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|Los Angeles Rams||-1.5
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Tune in to see if QB Murray (leg) can even suit up for this one, because it is his mobility that makes the Cardinals offense so dangerous, though the Rams pass rush will most likely make life tough for Arizona either way.
Rams -1.5 (-104)
|Cardinals vs Rams Information|
|What||Arizona Cardinals vs Los Angeles Rams|
|Where||SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA|
|When||Sunday, January 3, 2020; 4:25 PM ET|
|How to watch||CBS|
The 8-7 Arizona Cardinals and the 9-6 Los Angeles Rams are both fighting to earn one of the three NFC Wild Card spots that are still up for grabs in that conference, and a win here would get the Cardinals and quarterback Kyler Murray into the postseason for the first time since the 2015 season.
The LA Rams are in a bit of a panic mode as they fight one of the remaining playoff spots after having lost two games in a row (including to the until-then-winless Jets) and now they must protect the slot they have earned with just one more regular-season win here, and they must do it with backup QB John Wolford.
These two NFC West franchises have played each other 84 prior times (including 1 postseason game), with the Los Angeles Rams winning 44 of those games and the Arizona Cardinals winning 38 of the games, plus they have tied twice.
QB Kyler Murray’s Cardinal offense is currently the second most productive behind the Chiefs, averaging almost 27 points per game, numbers that make them tough to beat simply because that is a lot to outscore.
Arizona will be facing the Rams number one ranked defense – a squad that only allows opponents to gain a total of 286.5 yards and score 19.3 points per game, and one that includes one of the best players in the National Football League, Aaron Donald (see below).
Murray (lower leg) is the X factor, though, listed as questionable right now, a QB with a rocket arm that completes 67.1 percent of its passes and a speedy set of legs that has carried the ball 131 times this season for 816 yards and 11 touchdowns, forcing defenses to cover him like another RB.
The Rams have dropped two in a row, and QB Jared Goff threw an interception in each of those games, and against the Seahawks last week he only completed 55.8 percent of his passes, far below his career average of 63.4.
Now due to a thumb injury that required surgery, Goff will not be suiting up for this one, and instead, the start will go to backup quarterback John Wolford under center, the only QB to make his first NFL start in Week 17 with the playoffs on the line since the Dallas Cowboys’ Kyle Orton at the end of 2013.
The Rams are decent in the WR department with Cooper Kupp and Brandin Woods and Josh Reynolds in the room, plus they benefit from having tight end Tyler Higbee, whose soft hands and ability to get open provide a decent check down the target for Wolford when he needs it.
Arizona has fashioned a reputation in 2020 as a solid rushing team, right now ranked third in the league after gaining an average of 146 yards per game on the ground, a direct result of the amount of depth the team has in the running backs’ room.
Except for Week 17, with RB Cam Akers listed as questionable and RB Darrell Henderson listed as doubtful, a load of carries in this game will go to Malcolm Brown and his rookie backups Xavier Jones and Raymond Calais.
So far this season, Brown has carried the ball just 98 times for 399 yards and 5 touchdowns, numbers that should increase rapidly on Sunday if all goes well.
The Rams are fortunate enough to have arguably the best football player in the league on their team, DT Aaron Donald, a 29-year old veteran who is a 2x Defensive Player of the Year, a 5x All-Pro, and a 7x Pro Bowler.
Donald is the type of player that QBs have nightmares about and DC’s must account for in their game plans, but a big factor is his injured ankle which has him listed as questionable for this Week 17 matchup.
If he can stand up, chances are Donald will play in this one because the team needs the win to hang onto their Wild Card slot, but it is whether the injury keeps him from playing at the full potential that could factor in, although Donald even at ¾-speed is still better than most of the DTs playing in the league right now.
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