ARIZONA CARDINALS

NFL analysts give their pick for Cardinals vs. Rams Wild Card game

Jan 17, 2022, 7:00 AM | Updated: 8:05 am
A general view of an Arizona Cardinals huddle in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at...
A general view of an Arizona Cardinals huddle in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on October 03, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
(Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

The Arizona Cardinals may not have won the NFC West, but many NFL analysts like the team’s chances against division winner Los Angeles Rams in the Wild Card game on Monday.

The big question is whether or not the Cardinals with a road record at 8-1, or with a 1-5 record over the last six games will show up.

The questions will mount for both teams injury concerns.

How big of a roll will J.J. Watt play, if any? How will the Rams battle without two starting safties?

The Athletic’s scouts not only point out Arizona’s road record, but reminds fans that Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford has yet to record a win in the playoffs in his career.

Two of their three analysts picked the Cardinals to advance to the next round.

Scout 1 couldn’t wait to discuss the playoff slate’s final game.

“I want to pick the Cardinals so bad,” he blurted out. “Their road record (8-1) is unheard of. And I think the Rams have been so disappointing the second half of the season. … It’s crazy to say, but I’ve been underwhelmed by a team that’s won 12 games.”

For this scout, that uneasy feeling comes from watching quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Since Week 9, the ex-Lion has committed 15 turnovers, most of any player over that span. He’s thrown eight interceptions over the last four games.

“Stafford the last three to four weeks has been really sloppy with the football,” Scout 1 continued. “Kept the other teams in the game.”

That wasn’t the case in Week 14 against Arizona, the last time Stafford avoided throwing an interception. He threw three touchdowns as Los Angeles evened the season series 1-1 with a 30-23 win.

Harassed by defensive tackle extraordinaire Aaron Donald throughout, Cardinals QB Kyler Murray tossed two interceptions in the loss. Arizona lost four of its final five games. Scout 3 doesn’t see that trend changing because of the Cardinals’ lack of balance.

“If you can contain Kyler Murray, it’ll be really hard for them to win,” he said. “Not that anyone’s gonna truly run with Kyler Murray, but (the Rams) have guys that chase and stay close. … And Arizona’s offensive line, statistically, probably doesn’t look all that bad (12th in pass blocking win rate, per ESPN), but I think a lot of that is a function of Kyler Murray.”

Murray also remains without star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins — and Scout 2 still loves Arizona’s passing attack. Injuries wrecked the Rams’ secondary to the point that they signed 37-year-old free-agent safety Eric Weddle, who last played in 2019.

Scout 2: “If I’m Arizona, I’m going 10 personnel (four wide receivers, one running back, no tight end), and I’m going up-tempo. And I’m going to make them cover me with all your backups. … I’m gonna go ahead and say that (receivers) Christian Kirk, Rondale Moore and A.J. Green are probably more prepared to play in this game than Eric Weddle.”

Scout 1 pick: Cardinals
Scout 2 pick: Cardinals
Scout 3 pick: Rams

ESPN’s two analysts were split on their picks for Monday.

The duo said the two matchups between the teams already were wildly different and that the team that makes the least amount of mistakes will win and advance.

What to watch for: The Rams and Cardinals split the regular-season series, each winning on the road. The Cardinals dominated in Week 4 with a 37-20 win, enabled by a flawless Kyler Murray performance and their defense forcing two turnovers that were converted into touchdowns. In Week 14, Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald wreaked havoc for Murray when he turned in a three-sack outing. What can be expected in the rubber match? The Cardinals played their best on the road (8-1), while the Rams are coming off a disheartening loss in the regular-season finale and are intent on proving they can not only move on but also remain a Super Bowl-caliber team. Watch for Murray and Matthew Stafford to enter a quarterback duel, with the one who produces the fewest errors advancing to the divisional round.

Josh Weinfuss’ pick: Cardinals 34, Rams 24
Lindsey Thiry’s pick: Rams 28, Cardinals 21
FPI prediction: LAR, 58.0% (by an average of 2.7 points)

Bill Bender of SportingNews.com said that despite the lackluster play by the Cardinals of late, there is more belief in Murray at quarterback than Stafford.

The Cardinals were 1-4 in their last five games, and they allowed 30 points per game in the four losses. The Rams won the NFC West, and this is Matthew Stafford’s chance to make a Super Bowl run. The Rams have won nine of the last 10 meetings. Despite all that, Kyler Murray nearly shakes up the NFC playoff picture by leading the Cardinals to a victory.

Pick: Cardinals 33, Rams 30

The Cardinals currently sit at 3.5 point underdogs or +152 on the money line, meaning a $100 bet on Arizona to win would net you $152, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Tune in at 6:15 p.m. on Monday for all the action on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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