It’s a tale of two seasons for the Arizona Cardinals. They looked like Super Bowl contenders in the first half, but they finished the season by losing four of their final five games. Now the playoffs are here, and the current NFL odds have Arizona as 4-point underdogs.
Can the Cardinals rebound from their late-season struggles and beat the Los Angeles Rams? Here’s what you need to know for this matchup.
Cardinals at Rams (-4.5)
- Date: Monday, Jan. 17, 2022
- Time: 8:15 PM EST
- Venue: SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA
What Happened to the Arizona Cardinals?
After a 7-0 start, the Green Bay Packers handed the Cardinals their first loss. Week 8 was the first time Arizona lost the yardage battle, 335-334. The Cardinals also lost the turnover battle, turning the ball over three times to Green Bay.
QB Kyler Murray suffered a high-ankle sprain in that game and missed three weeks. Both running backs, James Conner and Chase Edmunds, also missed significant time this season.
After that game, the Cardinals struggled. Since starting 7-0, the Cardinals went 4-6 over the last ten games, scoring 30 or more points in only three of those matchups.
Can the Cardinals Win in Murray’s First Playoff Appearance?
The Cardinals and Rams played twice this season, with the road team winning both times. Yet, for the 2022 NFL playoffs, there are a couple of things in the Cardinals’ favor.
Arizona plays well on the road, going 8-1 this season. Their only loss outside of Arizona came in a shocker against the Detroit Lions in Week 15.
The Cardinals are 11th in points scored per game (26.4), while the Rams allow the 15th most points (21.9). The seventh-ranked Cardinals pass defense (214.4 yards allowed per game) will help against the Rams’ fifth-ranked pass offense (273.1 yards per game). Arizona is 20th in rushing yards allowed per game, but Los Angeles is only 25th in rushing.
On offense, the Cardinals are top ten in three categories: total yards (373.6), passing yards (251.5), and rushing yards (122.1). The Rams allow the sixth-fewest rushing yards per game, but they’re 22nd in passing and 17th in total yards.
Still, the injury bug continues to bite the Arizona Cardinals. James Conner returned in Week 18, only to leave with a rib injury. And Chase Edmunds is still nursing his ribs and toes. The health of these two running backs will be critical to Arizona’s offense.
The positive news is DE J.J. Watt’s potential return. Watt went down in Week 7 with a shoulder injury, and he could provide a much-needed spark for this Cardinals team. He could also help in the pass rush, hurrying Rams QB Matthew Stafford and forcing errant throws.
Stafford’s thrown 17 interceptions this season, including seven over the season’s final three games.
Arizona’s injury woes might be too much to overcome. Though the Cards beat the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17, they dropped their final game to the Seattle Seahawks to go 1-4 in the season’s last five games. DeAndre Hopkins is also out and unlikely to return unless the Cardinals make it to the NFC championship.
The Rams also have the third-most sacks in the NFL (50), while the Cardinals have given up the 15th most sacks. If the Rams can get pressure on Murray and force him to make rushed decisions, they could force a turnover that gives them the advantage.
I believe Arizona’s season ends on Monday night.
What’s your bet on the Cardinals’ chances to start winning again? Create an account at the BetMGM Arizona sports betting site and receive a risk-free initial bet worth up to $1,000.