By Phil Simon
An NFC West matchup concludes Super Wild Card Weekend when the Arizona Cardinals visit the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night.
The teams enter the postseason having lost their regular season finale allowing the Rams to back into the division title while earning home field for this matchup. Arizona snapped an eight-game losing streak in the series with a 37-20 win in Week 4. LA used a 30-23 win in the desert in Week 14 to propel them to their fifth division crown in the last five seasons. The Rams are positioned as a 3.5-point favorite on the NFL betting lines.
Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams
Date and Time: Monday, January 17, 2022, 8:15 p.m. ET
Location: SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, CA
Opening NFL Odds: Los Angeles -4, O/U 50.5
Cardinals at Rams TV Coverage: ESPN
The road to the Super Bowl begins with this matchup in the Wild Card round. It wasn’t a surprise to see the Rams laying 4-points on the opening line since every NFL favorite this week is hosting a playoff game. Even though both teams lost on Sunday the Rams had better results down the stretch winning five in a row with four payouts before falling to the Niners. Arizona’s woes started with its loss to the Rams in Week 14. The Cards lost four of their last five games going 1-4 ATS. They did enough over the first 13 weeks to secure a playoff berth, but the division title was there for the taking. The Rams have had the better of the season series winning eight in a row before their Week 4 setback. Since the start of the 2017 campaign LA is 9-1 SU and 8-1-1 ATS against the Cards. Arizona counters with a near perfect road record. Their win in LA was one of eight away triumphs. The Cards were also one of the best NFL picks against the spread going 8-1 ATS in their nine road contests.
The Cards haven’t been affected playing on the road taking down Tennessee, Dallas and the Rams. They do need to get over their late season swoon, though. While it didn’t cost them a playoff berth like last season, the club is headed in the wrong direction. And it’s not just that they lost, but who they lost to. They were embarrassed by Detroit, 30-12, in Week 15 and with the division title still in play on Sunday, the Cards succumbed to the Seahawks 38-30.
He’s played in countless big games during his football career, but this will be Kyler Murray’s NFL playoff debut, and that always presents different challenges. Murray had a fine season completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for 3,787 yards and 24 touchdowns. He would have been in the MVP discussion if not for missing three games and the team struggling down the stretch. The Cards ranked among the top-10 in total offense and were 11th in scoring, but those numbers were better on the road.
Stopping the Rams, or at least slowing them down, could be a little easier if J.J. Watt is healthy enough to return. Watt is eligible and his presence would help a defense that struggled over the last five games. They allowed a season-high point total in the 38-30 loss to Seattle on Sunday and surrendered an average of 28.4 points over the final five games.
Los Angeles Rams
It seems like it’s been Super Bowl or bust for the Rams since the offseason when they landed Matthew Stafford in a deal with the Lions. They certainly didn’t acquire Stafford for his postseason success since he hasn’t had any. Stafford is 0-3 as a starter in the postseason with all of those losses coming in Detroit. Still, much like Murray, there’s plenty of pressure on Stafford to deliver.
Early on he did that with an amazing start to the season. Things have cooled for him considerably since about the mid-way point. Since Week 9 Stafford has tossed 11 interceptions with his total of 17 putting him tied for the most in the NFL. And opponents have directly benefitted from those miscues by returning four picks for touchdowns. Though Stafford wasn’t playing his best the Rams were able to win. He tossed a game-winning touchdown to Odell Beckham in the final minute to beat Baltimore in Week 17 and a fourth-quarter scoring pass the week before secured a win over Minnesota.
While they have a top-10 offense and averaged over 27 points, the ground game was an issue. The Rams averaged 99 rushing yards to rank 25th. To take some pressure off Stafford and become more diverse we could see more Cam Akers in the backfield. Akers had a stellar last season and was put on IR with a preseason injury. He made his season debut last week with limited touches, but could see an increased workload.
Bet Cardinals at Rams at BookMaker.eu
There’s nothing like NFL playoff gambling when everything gets ratcheted up a notch. And there is no room for error with the loser going home. Home teams typically have an advantage in the postseason and despite what happened in Week 4 it’s hard to go against the Rams, who were built for games like this with their cast of stars. Live NFL odds are available at Sugarhouse when you’re ready to bet on NFL games.
NFL Score Prediction: Rams 27, Cardinals 20