L.A. Rams (7-4) @ Arizona Cardinals (6-5)
Sports Director Craig Fouhy's prediction:
For the first time this season, the Cardinals and Rams square off in a divisional game that will go a long way in predicting which team ends up in the playoffs.
It’s December and if you’re going to make the playoffs, it’s time to pull out all the stops and play to win. If that means Kyler Murray has to run the ball (injured shoulder or not) then he has to run the ball.
The fact is this game will come to two things:
1) Will Kliff Kingsbury allow Kyler to run and pass (as well as get him out of the pocket to throw) and do everything he can to win the game offensively? and;
2) Can the Cards defense slow down Jared Goff and the Rams offense?
Look, its not secret that the Cardinals offense is at it’s best when Kyler runs the ball on the run, pass option plays and when he gets to roll out and become a dual threat to run or pass. If his shoulder isn’t 100 percent and he can’t play at 100 percent, then this offense will struggle again.
Those two elements of Kyler’s game are also important to keep Aaron Donald off-balance. If left unchecked, Donald will singlehandedly dismantle the Cards offense.
On the other side of the ball, Vance Joseph’s defensive charges had better be ready to play. This Rams offense is able to come up with big play after big play so you have to play fundamental football every single down.
Oh, and there’s one more thing: Get DeAndre Hopkins involved! Please!
Prediction: Rams 31 Cardinals 34 *if Kyler runs the ball
Rams 31 Cardinals 21 *If Kyler doesn’t run the ball
Sports Anchor Collin Harmon's prediction:
In a season full of tough losses to swallow, last Sunday's in New England was the toughest. Not just because of the way the Cardinals gave away the game, but because of how crucial a win was at that juncture with what lies ahead. And what lies ahead this week, and twice over the final five weeks, is the Cardinals boogeyman.
The Rams have been an unrelenting thorn in the Cards side over the last 3+ seasons. Arizona has lost seven in a row to its nearest NFC West rival, six of which have come since Sean McVay took over in 2017. During that stretch, the Rams haven't just beat the Cardinals, but bludgeoned them, 195-31. While recent series history has no impact on this game, the feeling going into it isn't a warm and fuzzy one for me.
Both teams are coming off a last-second field goals to lose, but the Cardinals are in a more dire situation to end their playoff drought. It certainly doesn't help that their offense is in a complete funk. After scoring 30+ points in five straight games, the Cards have scored 38 combined in the last two losses. DeAndre Hopkins just had his worst two-game stretch in five years, and Kyler Murray still doesn't seem right.
Kyler said he doesn't think he has to run for the Cardinals to be successful. That may be true in the long run, but not right now, and the numbers back that up. They are 1-3 this year when he rushes for 31 yards or less, and 2-9-1 since he entered the league. When he attempts to run the ball less than eight times per game, the Cardinals are 1-12-1. He may be running for his life this Sunday, whether he wants to or not.
Aaron Donald continues to be the biggest nightmare in the NFL for offensive lines, but more than just him, the Rams defense has been historically good this season. They are allowing an average of just five points in the 2nd half this season, only giving up four touchdowns, and allowing just two since week 3.
The biggest question mark is Rams QB Jared Goff. How well (or poorly) he protects the football, is usually the determining factor in the outcome. If he doesn't hurt his team, I think they are by far the most complete team in the NFC West.
Larry Fitzgerald will miss another week after testing positive for COVID-19.
I am picking the Rams this week, which is good news for Cardinals fans since I have been wrong most weeks this season.
Prediction: Rams 31, Cardinals 21