Monday Wild Card Preview: Cardinals and Rams Face Off at SoFi Stadium
We’ve got ourselves a great wild card game tomorrow night. The Rams will host a familiar foe in the Arizona Cardinals, in what should be a shootout. Both teams are coming into this game hungry to keep their postseason alive and wish to prove that they are the better NFC West team. The winner of this contest will travel to Tampa Bay and match up with Brady and the Bucs next week. These two teams have split their season series this year, but who will break the tie and move onto the next round? Let’s get straight into the breakdown.
The Cardinals ended the regular season in a bit of a slump, losing 4 of their final 5 games. Two of these were to teams with losing records, including the embarrassing blowout defeat to the Lions. They allowed 38 points to the struggling Seahawks, and an insane 190 yards to Seahawks’ RB Rashaad Penny. QB Kyler Murray has only possessed a QB rating over 100 in just 1 of his last 5 games, and has cooled off after his hot start to the season. However, losing star WR DeAndre Hopkins late in the season doesn’t help, so take that into account. Christian Kirk has picked up the slack, leading Arizona in receiving yards this season with 982. Overall, the Cardinals offense is super solid, owning the 8th best passing offense, 10th best rushing offense, and 11th best scoring offense. Kyler Murray amassed 383 passing yards in the Week 14 matchup between the Cards and Rams, and should have no problem repeating his success through the air against the 24th ranked Rams passing defense. The Rams rushing defense did stop any success on the ground in Week 14 however, so this could prove troublesome for Arizona if it occurs again. The Arizona defense needs to lock up Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp if they want to win this game. Their passing defense is 6th in the NFL, but still gave up 287 yards and 3 TDs to Stafford as well as 123 yards to Kupp in Week 14. This inability to stop the LA passing game put them in a hole they could never dig themselves out of. This usually tough defense can’t perform like they did against Seattle (allowed 38 points) and Detroit (allowed 30 points), they need to restore their stout ways and get stops for their offense. The explosive Kyler Murray can give Arizona an advantage, but his intensity needs to be matched on the other side of the ball. If the Cardinals D can eliminate the efficacy of the LA passing offense, and if Kyler Murray can exploit the subpar passing Rams’ defense, they will be the team moving onto the NFC Divisional Round.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams concluded their regular season hot, winning 5 of their last 6 games. In their victories, they’ve averaged 27.4 points per game and have allowed just 16.4 PPG on average. QB Matthew Stafford has been a bit turnover prone recently, throwing 8 interceptions in his past 4 contests. We all know that he can throw for an abundance of yards and get TDs to his receivers, but his ball security will be crucial in tomorrow’s game. Stafford will also have to evacuate the ball quickly and navigate through pressure, as Arizona blitzes 33.6% of the time (4th) and pressures the opposing QB 25.9% of the time (9th). RB Sony Michel had an average night back in Week 14, running for 79 yards on 20 carries. Arizona ranks 20th in rushing yards allowed, so the Rams should find it relatively easy to establish the ground game. Stud WR Cooper Kupp has gone for at least 100 yards in 4 of his last games, including 123 yards against the Cardinals the last time they met. Defenses have not figured him out all year, and he continues to be an Avengers-Level threat to teams across the league. If Los Angeles can establish the Stafford-Kupp connection early and maintain it, they will be hard to stop. The Rams defense ranks 6th in rushing yards allowed, and they showed it in Week 14, only giving up 31 yards to Arizona RB James Conner. They also are great at collapsing the opponent’s pocket, ranking 3rd in the NFL in sacks. However, their below average passing and scoring defense could be dangerously prone to a star QB like Kyler Murray. On offense, the Rams need to establish Kupp through the air and Stafford needs to take care of the football. On defense, the Rams will have to replicate recent success in limiting scores. They also need to contain Kyler Murray and show why they are 2nd in Passing TDs allowed (17 the whole season). If this is executed, the Rams will be on a plane heading to Tampa.
At the time of publishing, the Rams stand as 3.5 point favorites and the total stands at 50. The Rams defense may have some trouble containing the high-octane Arizona offense, but they’ve got a solid offense of their own. Stafford will be able to keep up with Murray and run up the score. The Rams’ defensive front should pressure Murray enough and shut down the Arizona RBs to give enough chances for Matthew Stafford to break through and give LA a lasting lead. Arizona will not be able to fix their recent defensive struggles. For the O/U, I’m pretty torn. It’s a tough total, but if I had to pick, I’d take the over. Despite Kyler Murray and Matthew Stafford’s substandard play of late, the defenses (especially Arizona’s) hasn’t totally locked up the opposition. The total score was 57 and 53 in the two meetings between these NFC West rivals, and I could see these high-scoring results repeat themselves tomorrow night.
We’ve had some great wild card games already, and this one tomorrow should not disappoint. I’m hoping it’s an intense, close, and exciting contest. Two great QBs will be meeting again for the third time this season, which one will prevail? All we can do is wait until kickoff tomorrow. As always, thanks for reading. If you haven’t done so yet, please subscribe to my emailing list on mu website so you never miss an article. I’d really appreciate it. Have a good week everybody.
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