By Sam McPherson
The Los Angeles Rams host the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday in a game that means nothing to either team in terms of standings or playoffs. The Cardinals are 6-8-1, while the Rams are 4-11, both teams falling well short of 2016 preseason expectations. At this point, there's very little incentive for either team to put injured players on the field, so even though the Rams have five players listed on the official injury report, none of the five may play on New Year's Day.
That will be especially challenging on offense, as two of the players listed are wide receivers: Kenny Britt and Mike Thomas. With rookie quarterback Jared Goff struggling to find his NFL game, losing two WRs isn't a good thing. Also, cornerback Lamarcus Joyner is also on the injured list, and the Cardinals possess a potent offense that likes to throw the ball. With nothing to play for but pride on Sunday, don't look for Joyner to be rushed onto the field.
WR Corps Taking A Hit
Britt (shoulder) was unable to practice all week, and he's listed as doubtful for the Arizona game. He cracked the 1,000-yard receiving mark last week, the first time in his career he's accomplished the feat. Britt also posted a career-high 68 receptions this year, so there's no point in running him out on the field for this game. Meanwhile, Thomas (hip) was a limited participant on Wednesday and Thursday in workouts before fully practicing on Friday. He is listed as questionable for the game and may need to play with Britt out of the equation.
Thomas was a sixth-round draft pick last spring, and he has just two catches this season: one each in his last two games, against Atlanta and Seattle, respectively. However, he was targeted four times against the Seahawks in Week 15, so if he plays against the Cardinals, Goff could be looking his way repeatedly.
Defensive Secondary Ailing
Two members of the unit are injured: safety Maurice Alexander (concussion) and Joyner (ankle). Alexander was limited on Wednesday and Thursday, but he was a full participant in Friday's workouts. That means he just needs to be cleared through league protocols before he can take the field, but that is an inexact science. Therefore, he is questionable foe the game. Joyner, as noted above, probably won't play, especially since he was unable to participate in practices all week. He is listed as doubtful.
Los Angeles is ninth this season in pass yards allowed, so it's been a strong unit for the Rams all year. Without Alexander and Joyner, though, Arizona could find itself with easy goings through the air at the Coliseum on Sunday. The Cardinals have a few good wideouts on their roster, and a thin Rams secondary could be an inviting target for Arizona QB Carson Palmer, who is having a relatively poor season. He could end it on a high note against the injured L.A. secondary.
Cardinals Hurt On Defense
Three Arizona defenders are listed as questionable for Sunday: cornerback Marcus Cooper (back), defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche (ankle) and defensive end Ed Stinson (hip). The Cardinals are third in the NFL when it comes to giving up yards, so it's a strong unit. But with nothing real to play for on Sunday, look for the Arizona coaching staff to exercise caution when determining if the trio suits up and plays against the Rams.
Maurice Alexander, safety (concussion)
Mike Thomas, wide receiver (hip)
Kenny Britt, wide receiver (shoulder)
Rob Havenstein, tackle (ankle)
Lamarcus Joyner, cornerback (ankle)
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