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NFL Draft

Breaking Down Keys To Cardinals vs Rams

  • The Draft Network
  • September 30, 2021
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This Sunday’s marquee matinee matchup features two undefeated teams from the NFC West. This will be a huge matchup for two teams that have two of the most explosive offenses in the NFL—not to mention that the quarterbacks for each team, Matthew Stafford and Kyler Murray, are the two front-runners for the MVP award. Furthermore, the winner will be in the driver’s seat of the division.

Let’s look at Cardinals vs. Rams from the perspective of both teams.

The Arizona Cardinals Will Win If

For the Cardinals, this is a great game to make a statement. The Cardinals have been at the bottom of the division for several years. However, since the Cardinals drafted Murray, they have put the rest of the division on notice that this is NOT the same old Cardinals team. Murray lost more games in one season as a pro than he has as a starting quarterback in his high school and college career combined. He's made it very clear that he would not accept nor tolerate losing. 

The Cardinals acquired prominent veterans this offseason with the Rams in mind. They traded for Rodney Hudson, one of the best centers in the NFL, in an effort to somewhat neutralize the most dominant interior lineman the NFL has ever seen in Aaron Donald. They added offensive weapons like A.J. Green one year after trading for DeAndre Hopkins knowing they’d have to score points in the NFC West to have an opportunity to compete. 

In order for the Cardinals to win this game and other meaningful games, they will have to have a more balanced offense. Controlling the clock with time of possession will be key to keeping the Rams’ offense off the field. They haven’t run the football as well as they would like from the running back position and Murray throwing the football 50 times may not be a recipe for sustained success—he’s second in the NFL in interceptions. Nonetheless, they are leading the NFL in scoring, which gives them a fighting chance.

Defensively, they acquired J.J. Watt to add an interior presence defensively to support one of the best edge rushers in the NFL in Chandler Jones. If the Cardinals have any chance of winning this game, they will have to get pressure on Stafford. 

Furthermore, the Cardinals have a young but talented secondary. Byron Murphy is starting outside for the first time in his career and is proving that he’s one of the best cornerbacks in the division. So far, he’s having a Pro Bowl season. Opposite of him, Marco Wilson is extremely talented but will need to remain focused and play assignment-disciplined football to handle Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and DeSean Jackson.

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury will also need to avoid the coaching gaffes that have plagued him in years past for the Cardinals to have any chance at winning this game.

The Los Angeles Rams Will Win If

The Rams are clearly a different, more explosive team with Stafford at the helm instead of Jared Goff. All three of their wins this year have been against playoff teams from 2020. They are coming off a win against the reigning Super Bowl champions and the team that many believe will repeat. 

Similar to the Cardinals, the Rams would like to run the ball better to be a more balanced offense but Stafford, Kupp, Woods, and Jackson have proven they can carry this team. They have the No. 6 passing offense in the NFL. 

Defensively, the Rams are better against the pass than they are defending the run. Donald and that defensive front will have to be dominant to keep pressure on Murray and Jalen Ramsey will have to somewhat neutralize Hopkins. 

The coaching aspect is the one phase of the game where the Rams have a distinct advantage. Sean McVay has never had the coaching gaffes that cost the Rams games like Kingsbury has. In fact, McVay has never lost to the Cardinals in four years as the Rams’ head coach, winning eight straight against Arizona. The Rams had one penalty last week and are the least penalized team in the NFL. This has been a staple of a McVay team—well prepared and disciplined. 

However, the key in this game could be turnovers. In the two games in which the Rams won, Murray threw pick-sixes in both, which proved to be the difference. Murray has four interceptions on the year to Stafford’s one. 

Ultimately, this game will have plenty of fireworks and the Rams will win by a slight margin. Prediction: 35-31 Rams.

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