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At 8-3, Rams Head to Arizona to take on Cardinals

Check out photos of the Rams playing the Cardinals throughout the years.

In Week 7, the Rams (8-3) beat the Cardinals (5-6) at Twickenham Stadium in London, 33-0, marking the largest margin of victory in series history. On Sunday — five weeks to the date of their last contest — both teams will matchup once again in Arizona.

The contest will pit the leaders of the NFC West against one of their biggest divisional rivals. And while L.A. was able to shut out Arizona just a few weeks ago, the Rams aren't expecting that to happen twice.

"I think it makes it more dangerous because of the way that we beat them last game," left guard Rodger Saffold said. "I expect them to be really refreshed and ready to go at home. We have had some really close battles at their house for a long time, so I expect the same."

The Rams and Cardinals have met each other 78 times over the past 80 years, with the series history split at 38 wins per club. If Los Angeles can pull out a victory on Sunday it would mark just the second time in the last 14 years that the Rams have swept Arizona in the regular season. Plus, it would mark the third straight year that the club has defeated Arizona in the desert.

But a third-consecutive win over the Cardinals on their home turf won't come easily. Arizona is being led by a new starting quarterback, features a slew of young faces on both sides of the ball, and is coming off of its best win of the season — a 27-24 victory over Jacksonville.

"This is a great football team and they're strong in all three phases," head coach Sean McVay said. "Going to their place where they've done a great job playing at home and winning a lot of football games, we've got to be ready to go and that's our only focus right now."

The Rams will face a familiar face on Sunday in quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert led the 49ers to two victories over the Rams in the past two years and will be looking for a third with the Cardinals.

The Missouri product took over as the starting quarterback in Week 10 after both Carson Palmer (arm) and Drew Stanton (knee) went down due to injury. In last week's game against Jacksonville, Gabbert completed 57.8 percent of his passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns.

"The biggest thing has been his poise, his extreme confidence," Cardinals' head coach Bruce Arians said. "He knows what he's doing [and] has reasons for why the ball is coming out of his hands."

Middle linebacker Alec Ogletree added that Gabbert "is definitely more athletic" than both Palmer and Stanton, referring to the quarterback as a dual-threat.

"He definitely has the factor of running the ball in there too," he said. "So you have to be aware of that, but for the most part they pretty much do the same thing that they've been doing."

Additionally, the Rams defense is not counting out a Cardinals' offense anchored by running back Adrian Peterson and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Arizona depends on Peterson to take some of the pressure off of Gabbert and consistently looks to Fitzgerald as a sure-handed receiver.

Peterson is questionable for Sunday's contest, but as defensive coordinator Wade Phillips put it, "they still got a receiver, a quarterback and a coach that knows how to move the football, so it'll be a challenge for us."

On offense, L.A was able to bounce back against the Saints after struggling to put points on the board in Week 11's loss to the Vikings. 

Quarterback Jared Goff is averaging 311 yards and has thrown nine touchdowns with just one interception in the last four games. And even without the team's most productive wide receiver Robert Woods — who is out with a shoulder injury — the rest of the Rams' receivers have shown an ability to step up in his stead.

This week, however, they will be challenged by a strong Cardinals' secondary. Arizona has ushered in a new starting strong safety, Budda Baker, who has made a splash since his first start in Week 10.

He, along with cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety Tyrann Mathieu, have combined for 32 tackles, two forced fumbles, two interceptions, and one sack in the last two games.  

"That's a guy that coach kind of highlighted during the meetings," wide receiver Sammy Watkins said. "But we just have to play fast and know he's there, [along with] Pat P, Tyrann Mathieu — a lot of guys they have that are special on defense. We just have to play our game, compete and execute our plays."

And because the Rams are facing an opponent who knows them so well, many players on both offense and defense believe the game will come down to the wire.

"It's going to be definitely a battle because we played them one time before," Watkins said.  "They are definitely

going to know certain looks, they're smart guys. So, it's going to be up to us to execute the same plays, get open in tough situations. You just have to be prepared for it."

"A lot of effort and maybe some trick plays, some things that we haven't seen," strong safety John Johnson III said of what he expects. "I think it's just going to be stuff that tries to catch us off guard. It's going to be a fight to the whistle every play, that's what it's going to be."

Overall, every Rams player expressed a similar sentiment: You can't count the Cardinals out. 

"I don't think there are any trap games in the NFL," wide receiver Josh Reynolds said. "Every team has the ability to beat you. Each week you have to play all out. So I know there is not that mindset in this locker room."

Kickoff for Sunday's contest is scheduled for 1:25 p.m. PT at University of Phoenix Stadium. For more information on how to watch, click here.

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