BY BERNIE MIKLASZ - Friday, December 3, 2010 11:55 am


* The Rams defense has an outstanding opportunity to make things right after three rough weeks. The Rams defense has been a legitimate team strength, largely overlooked as a primary factor in the turnaround from a 1-15 season. But there has been slippage over the last three games against San Francisco, Atlanta and Denver.

* The Rams' last three opponents have averaged 30 points and 437 yards per game. Quarterbacks have completed 62 percent with 6 TDs and no INTs and a passer rating of 109.2, with 10 pass plays of 25+ yards. It hasn't been a heckuva lot better on the ground, with the *****, Falcons and Broncos averaging 4.7 yards per rush and 118 yards per game.

* But the Rams defense figures to get well against the Arizona Cardinals' offense. Put it this way: if the Rams get torched by the Cardinals, then it'll be time to really worry about the STL defense. Here's why:

* The Cardinals are 29th among 32 teams in points scored, 31st in touchdowns from scrimmage (14), 31st in completion percentage, 31st in passer rating, 31st in third-down conversion rate, 31st in rushing per game, 16th in yards per rush (4.1). The Cardinals have turned the ball over 28 times; only two teams have more giveaways.

* According to STATS LLC, Cardinals QB Derek Anderson has the highest rate of incompletions (21.2 percent) that are the result of poor throws.

* The Cardinals have a true playmaker and star in WR Larry Fitzgerald, but the passing-game inaccuracy has greatly reduced Fitzgerald's impact. In 2008-2009, the Cardinals connected on 63 percent of their attempted passes to Fitzgerald. This season, AZ has targeted Fitzgerald 121 times and completed 59 of the throws for a connection rate of only 49 percent. And of the 62 incompletions on passes directed at Fitzgerald, 33 were due to poor throws, according to STATS. That's just awful. What a waste of his talent. Fitzgerald must be frustrated.

* By all means the Rams should blitz Anderson early and often. Statistically, he's the league's worst QB against the blitz. When blitzed Anderson has completed 47 of 108 passes -- 43.5 percent -- with two TDs, 4 INTs, 10 sacks and a passer rating of 48.1. That passer rating is the worst in the NFL season versus the blitz.

* Though they've had some recent shaky moments, Rams CBs Ron Bartell (45.2 %) and Bradley Fletcher (49.2 %) are still allowing a completion rate of less than 50 percent when targeted by QBs.

* The Cardinals haven't exactly put a moat around their quarterbacks; they've allowed 36 sacks; the sacks-against rate (sacks per passing attempt) of 8.6 percent ranks 29th.

* I'm thinking we'll see Rams defensive end Chris Long knocking on the door; he ranks sixth in the NFL in combined QB hurries and knockdowns with 28.

Moving on ...

* I'm saddened by the death of Cubs' great Ron Santo. He was an affable, sincere man who loved life, baseball and his Cubs. And a sadly underappreciated 3B who should be in the Hall of Fame.

* Instead of booing LeBron James, perhaps the Cleveland fans should have booed their own team for laughing and joking with LBJ during Thursday night's gutless no-show of a performance. James certainly conquered the Cavaliers, the crowd and the evening. But in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter. He'll be judged based on how many NBA championships, if any, the Miami Heat wins during his time in South FLA.

* I'll certainly be rooting for Sam Bradford University on Saturday in the Big 12 Championship. You see? I didn't even go back to the "Lawrence Phillips University" thing. I'm too nice to insult Nebraska fans.

Thanks for reading ... have a wonderful weekend.