One of the biggest matchups of the week is set as the Arizona Cardinals take on the Los Angeles Rams today with huge NFC West implications on the line (4:05 PM ET Sunday: TV: Live on Fox).
This will be the first of two meetings for the division rivals this year.It was only just a few weeks ago that the Cardinals were riding high. Having just defeated the Buffalo Bills after one of the best Hail Marys ever executed and one of the best final moment game swings this year, Arizona found itself leading the pack in the loaded NFC West.
Then the wheels started to fall off of the Kliff Kingsbury express. Arizona has dropped back-to-back games and now, not only is the lead in their division but their playoff spot period could be on the line as well. Currently, the Cardinals occupy the final spot in the NFC holding a precarious lead over that second wildcard. With so many teams vying for that spot and the race highly contested, any further losses added on to the losing streak could prove detrimental.
The Rams too are coming off a loss last week as they dropped a largely one-sided affair against the San Francisco 49ers. The loss, coupled with the Seattle Seahawks’ victory against the Philadelphia Eagles, helped cushion Seattle’s NFC West lead. It’s not too late for the Rams to make a splash in the division, which they have played well in all season. But there are only so many games left so the Rams too, find themselves in a must win situation. Though, unlike the Cardinals, a loss today won’t be make or break for the Rams’ overall playoff chances as they currently have a tentative grasp on the top wildcard spot due to their recent play.
Will McVay Remain Perfect?
Sometimes, teams just have other teams’ numbers and that’s largely been the case for Sean McVay’s Rams over the Cardinals. Since McVay and by extension Jared Goff, became the QB/HC duo in LA, the Rams are a perfect 6-0 against the Cardinals and from a betting standpoint, haven’t lost to the spread in that period either with five wins and one push. Will this USAbetting preview see the same thing happening when it comes to our final picks and LA Rams vs Arizona Cardinals predictions?
Part of the reason for LA’s success has been the particular offense they run. Playing into Goff’s strengths as a passer and a rushing attack that features one of the top runners of the past decade, LA has not only defeated the Cardinals the last six times but they have done so by a margin of victory just shy of 25 points.
That is hugely impressive as Arizona’s defense has simply had no answers and neither really has their offense. In fairness to the Cardinals, there is no time like the present to turn things around. Over that six-game span, it should be noted that the Cardinals’ own QB/HC duo of Kingsbury and Kyler Murray, have only played in two of those losses. It was the rookie season for the pair and while things haven’t been perfect in Arizona in 2020, the Cardinals are a much-improved unit compared to 2019. That Cardinals’ team has seemingly been absent the past two weeks but if Murray and Kingsbury can return to the formula that guided them over the first half of the season, it may be time for McVay and Goff to get their first blemish on their record against the Cardinals.
The Health of Murray’s Shoulder
There is no doubt that Arizona’s offense runs through one man and that man is Kyler Murray. A more than capable passer who is most dangerous as a threat when he can utilize his speed and pocket elusiveness, Murray has been dealing with a shoulder injury recently that seems to have affected his best weapon. That’s not so much been his throwing but rather his playmaking on the ground. Injuries can cause players to compensate in other ways and Murray has largely been protecting his shoulder by taking less risks from a takeoff and run standpoint and this has hurt the Cardinals bigtime as Murray is their top playmaker. He is able to make things happen that few others can but lately, Murray has hesitated in that regard and that has cost Arizona.
As the weeks go on, his shoulder health is getting closer to 100 percent and it is likely we will see him use his legs more this week. Murray has rushed for less than 50 yards combined over the past two weeks compared to totaling 60+ yards per week in each of the Cardinals’ last five games. Arizona knows they need Murray running to win games and the hope is he will return to that form this week. If he doesn’t, Kingsbury’s air raid offense becomes much more one dimensional. That outcome largely favors the Rams and their pass defense, where Aaron Donald will be waiting to get his hands on the QB. Donald is one of the top pass rushers in all of the NFL so Murray may be forced to scramble today whether he wants to or not. If the Rams can get significant pressure on the young QB, it could be a long day for Arizona.
Our Sunday NFL Game Preview’s LA Rams vs Cards Predictions & Betting Picks Advice
While offensively, the Cardinals are best suited to win this game, they’ll need their defense to stop McVay, Goff and co. Last week, the 49ers gave Goff all kinds of trouble and that’s certainly a playbook the Cardinals can borrow from. Arizona is one of the NFL’s best at red zone defensive efficiency allowing opponents to score on just over 50 percent of their drives. That’s huge as if the Cardinals can keep LA out of the red zone, they’ll have a much better chance of avoiding their third straight loss of the season.
Turnovers will also be key as LA is in the top ten of the NFL in turnovers, specifically in the red zone. Goff is certainly a capable passer but these missteps in red zone offense and play calling have stood in the way of what could have been an even better season for the Rams. The same goes for the Cards, whose own missteps at coaching over the last two weeks, have proven particularly costly.
These are two good but not great teams and today’s outcome could well come down to which team shows the best side of their 2020 campaign and not their worst. Both are coming off some of their worst performances of the season and no doubt both will look to shake off those losses en route to a win in this pivotal matchup.
These are USAbetting’s Rams vs Cardinals predictions and picks for today’s NFL game:
- Odds currently favor the Rams at -2.5pts on the spread, which just goes to show how tightly matched these two teams are. We like the Cardinals in this one to best that mark en route to avoiding their third straight loss. All signs point to Murray being as close to 100 percent as he has been since the losing streak began and that is the biggest factor in what we are predicting will be an Arizona win. So bet Cards + 2.5pts @ best odds of -105 with Bovada or Intertops. It is -107 with BetOnline and -110 with Bookmaker.
- With regard the total points that could be scored, if the air raid is going at full force, look for an offensive shootout between these two long-tossing, big play quarterbacks. Take the over 48.5pts @ -110 with any of Bovada, Intertops, Bookmaker and BetOnline.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.