Arizona Cardinals @ LA Rams Preview
Monday 8.15pmEst/1.15amUK, SoFi Stadium, ESPN
The LA Rams and Arizona Cardinals will do battle for the third time this season after Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford were able to pry the NFC West title away from Arizona. The two teams split the regular-season series as the Cardinals won the first matchup by 17 points, and the Rams won the second by just a touchdown. However, after an incredible start to the year, Kliff Kingsbury's team fell off a cliff after starting 7-0. They ended the season 4-6 as Kyler Murray struggled to rediscover his early-season form. The fortunes were much different in Los Angeles. Despite Stafford's interception problem, the Rams managed to end the year 5-1. The winner of this matchup will have to travel to Tampa Bay. A team LA has already beaten this season.
LA Rams- Eric Weddle was activated to the main roster alongside Blake Countess on Monday, meaning both will feature for the Rams. The addition of the two safeties makes sense after Taylor Rapp was ruled out due to a concussion. The only other cause for concern is Van Jefferson, who struggled with a shoulder problem during the back end of the week. He will be questionable for the game.
Arizona Cardinals- The two big pieces of news regarding the Cardinals are the availability of DeAndre Hopkins and JJ Watt. Hopkins, who tore his MCL in Week 14, will miss the wildcard game. For Watt, the news is much more positive. After suffering what appeared to be a season-ending shoulder injury, Watt has done a great job to battle back and get healthy in time for the postseason. He is expected to play against the Rams.
Justin Pugh is a huge doubt for the game after being unable to participate in Saturday's practice due to an ankle problem. He was a limited participant the day before. James Conner, who did not participate earlier in the week due to a rib injury, was a limited participant on Saturday. Another key cog in the offense that may miss the game. Rondale Moore is another questionable player, having been a limited participant all week. If he is good to go, you will have to question how much he can give to the cause. However, there is good news for the defense, as Jordan Phillips and Marco Wilson were full participants on Saturday after being limited during the week.
Prediction: Cardinals 20-31 Rams
The Rams should have enough to come out with the win. They are a high-scoring team that will come up against a defense that just gave up 38 points to a Seattle team that has struggled to get going all season. Matthew Stafford will need to cut the interceptions out of his game though; if he is careless with the ball, the pendulum could very well swing the other way. The Cardinals have been sub-par on offense for weeks now and have shown no sign of improving. It does make you wonder how crucial a fully healthy DeAndre Hopkins truly is. However, the Cardinals could now be without Justin Pugh and James Conner, and if they play, they will be far from 100%. It will just make Kyler Murray's life harder than it already was. JJ Watt playing could be their wildcard. He played a huge role in helping the Houston Texans win a playoff game a couple of years ago. That was just after coming off IR following a season-ending injury too. Tonight could be another game to add to his legacy. Sadly, with the way the Cardinals have played since the Green Bay game, I do not see that happening.