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NFL Preview - St. Louis (3-6-1) at Arizona (4-6)
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Forgive Ken Whisenhunt if he thinks he's on "Let's Make a Deal."
Monty Hall isn't standing next to the Cardinals coach but Whisenhunt is about to look behind curtain No. 3 at the quarterback position when he starts rookie sixth round pick Ryan Lindley in Arizona's Week 12 matchup against the St. Louis Rams.
"Ryan will start for us and hopefully give us a spark and play well," Whisenhunt said after practice Wednesday.
Lindley, a San Diego State product, became an option after Whisenhunt pulled John Skelton last Sunday after the big 6-foot-6 signal-caller missed a wide open Larry Fitzgerald in the end zone.
Lindley is now likely to remain the starter at least until Kevin Kolb is able to return from a rib injury.
The embattled Skelton told the Arizona Republic he was "frustrated with the whole situation.
Asked what specifically frustrated him, Skelton responded: "Right now, just the whole situation. Obviously, losing six in a row is frustrating. What transpired on Sunday and then now, the benching, obviously, is frustrating."
Lindley will be trying to halt that ugly six-game losing streak for Arizona, a skid which was extended in Atlanta last Sunday when the Falcons persevered despite turning the ball over six times, including a a career-high five interceptions from Matt Ryan, in a 23-19 win.
The Cards benched Skelton after he connected on just 2-of-7 passes for six yards in the first quarter. Lindley took over and completed 9-of-20 passes for 64 yards.
"We said during the bye week we were going to make changes that we thought necessary, and that's what we're going to do going forward," Whisenhunt said. "We have to make more plays."
LaRod Stephens-Howling rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries for Arizona, which has lost the six in a row after starting the season 4-0.
The Cardinals got a little bit of good news during the week, activating star running back Beanie Wells off injured reserve after he missed seven games while recovering from turf toe.
Wells was placed on the new designated-to-return IR after a Week 3 win over Philadelphia. The four-year veteran began practicing two weeks ago and is expected to play Sunday. Coming off his first 1,000-yard season, Wells had run for 76 yards on 29 carries in the first three games.
The Rams, meanwhile, are also coming off a disappointing loss last Sunday when New York's Bilal Powell had the most effective day of his career, rushing for two touchdowns and helping the Jets to a much needed 27-13 victory over St. Louis.
Sam Bradford struggled to get the Rams' offense in rhythm most of the day. Although the former Oklahoma star tossed a pair of touchdowns to Brandon Gibson, he completed just 23-of-44 passes for 170 yards, threw an interception and lost a fumble in the defeat.
The Rams kick-started Arizona's losing streak by topping the Cardinals, 17-3, in St. Louis back on Oct. 4 behind Bradford's two 2 TD passes, including 51- yarder to Chris Givens. The Rams defense also held Arizona to just 45 rushing yards in that one.
Overall the all-time series between these two teams is deadlocked at 33-33-2 but the Cardinals have won 10 of the last 12 meetings.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Lindley was a four-year starter at San Diego State, setting conference records for passing yards (12,690) and total offense (12,415) but the NFL is a long way from the Mountain West Conference.
"I don't really get nervous," Lindley said in his first press briefing as the designated starter. "I think more right now it's just getting the reps in practice is what I want to do. I just want to make sure I'm ready because if I'm prepared, I'm ready to go."
Whisenhunt is hoping those extra reps in practice can help his rookie.
"He did a nice job in a hostile environment (in Atlanta) handling the game, without a lot of practice during the week," Whisenhunt said. "So where we are as a team and as an offense, it gives us a chance to see what he can do, see if he can't get, with a week of practice, if he can get in there and get us going and help us move the ball and score some points."
All that said, with its QB situation so unsettled Arizona will have to rely on its running game with Stephens-Howling and Wells.
The undersized Stephens-Howling had runs of 40 and 52 yards against Atlanta last Sunday and can be explosive at times while Wells is a big, bruising back who can move the chains so that part looks good on paper. When he last faced St. Louis in Week 12 of last season, Wells established a franchise single-game record with 228 rushing yards on 27 attempts.
"Obviously, I have respect for him as a runner," Rams defensive end Chris Long told the Cardinals' website. "If we didn't before that last game last year, we do now. That guy runs hard, he's tough. He's athletic. He's a smart runner. He exposed us on that day."
The problem for Arizona is the offensive line which has been one of the NFL's worst. Rookie Nate Potter made his first career start at left tackle last week in an attempt to shake things up but the talent level simply is not there for the Cardinals. Meanwhile, St. Louis' defensive line, featuring Long and Robert Quinn, could be the strength of the team.
The Rams, however, won't have an easy time against a big play Arizona defense which forced the six turnovers against the Falcons and now ranks fourth in the NFL with 22 takeaways. Ryan, a serious MVP candidate, entered that contest having never thrown more than three interceptions in a game and he finished with five.
Arizona linebacker Daryl Washington has been particularly effective this season and has eight sacks in 10 games, two shy of the franchise's single- season mark by a LB (Ken Harvey, 1990).
The Cards can be susceptible to the ground game at times, however, and the rams Steven Jackson will aim for his third straight 100-yard rushing effort against Arizona.
Something has to give here. The Rams started an Arizona skid which is closing in on two months. Of course, St. Louis also hasn't won since beating the Cards, amassing an a dismal 0-4-1 mark since.
Whisenhunt has generally had the Rams' number and it's hard to imagine him getting swept by a team which struggles so much offensively. Figure on a close game with home-field advantage proving to be the difference.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cardinals 14, Rams 13
11/22 11:09:56 ET