St. Louis, MO - Though Kurt Warner almost certainly played the best football of his career with the St. Louis Rams nearly a decade ago, his success with the Arizona Cardinals this season is at least making the issue debatable.
Warner looks to continue his best season in years and help the Cardinals rebound from a disheartening loss when he returns to St. Louis to face the NFC West rival Rams on Sunday.
Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Cardinals -3 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 75% of bets for this game have been placed on Cardinals -3 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Once an NFL castoff who played overseas and even supported himself by working in a supermarket, Warner emerged as a star with the Rams in 1999, winning the league MVP award and leading the franchise to its only Super Bowl victory. He earned MVP honors again in 2001, when the Rams fell short of a second championship with a 20-17 Super Bowl loss to New England.
While Warner now has plenty of competition in the MVP race, the numbers indicate that the 37-year-old is having his best season since his glory days in St. Louis, as he's helped the Cardinals (4-3) take a two-game lead in the weak NFC West.
"I'm feeling like I'm playing as well as I ever have," said Warner, who admitted earlier this season that he's considered retirement. "I feel like I'm seeing the field, making good decisions, protecting the ball probably better than I ever have. I feel really good about where I'm playing right now."
Approaching the season's midway point, Warner leads the NFL in completion percentage (70.2) and ranks second in completions (184) and passing yards (2,089). Only Phillip Rivers of San Diego and Tony Romo of Dallas have a better quarterback rating than Warner's 102.1 - his personal best since he compiled a 109.2 rating in his Super Bowl-winning 1999 campaign.
"With the exception of one game, I think he's played excellent football for us," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "He is doing a great job of managing the game, getting rid of the ball and running our offense."
Warner was 35-for-49 for 381 yards, two touchdowns and one interception last Sunday. He helped Arizona build a 17-3 lead early in third quarter, but the Cardinals gave up 24 of the game's final 30 points in the 27-23 loss to Carolina.
"We did a lot of good things," Warner said. "It's a good football team, but bottom line we made one too many mistakes."
The Cardinals hope to cut back on those mistakes as Warner makes his third visit to St. Louis since the Rams cut him before the 2004 season. He's won both of his return trips, completing 41 of 67 passes for 475 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
The Rams (2-5) are hoping for a resurgence like Warner's, and under new coach Jim Haslett, they certainly have shown improvement.
St. Louis finished last in the NFC West with a 3-13 record last season, then lost its first four games of 2008 by a combined 147-43 before firing Scott Linehan and promoting Haslett, previously the defensive coordinator.
The Rams responded with back-to-back victories over NFC East contenders Washington and Dallas before a 23-16 loss at New England last Sunday. After taking a 16-13 lead early in the fourth quarter, they gave up 10 unanswered points.
With their newfound confidence, the Rams couldn't accept a moral victory.
"Four weeks ago, we would have looked at this game as a win," quarterback Marc Bulger said, "but we're disappointed."
Bulger, benched by Linehan before regaining his starting job in Haslett's debut, was 18-for-34 for a season-high 301 yards last week. He connected six times with rookie Donnie Avery, who totaled 163 yards including a 69-yard touchdown reception.
"The numbers don't count if you can't get the win," said Avery, a second-round pick out of Houston.
Arizona wideout Anquan Boldin was thinking the same thing last week after he returned from a two-game absence to catch nine passes for 63 yards and two touchdowns. It was his first game since a crushing hit Sept. 28 required him to have surgery to repair facial fractures.
"It was just good to be back out there," he told the Cardinals' official Web site. "But for us to go from a good team to a great team, we have to win these games."
The Cardinals swept their two games against the Rams last season, including a 34-31 win in St. Louis on Oct. 7. Warner didn't start that game, but went 14-for-28 for 190 yards, a touchdown and an interception in relief of Matt Leinart. He was 23-for-39 with 300 yards, three TDs and two picks in the second meetings, a 48-19 Arizona victory on Dec. 30.
Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
ARIZONA is 11-6 against the spread versus ST LOUIS since 1992
ARIZONA is 9-8 straight up against ST LOUIS since 1992
9 of 17 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
ST LOUIS is 2-2 against the spread versus ARIZONA over the last 3 seasons
ARIZONA is 3-1 straight up against ST LOUIS over the last 3 seasons
3 of 4 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
All games played at ST LOUIS since 1992
ARIZONA is 6-3 against the spread versus ST LOUIS since 1992
ARIZONA is 5-4 straight up against ST LOUIS since 1992
5 of 9 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games played at ST LOUIS over the last 3 seasons.
ST LOUIS is 1-1 against the spread versus ARIZONA over the last 3 seasons
ARIZONA is 2-0 straight up against ST LOUIS over the last 3 seasons
2 of 2 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
Key Player Injuries
[TE] Leonard Pope is "?". - Ankle - 10/23/08
[DL] Bertrand Berry expected to miss 2-3 weeks - Groin - 10/01/08
[TE] Ben Patrick missed last game, "?" - Knee - 10/12/08
[S] Aaron Francisco is "?". - Thigh - 10/23/08
(!) [WR] Anquan Boldin upgraded to probable. - Head - 10/22/08
[TE] Jerame Tuman injured last game, "?" - Hamstring - 10/12/08
[LB] Travis LaBoy injured last game, "?" - Groin - 10/13/08
[WR] Drew Bennett expected to miss up to six weeks - Foot - 09/08/08
[OT] Orlando Pace is upgraded to probable - Quad - 10/22/08
[WR] Dane Looker missed last game, "?" - Concussion - 10/19/08
[OL] Mark Setterstrom IR - Knee - 08/17/08
[RB] Antonio Pittman upgraded to probable - Leg - 10/23/08
[DT] Adam Carriker injured last game, ~?~ - Ankle - 10/19/08
[RB] Brian Leonard IR - Shoulder - 10/13/08
[OT] Brandon Gorin IR - Shoulder - 08/18/08
[CB] Ricky Manning, Jr. IR - Foot - 10/13/08
[TE] Randy McMichael IR - Ankle - 10/06/08
(!) [RB] Steven Jackson is upgraded to probable - Thigh - 10/20/08
[CB] Tye Hill missed last game, "?" - Knee - 10/19/08
[WR] Derek Stanley injured last game, doubtful - Concussion - 10/20/08 [CB] Justin King IR - Toe - 08/16/08
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Posted: 10/29/08 3:39PM ET