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Monday Night Football Preview — LA Rams vs Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals Football

Arizona Cardinals Can Clinch Playoff Berth By Beating the LA Rams

By Charles Jay

As we undertake this Monday Night Football preview for BetAnySports customers (present and future), we freely acknowledge that the stakes are very high. The Los Angeles Rams figured they would be a Super Bowl contender, and during this season they have gone “all-in” with the acquisitions of Von Miller and Odell Beckham.

But they have run into something a bit unexpected – the Arizona Cardinals, who have roared to the front of the pack in the NFC and will create a three-game lead in the NFC West with a win at State Farm Stadium (8:15 PM ET, ESPN). They will also clinch a playoff berth. But they want that #1 seed to host playoff games, although they are 7-0 on the road.

So who’s got the edge? Let’s take a look:

Monday Night Football Preview — The case for the Rams

Matthew Stafford has been about as productive as Sean McVay hoped he’d be when the Rams acquired him. He has thrown for 3611 yards and 30 touchdowns, leading the league with 8.05 adjusted net yards per attempt. When he is at the controls, the Rams are a threat to go downfield. And now, with the acquisition of Odell Beckham, they have a potential to be even more lethal.

Los Angeles has done a pretty good job at slowing down opposition ground attacks, surrendering just 3.8 yards per carry. And that contrasts with the job Arizona has done, as the Cards have yielded 4.7 yards per attempt. So the Rams have to find someone — anyone — to take advantage of that, in the absence of Darrell Henderson, who has been put on the COVID reserve list.

The Rams also should be able to get some pressure on Murray without having to blitz, because of the abilities of people like Aaron Donald. AND the Cardinals have done their best work on the road, not at home, where they are just 2-3 ATS.

Monday Night Football Preview — Here are the numbers…..

Currently at BetAnySports, the Cardinals are favored by a field goal:

Arizona Cardinals -3
Los Angeles Rams +3

Over 51 points -110
Under 51 points -110

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Monday Night Football Preview — The case for the Cardinals

Arizona employed something of a “Bill Belichick philosophy” in the first meeting, as they sought to take away the Rams’ best weapon. And it worked.

Cooper Kupp is going to be an All-Pro. He leads all NFL receivers with 100 catches and 1366 yards. He and Stafford have connected on 73.5% of all targets. But the Cards put a muzzle on him, relatively speaking, holding him to five catches in 13 targets (just 38.5%) and 64 yards. And there is no reason to believe they won’t try to do that again versus Stafford’s favorite receiver, even if they have to expose themselves somewhere else.

One area Arizona has been outstanding at is defending tight ends, as they have given up just 36 yards per game. So that would minimize the effect of someone like Tyler Higbee. All told, the Cardinals have allowed just six yards per pass attempt and have the league’s sixth best sack percentage, though we acknowledge that the Rams do a pretty good job in protection.

We can’t profess to know how much Murray is going to run with it. But the Cards will indeed run; they have done it 48.3% of the time, so the Rams have to account for it. James Conner is tough to deal with when the ball gets close to the end zone (12 rushing TD’s). And Murray throws the deep ball as well as anybody, with the highest completion percentage in the league on throws at least 20 yards down the field.

Their league-leading +12 turnover ratio is perhaps a cherry on top, although it is our obligation to tell you that they have put the ball on the ground 24 times, which is the most fumbles in the league. They just haven’t lost many of them.

Monday Night Football Preview — Our conclusion

It would be safe to say that the Arizona defense is “unsung.” But they are excellent on third downs (just 33% success allowed), very good at rushing the passer, and extremely good in the secondary. They are, currently, third best in the NFL in points allowed per drive, and since those stats were prior to the conclusion of this week’s games, they may move up a spot (over Buffalo).

Perhaps the best case you can make for the Rams would be to say that the Cardinals couldn’t possibly limit Kupp again, and that the best team they’ve played (Green Bay) beat them at home with practically no wide receivers. And we admit that the Rams could grind something out here. But we wonder if Stafford and McVay will be that patient. Maybe that promotes some “under” thinking.

But if you look at Stafford’s career, with all the pretty numbers, you might be surprised to know that when he’s played, he’s covered the number only 38% of the time against teams with records over .500. The Cards definitely qualify in that category. Yeah, we like Arizona here.

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Dirty has been an employee or owner of some of the top online sports gambling forums since 1998. He worked at EOG.com from it's inception until 2008 when he left and opened GamblingIQ and then in 2012 opened Handicappers Hidaway. He has written hundreds af articles over the years and always has his "Dirty Dozen" College Football poll up starting the first week of October.
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