NFL Game of the Week: Cardinals vs. Rams
“I feel like as a team, we’re building towards something. We hadn’t beaten the Rams in how many years? I don’t know the exact number...but this is definitely something growing.”
After picking off quarterback Matthew Stafford in a 37-20 thrashing of the then-undefeated Rams, cornerback Byron Murphy and the Arizona Cardinals were most definitely “building towards something.”
Since their Week 4 matchup in Inglewood, California, the Cardinals and Rams have travelled along two distinct and separate paths after both teams took off out of the gates to 3-0 starts.
A two-turnover performance from Matthew Stafford and the Rams’ offense marked the first of many streaky showings over the next few months. While they’ve only lost three more games since this outing, this star-studded L.A. lineup still managed to underperform against a handful of lowly teams.
The following week, the Rams barely snuck away from the struggling Seattle Seahawks, who were led by backup quarterback Geno Smith for the majority of the game. Shortly after a couple nail-biter victories against the winless Lions and the one-win Texans, many began to take back their premature claims that the Rams were the team to beat in the NFC.
Their struggles continued all throughout the month of November, despite the additions of Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr. Sean McVay watched his highly touted squad free fall to 7-4 after dropping three consecutive games, a stretch where Stafford tossed five of his nine interceptions on the season.
In dire need of a victory, Stafford and the Rams responded in a 37-7 beatdown of the Jaguars a week ago. However, it is yet to be seen if Los Angeles can return back to peak form against an elite squad.
On Monday night, many questions will be answered regarding the postseason outlook on this shaky L.A. team, as they take on Kyler Murray and the 10-2 Cardinals.
Despite a three-game absence from Murray, Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals have held onto the top seed in the NFC. Journeyman quarterback Colt McCoy was handed the reigns during this span, leading Arizona to a 2-1 record.
Murray made his return to the field last weekend for the first time since injuring his ankle in Week 8, picking up right where he left off in a 33-22 victory over the Chicago Bears. Arizona’s superstar signal-caller appeared to be fully healthy, as he provided just under 200 yards of total offense and four trips to the endzone.
Now with both Murray and star receiver DeAndre Hopkins back on the field, the Cardinals are locked and loaded going into a pivotal Week 14 rivalry matchup.
What to Expect
When healthy, the Cardinals’ offense is simply one of the hardest to contain in the entire NFL.
In their first matchup this year, Arizona exploded for over 450 yards against an L.A. defense that was considered one of the best in the league. Murray went 24-of-32 passing with a pair of scores, but was aided by a dominant rushing attack led by Chase Edmonds and James Conner.
If the Cardinals’ offense is firing on all cylinders once again, we may be in store for another blowout. However, expect Rams’ defensive coordinator Raheem Morris to plan around fully eliminating one factor of the Arizona offense: the rushing attack.
The addition of Von Miller brings a much needed presence off the edge, especially against a dynamic offense. With that said, look for the Rams’ defense to make a valiant effort early on to contain the run game and put pressure on Murray early and often.
Even if the Rams manage to slow down the Cardinals’ offense, punching the ball into the endzone against this Arizona defense is no easy task.
Barring a perfectly executed gameplan on both sides of the ball, the Rams may have too much on their plate to handle in the desert on Monday.
Prediction: Cardinals 30, Rams 23
Grant Sheets is a first-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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