SERIES HISTORY: 76th meeting. The Cardinals lead the series, 37-26-2. The Cardinals have won 14 of the last 20 matchups in a rivalry that dates to 1937, when the Cardinals played in Chicago and the Rams were based in Cleveland. Arizona is 19-19 against the Rams on the road but has won nine of the past 11. This marks the first time the Cardinals have played at L.A. Memorial Coliseum since 1989, when they met the Raiders, and the first time against the Rams since 1979. The Rams beat the Cardinals earlier this season, 17-13.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
When the schedule was released, this Week 17 matchup looked like it could mean something in the NFC West. But now it is more about draft position and not getting players hurt. And the biggest question is: Who will replace fired Jeff Fisher as Rams coach?
Interestingly, each team is looking forward to next year with its respective quarterback. The Rams hope 2016 No. 1 overall draftee Jared Goff begins to play up to expectations and the Cardinals seem to think 37-year-old Carson Palmer can continue to have expectations.
"Physically, he works out like a maniac and he takes great care of himself," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "So you know, I'm looking at Drew Brees and these guys aren't getting old anymore. Sports science is such an unbelievable thing now with diet and exercise and the things they can do. Peyton (Manning) played really well all the way up to the end and (Tom) Brady's up there, too, so there's no reason why he can't."
But Palmer would need to rally from an off year to play up to his own high expectations.
Goff may get a chance to look good sooner than later. Arizona has allowed four passing touchdowns with no interceptions in each of its last two games (vs. Saints, Seahawks).
Meantime, the best offensive weapon in this game is Cardinals RB David Johnson. A second-year pro out of Northern Iowa, Johnson is the only player in the history of the NFL to amass 100 yards from scrimmage in each of his first 15 games to start a season. Johnson also became the first Cardinals player to gain more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage in a season.
Johnson also has 33 career touchdowns in 31 games, adding to his franchise record for a player in his first two seasons. Johnson has 14 more touchdowns than the previous record holder, Ottis Anderson with 19 from 1979-80. Johnson should be able to add to his total against a Rams defense that is worn down and frustrated.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Cardinals RG Evan Boehm vs. Rams DT Aaron Donald. Boehm, a rookie who was drafted to play center, will be making his first NFL start and he couldn't have picked a tougher opponent to face than Donald, whom coach Bruce Arians calls one of the two most dangerous defensive players in the entire league. Boehm didn't get his first taste of playing guard until last weekend at Seattle and, although he held his own, he made at least three mental mistakes, according to Arians. He'll get some help from right tackle Earl Watford, but Watford is new to playing tackle and he's only been so-so this season when filling in as a starter.
--Cardinals DT Calais Campbell vs. Rams OL Greg Robinson. Both players are motivated to end the season on a high note. Campbell, a fixture up front for the Cardinals the past nine years, could be playing in his final game for the franchise -- he is set to become an unrestricted free agent. Arizona hasn't shown any real signs of negotiating to bring him back. He has been solid all season, however, playing his best football the past month. Campbell could have a field day against Robinson, unless interim coach John Fassel elects to bench Robinson for a second straight week. The former first-round pick has fallen out of favor but could get another shot to redeem his season by playing against the Cardinals. It could be at left tackle or at guard, Fassel has indicated. Either spot will make Campbell lick his chops.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
--Out: T D.J. Humphries (concussion)
--Questionable: WR John Brown (illness), CB Marcus Cooper (back, calf), LB Sio Moore (ankle), DT Robert Nkemdiche (ankle)
LOS ANGELES RAMS
--Doubtful: WR Kenny Britt (shoulder), T Rob Havenstein (ankle), CB Lamarcus Joyner (ankle)
--Questionable: WR Mike Thomas (hip)
Cardinals OLB Chandler Jones. After registering four sacks in his first four games with the Cardinals, Jones dropped off. He has 9.5 sacks overall, but just 2.5 in his last six games. Set to become an unrestricted free agent, Jones will be intent on reaching double digits. He would like to pad his stats to increase his next contract and the Cardinals didn't trade away a second-round pick and guard Jonathan Cooper to get Jones for just one year. Jones should have ample chances for sacks against the Rams, who allowed the third-most this season at 42. If he gets a half a sack or more, it would mark just the third time in franchise history (1983, 1984) that the Cardinals had multiple players with 10 or more sacks in the same season. Fellow OLB Markus Golden has 10.
-- Cardinals QB Carson Palmer is averaging 296.8 yards passing in his last nine division road games. WR Larry Fitzgerald is second in the NFL with 102 receptions, his fourth 100-catch season. Since 2004, he leads the NFL in receptions (1,120) and yards (14,346).
-- Arizona DT Calais Campbell has 6.5 sacks, his eighth consecutive season with at least five.
-- Rams RB Todd Gurley is averaging 94.7 yards from scrimmage in three meetings.
-- Rams WR Kenny Britt has 1,002 yards receiving, making him the first Ram with 1,000 since Torry Holt in 2007.
-- Rams DT Aaron Donald has four sacks in his past four home games. Since 2014, he leads NFL DTs with 28 sacks.
-- Rams LB Alec Ogletree has 132 tackles, fourth most in franchise history.
-- Rams P Johnny Hekker put an NFL-record 50 punts inside the 20-yard line.
The road team has won the last four meetings between these teams, including a 17-13 Rams victory at Arizona in Week 4. So it is the Cardinals' turn to be a rude guest.
OUR PICK: Cardinals, 35-28.