Wild Card Weekend concludes with the first-ever Monday night playoff game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Arizona Cardinals. The two NFC West rivals split their two games this season, with the road team winning each game. At home, the Rams are favored by four points on Monday night, with the over/under for the game set at 49.5 points.
Once in position to be the top seed in the NFC, the Cardinals didn’t exactly finish the season strong. Not only did they lose to the Seahawks at home in Week 18, but the Cardinals also lost four of their last five games, starting with a home loss to the Rams. Nevertheless, the slate is wiped clean for Arizona, which has the talent to make a run.
The Rams also lost their regular-season finale, losing in overtime to a desperate San Francisco, snapping a five-game losing streak. But thanks to Arizona’s Week 18 loss, the Rams were able to win the NFC West at 12-5. As a result, the Rams get to play Monday’s game at home, where they were 5-3 this season.
This game means a lot to Matthew Stafford, who rarely got the Lions to the playoffs and never won with Detroit once he got there. While the Rams were one of the best passing teams in the league during the regular season, Stafford finished the season with eight touchdown passes and eight interceptions in his last four games. Despite winning three of those four games, the Rams need better ball security out of Stafford, especially since they aren’t the type of team to let their running game carry them.
On the other hand, the LA defense does have the personnel the carry the Rams if needed. While the numbers suggest an average defense, Aaron Donald finished the season strong, leading a defense that amassed 50 sacks in 17 games with help from Leonard Floyd and Von Miller. That trio can wreak havoc if the Rams have the lead while Jalen Ramsey is hoping to anchor a secondary that has looked vulnerable at times.
Flipping the Switch
While this is a big game in Stafford’s career, the same is true for Kyler Murray, who is making his first career playoff start. Unlike the LA quarterback, Murray threw just one interception over his last four games. However, he still didn’t look like the MVP candidate he was during the first half of the season before missing time with an injury, especially with DeAndre Hopkins unavailable.
Meanwhile, the Arizona defense had a lot of problems in the Week 18 loss to the Seahawks despite opening the game with a defensive touchdown. During their 1-4 finish to the season, the Cardinals gave up 28.4 points per game. Even if J.J. Watt is able to return, there are injury questions about the defensive line and confidence issues on that side of the ball.
Who Do You Dislike Less?
Both the Rams and Cardinals almost have more reasons to bet against them than to bet in either one’s favor. But the Rams managed to finish the season strong despite Stafford’s issues while Arizona floundered down the stretch. If momentum means anything, bet on the Rams to win and cover on Monday night.
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