This is not the same St. Louis Rams team that the Arizona Cardinals faced in Week 10. In that contest, the Cardinals won handily (31-14), and in doing so improved to 9-1 and maintained their spot atop the NFC West.
Since then, each team has moved on to starting a different quarterback (Shaun Hill replaces Austin Davis for the Rams, and Drew Stanton has taken over for Carson Palmer in Arizona). The Cardinals also lost starting running back Andre Ellington to injured reserve, and while they remain in first place in the division, things have tightened up with the Seattle Seahawks.
Meanwhile, the Rams are playing their best football of the season, with the defense posting two consecutive shutouts and the offense notching 66 points in that time frame. Running back Tre Mason has emerged as the Rams’ definitive starter since these two teams last squared off, and tight end Jared Cook is coming off his biggest performance of the season (18 points in Week 14).
Division matchups late in the season are always interesting when one team, even if not a playoff contender, has the potential to drop another in the standings, as is the case Thursday night. Trying to determine which fantasy stars will shine brightly in these contests becomes a bit more challenging. While injuries always threaten to be a factor, thankfully the playing status of this week’s key fantasy players is not really in question.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, knee, (P): Fitzgerald suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain in Week 11, and missed the subsequent two games as a result. After returning in Week 14, there is no real doubt as to Fitzgerald’s availability for this week, especially as he comes into the game listed as probable. While his MCL is not likely 100 percent healed, he proved last week against the Kansas City Chiefs that his presence must still be accounted for, and that he will still draw a handful of targets. The last time the Cardinals faced the Rams, Fitzgerald had 112 yards receiving, which ensures he will have the attention of their defense, recently sprained knee or not, on Thursday night.
Antonio Cromartie, CB, ankle, (Q): Defensive players don’t always get their due in this space, but Cromartie’s dramatic turnaround in status this week is worth the attention. Cromartie left last week’s contest on a cart after an injury near his left ankle had some, including Cromartie himself, thinking his season was over with a torn Achilles tendon. Further examination revealed the injury was not to his Achilles, but rather to another nearby tendon (reportedly the peroneal, which controls motion of the foot and contributes to lateral stability of the ankle), per Cardinals general manager Steve Keim.
Better yet, the result is that this is not a season-ending injury. Still, his status for this game was in question, and Cromartie could turn in only limited practices during the short week. In fact, he still hadn’t tested the ankle at game speed in practice, and was expected to be a game-time decision. On Thursday morning, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that according to a team source, Cromartie is expected to play in the game. While he may be feeling some residual soreness from the ankle injury -- and may be challenged to run and maneuver at full speed -- it won’t be enough to keep him on the sideline.
Kenny Britt, WR, not injury related, (P): This designation is often utilized when a veteran player is given an extra day or two of rest during the week, but is not dealing with a specific injury. Britt was listed as a non-participant Monday, but even that was only an estimation as the team conducted a walk-through. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Britt was a full participant and the probable designation indicates the Rams fully expect to have him on the field. His contributions have been up and down this season, but his presence means the Cardinals have one more pass-catcher to account for alongside Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Cook.