Rams vs. Arizona Cardinals matchups, start time and how to watch
Breaking down how the Rams (12-5) and the Arizona Cardinals (11-6) match up heading into their game at 5:15 PST on Monday at SoFi Stadium. The game will be shown on ABC and ESPN.
When Rams have the ball: Matthew Stafford enters the playoffs coming off an up-and-down performance in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Stafford has passed for 41 touchdowns with 17 interceptions, which are tied for the most in the NFL. Stafford played through a toe injury against the 49ers and said this week it was not an issue. Sony Michel has been the top running back, but coach Sean McVay is expected to give Cam Akers more opportunities in his second game since returning from Achilles surgery. Receiver Cooper Kupp was a unanimous selection to the All-Pro team after catching a league-leading 145 passes for 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns. Van Jefferson, who has six touchdown catches, was limited during practice because of a shoulder injury and is listed as questionable, but he will play. Odell Beckham Jr. has five touchdown catches. Tight end Tyler Higbee did not play in the Rams’ 30-23 victory over the Cardinals because he was on the reserve/COVID-19 list. He has five touchdown catches. Safety Budda Baker and linebacker Isaiah Simmons are key players for the Cardinals defense. It remains to be seen whether lineman J.J. Watt is activated for the game after returning from shoulder surgery.
Matthew Stafford failed to win in three playoff starts with the Lions. In an NFC wild-card playoff game, he leads the Rams vs. Arizona in attempt to get that elusive postseason victory.
When Cardinals have the ball: Quarterback Kyler Murray was not as dynamic in the second half of the season as he was in the first but remains one of the NFL’s most formidable challenges. Murray passed for 24 touchdowns with 10 interceptions and rushed for five scores. Running back James Conner rushed for 15 touchdowns and caught three touchdown passes. He is listed as questionable because of a rib injury. Running back Chase Edmonds has averaged 5.1 yards per carry. The Cardinals offense has not been the same since receiver DeAndre Hopkins suffered a knee injury. So Christian Kirk, who had a team-best 77 catches, and receivers A.J Green and Rondale Moore must step up. Tight end Zach Ertz, who has three touchdown catches, has playoff experience, having won a Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Rams last week signed retired safety Eric Weddle to make up for the loss of Jordan Fuller, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury against the 49ers. Taylor Rapp will not play because of a concussion, so Weddle will rotate with Nick Scott and Terrell Burgess. With Fuller out, linebacker Troy Reeder could be the defensive signal-caller. Aaron Donald has 12½ sacks, Leonard Floyd 9½ and Von Miller five.
When they kick: Rams kicker Matt Gay, who was voted to the Pro Bowl, has made 32 of 34 field-goal attempts. Punter Johnny Hekker averaged 42.6 net yards per punt. Brandon Powell, who returned one punt for a touchdown, has provided the Rams with a kick-return threat. Cardinals kicker Matt Prater has made 30 of 37 field-goal tries. Andy Lee averaged 41.9 net yards per punt.
Gary Klein’s prediction: The Rams will shake off their loss to the 49ers and defeat the Cardinals for the second time this season. Matthew Stafford will get his first playoff win and lead the Rams to the divisional round.
RAMS 30, CARDINALS 24
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