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Rams vs. Arizona Cardinals: Betting odds, lines, start time and how to watch

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford scrambles for a first down.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford scrambles for a first down against the the Arizona Cardinals during a Rams loss at SoFi Stadium on Oct. 3.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The Rams will have to wait until Monday to answer the biggest burning question of their season. Can they beat a good team? Some will point back to Week 3 and the win against the Buccaneers, but that is an eternity ago in terms of how a football season progresses.

The Arizona Cardinals host the Rams to wrap up Week 14 and are lined as a 2½-point favorite across most of the market. Given that home-field advantage is around two points in the NFL, the two teams are virtually power-rated about the same. With how the first meeting went, that might be hard to believe, but the Rams are still viewed as one of the NFL’s best teams, despite the recent returns.

That could change after this game if the Rams fall short against a comparable opponent once again.

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Rams at Arizona Cardinals (-2½, 52), 5:15 p.m. PST; ABC, ESPN

The Rams have eight wins this season, but have not beaten a team of consequence since September. Losses to the Titans, 49ers and Packers more than overshadow wins over the Giants, Lions, Texans and Jaguars. The former are the types of teams that the Rams will face in the playoffs. The latter are teams that any playoff-caliber club should beat.

Things will have to go differently than the first meeting if the Rams are to pull the mild upset. In that Week 4 game, the Cardinals ran for 216 yards, far and away the most that Los Angeles has allowed this season. The Rams actually won the yards per play battle 6.3 to 6.2, but also trailed by two scores most of the game and racked up 197 of their 401 yards in the second half while trailing by at least two touchdowns the entire time.

Through 12 games, the Rams have only lost the turnover battle four times, but they’ve lost all four of those games. When things are free and easy, the Rams ball out, like they have against the bad teams. When things tighten up, they’ve struggled. That needs to change in a game like this, if for nothing else to give the team a little more confidence going into the postseason stretch run.

The Rams face a tough test against the NFC West-leading Cardinals and the Las Vegas Raiders look to overcome the odds against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The statistical profile for the Rams supports a high perception, as they have outgained the opposition by 1.1 yards per play, rank third in points per drive with 2.6 and second in percentage of drives ending in points at 47.3%. The Cardinals have only outgained opponents by 0.5 yards per play, but rank around the Rams in points per drive and percentage of scoring drives. Of course, they’ve also been without Kyler Murray at times, whereas the Rams have had Matt Stafford, albeit a banged-up one at various points.

One big area of weakness that needs to be addressed is third-down defense. The Rams are 23th in third-down conversion rate against. Good teams take advantage of that. Bad teams will not. The Cardinals are just outside the top five on third down on offense and do rank in the top five in third-down defense.

At risk of sounding like a broken record, the Rams need to prove it against a legitimate playoff contender before being worthy of a bet in these types of games. Perhaps this is the week that they do, but until proven otherwise, fading the Rams against quality opponents continues.

Pick: Cardinals -2½

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