Los Angeles Rams (8-4, 5-7 ATS) at Arizona Cardinals (10-2, 9-3), 8:15 p.m., MNF
Brolley’s Rams Stats and Trends
The Rams are 1-5 ATS in their last six games.
Los Angeles is 5-2-1 in its last eight games.
Matthew Stafford has hung 295+ yards and three TDs in each of his first two games since LA’s Week 11 bye. He averaged 7.8 (Jags) and 8.0 YPA (Packers) in those contests after averaging 5.9 (49ers) and 6.1 YPA (Titans) in his last two games before their bye. Stafford completed 26/41 passes for 280 yards (6.8 YPA), two TDs, and one INT in this matchup back in Week 4.
Cooper Kupp posted a ho-hum 8/129/1 receiving on 10 targets against the Jaguars last week. He’s now posted 7+ catches and 90+ yards in all but one game this season, which happened to come against this week’s opponent. Kupp had his worst showing of the season with 5/64 receiving on 13 targets against the Cards in early October.
Van Jefferson owns a 22% target share since Robert Woods went down for the season with his season-ending knee injury before Week 10 after owning a 15% share in the first nine weeks of the season. He posted his second- and third-best fantasy games of the season in Weeks 12-13 with a combined 9/134/2 receiving on 17 targets. Jefferson had his best and most complete game of the year against the Cardinals in Week 4, catching all six of his targets for 90 yards and a TD.
Odell Beckham saw his snap share reduced to 53% last week after playing 98% of the snaps in LA’s first game back from their Week 11 bye. The Rams won by 30 points and OBJ was dealing with a hip injury last week, but he found the end zone with 10+ FP for the second straight week. The Cardinals have limited perimeter WRs Darnell Mooney (5/27 receiving) and D.K. Metcalf (4/31) in consecutive games.
Tyler Higbee has reached 12+ FP just once in 12 games this season, but he’s been more serviceable of late with 9.8+ FP in three of his last four contests. Higbee posted his typical 4/36 receiving on six targets against Arizona earlier this season, and the Cardinals are giving up the third-fewest FPG (8.3) to the position.
Sony Michel stepped into the lead runner role with Darrell Henderson serving as an emergency back with his quad injury last week. Michel played well and turned his opportunity into 27/127/1 scrimmage against the Jaguars, which complicates this backfield moving forward. HC Sean McVay has preferred to use a clear lead back in his offenses, but a split backfield could be here to stay down the stretch. The Rams signed a practice squad RB Makhi Sargent in the middle of the week, which may not be the best sign for Henderson’s availability this week. Henderson owned this backfield with 14/89 rushing and 5/27 receiving when these teams squared off in early October.
Brolley’s Cardinals Stats and Trends
The Cardinals beat the Rams 37-20 in early October as 3.5-point road underdogs in a game totaled at 54 points.
Arizona is 8-2 ATS in its last 10 games.
The Cardinals have won all seven of their road games by double-digit margins.
The Cardinals played it extra cautious with Kyler Murray by sitting him for more than five weeks with his ankle injury, so it was a bit shocking to see him running around like a mad man in sloppy conditions against the Bears in Week 13. He posted 10/59/2 rushing for 17.9 FP as a runner, which was more fantasy production than he had posted in his previous six games as a runner — he had 39/96/1 rushing for 15.6 FP in Weeks 3-8. He didn’t have to do much as a passer, completing 11/15 passes for 123 yards (8.2 YPA) and two TDs, but when combined with his rushing production it was good enough for his first 30+ FP performance since he did it twice to open the season. Murray must be feeling healthy after posting a season-best 10 carries — his previous best was seven rushing attempts in 2021 — and this passing game will get back to letting it rip in domed conditions this week. He previously posted 268/2 passing and 6/39 rushing against this week’s opponent, the Rams, back in Week 4.
DeAndre Hopkins, in his first action since Week 8, got his work done early with a 20-yard touchdown on Arizona’s first drive against the Bears before taking a little siesta the rest of the afternoon in Week 13. He caught his only other target to finish with 2/32/1 receiving on a day in which Kyler attempted just 15 passes in ugly conditions in Chicago. The best sign is that Hopkins didn’t appear to be hindered by his nagging hamstring injury, and he actually paced the Cardinals’ WRs in snap share (74%) and routes (17). Hopkins should be back to a near full-time role in the comfy confines of State Farm Stadium this week. He posted 4/67 receiving on seven targets against Jalen Ramsey and company when the Cardinals first met the Rams back in Week 4.
