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How the Rams and Cardinals match up in Week 16

How the Rams and Cardinals match up in Week 16
Rams defensive backs John Johnson (43) and Marqui Christian (41) celebrate after stopping Arizona Cardinals tight end Ricky Seals-Jones (86) short of the first down in the second half at the Coliseum on Sept. 16, 2018. Rams won 34-0. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Rams (11-3) VS. Arizona (3-11)

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When Rams have the ball

An offense that looked unstoppable for most of the season is mired in a three-game slump. And so is quarterback Jared Goff, who passed for one touchdown, with six interceptions, in a victory over the Detroit Lions and losses against the Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles. Goff and coach Sean McVay have said that the mistakes are easily correctable. But they have been saying that the entire month. Cardinals end Chandler Jones has 12 sacks and safety Tre Boston three interceptions for a defense that ranks 17th overall and fifth against the pass. Rams star running back Todd Gurley did not practice last week because of what the Rams described as left knee inflammation, and McVay said Gurley’s availability would be a game-time decision. The Rams signed veteran C.J. Anderson last week to augment running back depth. And with second-year pro Justin Davis nursing a shoulder injury, Anderson could start and play a big role against the Cardinals. Anderson rushed for more than 1,000 yards for the Denver Broncos in 2017. This season, he gained 104 yards in 24 carries for the Carolina Panthers before he was released in November. The Cardinals are giving up nearly 145 yards rushing per game, which ranks 30th in the NFL.

When Cardinals have the ball

Under first-year coach Steve Wilks, the Cardinals’ offense ranks last in the league in every major category. The Rams did their part by shutting out the Cardinals in Week 2. Rookie quarterback Josh Rosen supplanted Sam Bradford two weeks later. Byron Leftwich was promoted to offensive coordinator after Mike McCoy was fired when the Cardinals started the season 1-6. Even with the switch, Rosen has struggled to find much success. The former Bellflower St. John Bosco High and UCLA standout has completed 58% of his passes, 10 for touchdowns, with 14 interceptions. Rosen has been sacked 35 times. Running back David Johnson is a dual threat who has rushed for 843 yards and seven touchdowns, and caught 46 passes, two for touchdowns. Veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald, a future Hall of Famer, has 59 catches, five for touchdowns. This could be a game for Rams tackle Aaron Donald to break out of what qualifies for him as a mini-slump. Donald has a league-best 161/2 sacks, but he has not recorded one in the last two games. If Donald or others can pressure Rosen, there should be opportunities for turnovers. Cornerback Aqib Talib intercepted a pass against the Eagles, his first for the Rams. Safety John Johnson has a team-best four interceptions.

When they kick

Keep an eye out for Pharoh Cooper. The 2017 Pro Bowl kick returner was waived by the Rams last week to make room on the roster for running back C.J. Anderson. The Cardinals claimed Cooper, and no doubt pumped him for information about the Rams. Now he could be returning kicks and catching passes against the team that drafted him in 2016 but cut him loose only a few weeks after he returned from ankle surgery.

Gary Klein’s prediction

After losing two consecutive regular-season games under McVay for the first time, the Rams should break out of their malaise against a 3-11 Cardinals team that is playing for pride.

RAMS 30, CARDINALS 17

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