Gridiron guide: Arizona should go 5-0

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson dives over the Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson dives over the Miami Dolphins' Koa Misi at University of Phoenix Stadium. (Sept. 30, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty

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John Boell Newsday sports writer John Boell

Boell has worked in the Newsday sports department in various capacities since 1999. In 2010, he became Newsday's

CARDINALS (4-0) at RAMS (2-2), 8:30 p.m.

Cardinals by 1; O/U: 391/2

TV: NFL Network, Ch. 11.

Radio: WFAN (660).

The NFL Network's Thursday night games date to the 2006 season. The last few years, the late-week contest has been like a poorly cooked meal: It doesn't look or taste good, and leaves one wishing for a different main course.

At first glance, that's how Thursday night's matchup may appear. But remember last week, folks? Cleveland, a 13-point underdog, gave Baltimore all it could handle and lost by only seven points.

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I'm not sure if Thursday night's game will be that close, but it features one of three remaining undefeated teams in the NFL: Arizona. The Cardinals pulled a Houdini-type escape act last week in OT against Miami, while the Rams matched their win total from last season (2-14) and upset Seattle.

These are two of the best teams against the spread (ATS) in the early going (both are 3-1 ATS). But the Cardinals are 4-1 ATS in their last five games vs. the Rams, and 6-2 ATS in their last eight games in St. Louis. Overall, Arizona has won 10 of 11 against the Rams, and seven straight in St. Louis.

I won't be shocked if St. Louis plays well at home. It's a Thursday night staple: 13 of the last 17 Thursday night hosts have won,

But Arizona has the better defense (third-best 15.2 ppg) that features talented CB and PR Patrick Peterson (3 INTs, 13.9 punt-return average, 4 TDs in 20 career games). I can't bet against the Cards, who are an NFL-best 11-2 in their last 13 regular-season games.

THE PICK: Cardinals

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