A.J. Green led the Cardinals’ secondary WRs with 15 routes and a 14-yard catch last week, followed by Christian Kirk (13, 1/4 receiving) and Rondale Moore (13, 1/8) in sloppy conditions. Green hasn’t reached 12+ FP since Week 6, Kirk has just 3/29 receiving in his last two games, and Moore has hit double-digit FP just twice in his last 10 games. In this matchup back in Week 4, Green had 5/67/1 receiving, Moore had 3/28, and Kirk caught his only target for five yards.
Zach Ertz had just a 10-yard catch in rainy conditions last week, but he matched Nuk for the most routes with 17. Ertz is averaging 3.0/36.8 receiving on 4.3 targets per game with two TDs in his first four games with Kyler at quarterback. The Rams are giving up the 14th-most FPG (12.9) and they’re allowing the seventh-most targets (7.9) to TEs.
The Cardinals opened the window for Chase Edmonds to return this week off of his high-ankle injury, but he’s not guaranteed to return this week. However, it is a pivotal game in the NFC West title race so Edmonds will likely play if healthy enough to go. James Conner averaged 18.0/68.0 rushing and 3.8/43.8 receiving per game with six touchdowns in four games as the team’s bellcow back. Edmonds posted 12/120 rushing and 4/19 receiving while Conner had 18/50/2 rushing and 2/16 receiving when these teams met in Week 4.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 26.6 (7th)
Plays per game: 64.0 (12th)
Pass: 65.5% (7th) | Run: 34.5% (26th)
Pace: 26.6 (5th)
Plays per game: 63.4 (14th)
Pass: 52.2% (28th) | Run: 47.8% (5th)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
Beyond all of the playoff seeding implications here, this obviously sets up well as a great game for fantasy / betting too. Rams-Cardinals is the second-best matchup for Week 14 from a pace and play volume angle and we obviously have a good barometer of how explosive these two teams can be from earlier in the season when their Week 4 meeting combined for 57 total points.
The Cardinals were sharp last week in Kyler Murray’s return and only needed 51 plays of offense to score 33 points on the Bears. Obviously, Andy Dalton throwing 4 INTs and taking 3 sacks helped put Arizona in good field position all game long – but it still marked the seventh time this season that the Cardinals have put up over 30 points in Kyler Murray’s 9 starts. That’s damn impressive.
Meanwhile, the Rams got right in the ultimate get-right spot last week at home against the Jaguars. Even in a game they controlled throughout, Matthew Stafford dropped back to pass 39 times (compared to 26 runs) in their 37-7 drubbing of Jacksonville. That only continued a larger sample trend of the Rams throwing a ton, early and often. L.A. is 61% pass-heavy on early-downs (fifth-highest rate) and those 1st and 2nd down throws are generating 8.9 YPA (third-best).
Everything sets up for this game to be another high-scoring affair, just like their previous matchup back in Week 4.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
Cooper Kupp is going to take one for the team by drawing the coverage of Byron Murphy Jr. And the alignment percentages will place Robert Alford over Odell Beckham Jr. A matchup on the right side of the offense between Van Jefferson Jr. and Marco Wilson is simply music to the ears. Jefferson isn’t quite ready to be featured as the No. 2 option in the Rams’ offense. While I do feel he is very close, he doesn’t need to worry about defenses focusing their attention on him after they account for Kupp. The addition of OBJ may add the potential for personality clashes, but it also guarantees a ton of defensive attention will be focused in his direction – whether it’s deserved or not.
Can I guarantee that Jalen Ramsey will shadow DeAndre Hopkins this week? I cannot. But it’s an extremely simple scenario in my view. If Ramsey is straight-up tasked with shadowing Hopkins, we fade. If Ramsey spends 80+% of his time on the outside again, we fade since DeAndre remains locked into his favorite spot on the left perimeter.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
The Cardinals got Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins back last week, and Kyler’s ankle looks healed up — he set season highs with 10 carries, 59 rushing yards, and 2 rushing TD. As he’s been a player who has performed worse in his career when injured, this was just the performance we needed to feel confident in using Kyler as a QB1 moving forward. His rushing production had dried up before he starting missing time, and that really made him a mediocre fantasy asset. But anything close to what we got last week makes him the elite option he was drafted as.
