Week 14 of the NFL season comes to an end tonight with an NFC West showdown between the Arizona Cardinals and the Los Angeles Rams.
This will be an important game in the standings and a potential playoff preview between the division foes. At home, the Cardinals are listed as 2.5-point favorites, with the over/under set at 51 points.
The Rams are under a little more pressure to win, as they only snapped a three-game losing streak last week against Jacksonville. Even with the win, they are still two games behind the Cardinals, making this a must-win game if Los Angeles hopes to win the NFC West. A loss would also push the Rams closer to the pack in a crowded Wild Card race.
As for the Cardinals, they need a win to remain on top of the NFC standings. With both the Bucs and Packers winning yesterday, a loss would put Arizona in a three-way tie for the best record in the NFC. A win would also take the Cards one step closer to wrapping up the division title.
Return of the King
Kyler Murray finally returned from injury last week against the Bears, helping to get the Arizona offense back on track. Murray looked sharp despite only having to attempt 15 passes while also rushing for 59 yards and two touchdowns. In the nine games that Murray has started this year, the Cardinals have only failed to reach 30 points twice.
Defensively, the Cardinals still rank among the top-5 in the NFL, giving up just 18.7 points per game despite some uneven performances lately. Despite some injuries along the defensive line, Arizona’s linebackers have stepped up big time.
Surprisingly, Markus Golden has led the way with ten sacks, while Chandler Jones has 2.5 sacks in his last two games and appears to be getting back on track.
As mentioned, the Rams appeared to get back on track last week against Jacksonville, although the jury is still out on the LA offense after a three-game losing streak. On Monday, the Rams will be without two starters on the offensive line, in addition to Robert Woods and Darrell Henderson being unavailable.
That means the Rams will need Sony Michel to replicate his success last week against the Jaguars while hoping that Van Jefferson and Odell Beckham can also produce in support of Cooper Kupp, who is likely to get a lot of attention.
Defensively, the Rams were dominant against the Jags last week, but that was after giving up an average of 31.7 points per game during their losing streak. The Rams certainly have the pieces to be better than average on defense, which they are based on the numbers. Of course, they also gave up 37 points and 465 total yards in their first game against the Cardinals this year.
It’s tough to know for sure if the Rams are past their slump based on a win over Jacksonville. In that sense, this is not a great time for them to be playing the Cardinals on the road, especially with Murray back in the lineup.
Los Angeles will make this interesting, but bet on the Cardinals to win by at least a field goal and cover the spread.
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