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Predictions: Can the Arizona Cardinals clinch a playoff spot against the depleted Rams?

Hopkins 49ers Cardinals Football
Posted at 2:21 PM, Jan 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-01 17:10:24-05

GLENDALE, AZ — Sports Director Craig Fouhy:

The Rams injury list looks like a who’s who on the first-string depth chart for L.A.

Quarterback Jared Goff is out after having thumb surgery; running back Darrell Henderson Jr. has been placed on injured reserve after sustaining a high ankle sprain against the Seahawks, and wide receiver Cooper Kupp and defensive lineman Michael Brockers have been placed on the Covid-19 list this week and are unlikely to play.

The good news: Arizona comes into the game as a 3-point favorite.

The bad news: The Cardinals laid an egg last weekend against the 49ers and ended up losing in a life-less effort despite having a playoff berth on the line.

The better news: Despite an ugly performance last weekend, the Cardinals get one more shot at making the playoffs. Win and move on as a Wild Card team, lose and your season is over. It doesn’t get much better than this! A playoff berth on the line in week 17… wow!

After suffering a lower leg injury last Saturday on the Cardinals final play of the game, quarterback Kyler Murray has been full go at practice this week and told the media on Wednesday that he plans to play. The Rams will go with back-up John Wolford, who hasn’t taken a snap in an NFL regular season game, let alone throw a pass. Wolford did quarterback the Arizona Hotshots of the Alliance of American football league a year ago, starting 7-of-8 games for Arizona.

But regardless of who’s in and who’s out, the Cards have to come out and show they care and want to make the playoffs. Another lifeless performance like last weekend will leave a sour taste in everybody’s mouth about this team and its coach as they move into the off-season. In reality, we never know which team is going to show up from week to week this season and that’s been aggravating. Is it the team that knocked off the 49ers on opening weekend or the team that laid an egg against the lowly Lions in week three? The team that won three straight against the Jets, Cowboys and Seahawks, or the team that fell apart against the Niners last week?

I can’t say I have a lot of faith in this team after what I saw last Saturday, but I’m hopeful they find a pulse and a sense of urgency to come out and put up some points against the Rams.

I’m sticking with my team, regardless of how angry I was last weekend, and the fact that they haven’t beaten the Rams in years! Forget all of that!

Prediction: Cardinals 31 – Rams 27

Sports Reporter Collin Harmon:

Well, it doesn't get much better than this. Win and put an end to a five-year postseason drought. And how poetic it is that standing in the way of the Cardinals trip to the playoffs is the one team that has given them fits and nightmares during that time.

The numbers are ugly since 2017, when the Cards 7-game losing streak against this division rival began. Twice they have been shutout, twice more they have been held to single digits in points. Meanwhile, the Rams have yet to be held to fewer than 31 points. In total, the Cardinals have been outscored 233-84. Yikes.

For Cards fans, a win Sunday would help drown a lot of those sorrows, exorcise some demons, whatever you want to call it. Hopefully the Cardinals are at least interested in showing up to play this week. Because if they do, they should win this game.

Even with a defense as great as LA's is, the Cardinals should be able to score enough points to put the Rams in the rear-view mirror. Having to overcome the loss of their leading rusher (maybe their top two), their leading receiver, and their starting QB, for a guy who has never appeared in an NFL game, much less a de-facto playoff game in week 17, is a lot. That's less than the 49ers were working with when the Cardinals inexcusably slept-walk through their week 16 game.

I think the message was received loud and clear. If it wasn't, then the Cardinals have far bigger issues than just missing the playoffs. But I don't think that will be the case Sunday. I think the Cardinals finally topple the Rams in a relatively low-scoring affair for these two teams, and put an end to their hiatus from the playoffs.

Cardinals 23 - Rams 17