Meanwhile, with Hopkins back, Christian Kirk was demoted. Hopkins was the Cardinals’ route leader at 83%, followed by Zach Ertz (78%), AJ Green (70%), Kirk (61%), and Rondale Moore (61%).
One guy who has been a surprising elite asset has been RB James Conner, who has had a true bell-cow role — over the last five weeks, he averages 18.5 carries, 4.5 targets, 20.3 XFP (5th), and 23.6 FPG (5th), on 82% of the snaps (2nd among RBs). But all those games have come without Chase Edmonds (ankle). And now Edmonds is eligible to return off IR.
Here’s your Chase Edmonds practice update for the day.— Tyler Drake (@Tdrake4sports) December 10, 2021
The #AZCardinals RB with the one-handed grab during practice Friday. pic.twitter.com/bmhiIGa0Ro
With Edmonds active, Conner was just a touchdown-or-bust (49.0 YFS) mid-range RB3 (11.5 FPG). Without Edmonds, he’s proven to be one of the highest-end bell cow RBs in fantasy. I can’t imagine the Cardinals will go away from what’s been working so well (Conner as their lead back), but Edmonds is almost certainly going to cut into his work enough that it’s worth considering Conner more of a low-end RB1. I can’t really downgrade him more than that given the injuries at the position.
The Rams got a monster performance from Sony Michel last week in a win over the Jaguars, and it’s a legitimate question as to how Michel and Darrell Henderson — once Hendo is healed from a quad injury — will split reps going forward.
opinion is that what he'd REALLY like to do is utilize more two-back personnel sets between Michel and Henderson, who has really been a positive in the passing game. McVay hinted at this pre-Akers injury, and also discussed openly when sharing w/me potential of Akers' return.— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) December 7, 2021
Sean McVay sees room for both Sony Michel and Darrell Henderson Jr. in the Rams' offense, similar to how Dallas is using Zeke and Pollard https://t.co/yTFav1XSbX— Cameron DaSilva (@camdasilva) December 7, 2021
Based on that Zeke/Pollard comparison, if both are active for this game, I’d consider Michel a TD-dependent RB2 and Henderson an upside kind of FLEX, especially if the game evolves into a high-scoring affair.
Michel was a beneficiary of the Rams using a much heavier dosage of multi-TE sets last week. Here’s Graham from Stat-Pack on that approach:
The Rams got away from their usual 3-WR (11-personnel) looks in Week 13 against the Jaguars as Sean McVay used 2-WR, 2-TE (12-personnel) sets on 24% of their plays.
LA used 12-personnel on just 4% of their plays over their five previous games.
Odell Beckham was often the odd-man out in their 2-WR sets as Kupp (41) and Jefferson (37) led the team in routes while OBJ ran just 24.
Sony Michel averaged a nice 6.9 YPC on his nine carries out of 12-personnel and just 3.9 YPC out of 11-personnel.
We’ll see if the dinged-up Odell Beckham continues to be the odd man out here, or if the 12-personnel gameplan was more specific to the Jags. Meanwhile, here’s Scott Barrett from XFP on the Rams’ new stud receiver, Van Jefferson:
“Since Week 7, Jefferson ranks: 26th in targets per game (7.8), 20th in XFP/G (15.1), and 30th in FPG (12.7). Over this span, he’s seen at least 7 targets in every game but one, and in that game he gained 88 yards on 6 targets.”
The Rams WRs are as such: Cooper Kupp (high-end WR1, though watch his apparently minor toe injury), Jefferson (WR2), and Beckham (volatile but upside-oriented WR3).
Despite the Rams’ increased usage of two-TE sets last week, Tyler Higbee still failed to produce much. He’s been one of the most frustrating players in all of fantasy. Here’s Scott Barrett from Start/Sit:
“Despite ranking highly in route share (86%, 2nd-most), and seeing decent target volume (5.3 targets per game, 15th-most), and playing in a top-3 offense, Higbee has failed to exceed 11.0 fantasy points in each of his last nine games. He ranks just 24th in FPG over this span (8.1). And I wouldn’t expect too much more than that this week, against an Arizona defense that ranks 5th-best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing TEs (-2.8).”