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The Arizona Cardinals defense is ranked 11th so expect them to be a huge factor if HC Kliff Kingsbury’s team is to earn a win, although the biggest part of victory will be based on the play of QB Kyler Murray whose ability to throw on the run and escape the pocket for first downs a big reason why they started the season 10-2, but can they win without WR DeAndre Hopkins?
What a season the 12-5 Los Angeles Rams have led by their newly acquired QB Matthew Stafford, just the man under center to run HC Sean McVay’s tricky offense, a top-9 group who needs plenty of support from the 17th ranked defense that stars future Hall of Famer DT Aaron Donald and LB Von Miller with CB Jalen Ramsey in the secondary, an effective trio all game.
These two NFC West rivals have played each other 87 prior times (including 1 postseason game), with the Los Angeles Rams winning 46 of the games and the Arizona Cardinals winning 39 of the games, plus there have been two ties.
For a team that started out 10-2 on the year, the Arizona Cardinals took a huge downward plunge during the final five games of the season going 1-4 during that stretch, a scary drop for a team that started out 7-0 and ended on a 4-6 run that has them as the 5th playoff seed.
When QB Kyler Murray plays well, as in his passer rating is 100+, the Cardinals typically win, but in all four of their losses his rating dipped below the century marked, a sign that as he does well, so does his team, his 69.2 completion percentage proof that he often does well.
This season Murray has completed 333 passes for 3,787 yards and 24 touchdowns with 10 interceptions, his production a big part of why Arizona’s offense is ranked 8th in the league, this group capable of scoring over 26 points per game.
The LA Rams defense is ranked 17th in the league, so the question is whether they will be capable of containing one of the more mobile NFL QBs playing, the Cardinals’ Murray already with 88 carries for 423 yards and 5 touchdowns in the regular season.
Los Angels must seal up the edges of the pocket while preventing Murray from escaping through the front side for extra yardage, the pass rush led by DT Aaron Donald and assisted by LB Von Miller should be enough to get at Murray and force him into some quick throws.
A big key to victory will be turnovers and sacks, and the Rams are the third-best sacking team in the NFL right now after posting 50 team sacks in the regular season, something that Murray no doubt is thinking about, his team only as successful as he is under center.
It has been tough going for the Arizona Cardinals passing attack ever since star WR DeAndre Hopkins (knee – MCL) went out for the season in Week 14, a deep threat ball hog who is quick and strong enough to avoid tackles and earn plenty of extra yards after the catch.
Without Hopkins on the field, however, his long ball shoes must be filled by someone else, and WR AJ Green is the perfect playmaker to do it, the eleven-year pro who stood out for ten seasons as a Cincinnati Bengal now bringing that excitement over to Arizona.
Green should be a huge factor in this Wildcard MNF matchup against a Rams team that is ranked 17th against the pass, his speed and ability to produce – 54 catches for 848 yards and 3 touchdowns this season – are invaluable, especially as the number one receiver now.
Many NFL fans would agree that LA Rams DT Aaron Donald is the best player in the league, and those who might argue that would most likely put him close to the top, the 6’ 1” 280 pound 30-year-old veteran a 3x Defensive Player of the year and a 6x First Team All-Pro.
Donald is a relentless pass rusher whose football engine never stops for quarters of every game, his ability to zip past double-teams and chips is uncanny, so far those skills netting him some great 2021 numbers, with 12.5 sacks and 25 QB hits, 4 forced fumbles, and 84 tackles.
Last time these two teams played, Donald sacked QB Murray three times on the way to a solid 30-23 victory, a triplet of painful take downs that are no doubt still lingering in the rangy quarterback’s head, something that Donald will most likely take full advantage of on MNF.
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|Cardinals vs Rams Information|
|What||Arizona Cardinals vs Los Angeles Rams|
|Where||SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California|
|When||Monday, January 17, 2022; 8:15 PM ET|
|How to watch||ESPN, ABC, ESPN+|
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Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]More info on Mike Lukas
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