That team is now 3-1 and picking up steam, leading the division on the strength of two big division wins.


It's topsy turvy in the NFC West, where the reality-show laughingstock Los Angeles Rams played a miserable game of un-football in Week 1, but look stronger every time they play. With their 17-13 road upset of the Cardinals, the Rams are technically ahead of the 3-1 Seattle Seahawks by dint of beating them head-to-head back in Week 2.

On top of all this, the Seahawks blew out the 49ers last week and that horrific Rams Week 1 performance occurred in San Francisco. Pretty soon, Kevin Kline and Will Smith are going to ride in on a mechanical spider or something and the NFC West will gleefully abandon what little logic and sense remains. (Wiki-wild-wild.)

The Cardinals lost their season opener only because of a bad snap—and because they lost to the New England Patriots, people were prepared to forgive. When they took out their frustrations on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, everyone figured they'd exorcized whatever demons had haunted them.

When they went into Buffalo and lost 33-18 to the desperate Bills, it was easy to write that off as well—the Bills were just playing/coaching for their livelihood. But this… this. There's no excusing this.

Case Keenum—Case Keenum!—completed 60 percent of his passes for 8.9 yards per attempt, two scores and no interceptions against the vaunted Cardinals secondary. Both scores went to Brian Quick, a 2012 second-round pick who's never produced like a guy with his combination of size and speed…until today.

Carson Palmer threw a touchdown and an interception, bringing his season totals to an unimpressive six scores and five picks. He also, like tailback David Johnson, lost a fumble; that was all before Palmer left the game late with a suspected concussion. After two straight seasons of playing the best football of his life, it's possible that the 36-year-old Palmer just flat-out ran out of time.

Head Coach Bruce Arians is too good—and the Cardinals have too much talent—for this to be the first four games of a 5-11 campaign. But if the concussion protocol forces Palmer to miss much more than this Thursday's game, the Cardinals' Super Bowl hopes for this year are dead:

#AZCardinals coach Bruce Arians said Carson Palmer is in the concussion protocol & they'll be "very, very careful." Thursday sounds unlikely
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 3, 2016

Meanwhile, the Rams still have a lot to prove; it's hard to believe Keenum and Quick can continue to put up points against top secondaries. But the Rams' own defensive backfield, led by corner Trumaine Johnson (who had a pick today), is proving to be as full of playmakers as their feared front seven. If the Rams need to score only 17 points to win most games, they're going to win most of their games.