Arizona Cardinals (11-6, 10-7 ATS) at Los Angeles Rams (12-5, 8-9), 8:15 p.m.. Monday
Brolley’s Cardinals Stats and Trends
Arizona will hit the road for their first playoff game since the 2015 season, and they might be happy to be playing in Los Angeles considering their extreme home-road splits this season. The Cardinals own a remarkable 8-1 outright and ATS record away from Glendale while they’re riding a five-game outright and ATS losing streak at State Farm Stadium.
The Cardinals are 1-4 outright and ATS in their last five games overall, which includes a 30-23 loss to the Rams as three-point home underdogs in a game totaled at 51 points in Week 14. Arizona wiped out the Rams 37-20 as 3.5-point road underdogs in a game totaled at 54 points in Week 4.
The Cardinals scored a defensive touchdown on the second play of the game and they still lost 38-30 as 5.5-point home favorites against a seven-win Seattle squad.
Kyle Murray is averaging 6.2 YPA with five touchdown passes in the four games since DeAndre Hopkins left the lineup. He’s at least been on the move since he returned to the lineup off his ankle injury in Week 13, posting 35+ rushing yards in five of his six games in that span. He’s posted 651/2 passing and 13/100 rushing in two games against the Rams this season, which both came with Hopkins on the field. The Rams lost S Jordan Fuller to a season-ending ankle injury in Week 18, and S Taylor Rapp is in concussion protocol so the Rams could be a bit vulnerable on the back end. They’re so desperate they signed 37-year-old Eric Weddle, who hasn’t played since the 2019 season.
Christian Kirk has paced these WRs with a 20% target share in seven games without Hopkins, averaging 5.6/63.0 receiving and 7.4 targets per game with one touchdown. He managed 3/86 receiving on six targets when these teams met in Week 14, which was Nuk’s final game of the regular season. Kirk caught his only target for five yards when the Cardinals beat up on the Rams in early October.
A.J. Green is sitting at just a 15% target share with Nuk out of the lineup, and he’s averaging just 2.4/39.0 receiving on 5.4 targets per game without a touchdown in seven contests. He had two of his better performances of the season against the Rams, posting 5/67/1 receiving in Week 4 and 7/102 in Week 14.
Antoine Wesley has yet to top 30 yards in the four games since Nuk left the lineup in Week 15, but the 6’4” wideout has scored three times in that span. The Rams allowed the second-fewest touchdown receptions per game (.6) to WRs this season.
Zach Ertz has paced this passing attack with a 25% target share in seven games without Hopkins, averaging 6.1/59.0 receiving on 9.0 targets per game with two touchdowns. Ertz managed 5/42 receiving on seven targets in his lone matchup against the Rams in mid-December. Los Angeles has given up 4+ catches to individual TEs in five straight games since Ertz did it against them.
The Cardinals get a little extra time for James Conner (ribs) and Chase Edmonds (ribs/toe) to heal this week. Edmonds said he’ll be ready to play Monday while Conner is a game-time decision. Edmonds finished with 12/120 rushing and 4/19 receiving on a 67% snap share when these teams met in Week 4 while Conner hung 18/50/2 rushing and 2/16 receiving on a 42% share. Conner got the backfield to himself in their second meeting in Week 14, posting 13/31/2 rushing and 9/94 receiving on a 96% share. Edmonds saw 16+ carries and 5+ receptions in two chances to be a bellcow back in Week 16-17.
Brolley’s Rams Stats and Trends
Los Angeles is coming off its first loss in 46 games with a halftime lead under Sean McVay. The Rams had run off five straight outright victories (4-1 ATS) before they squandered a 17-point lead in their overtime loss to the 49ers in the season finale.
The Rams went from being the second seed hosting a Taysom Hill-less Saints team to the fourth seed and a much more difficult path against the division-rival Cardinals.
McVay and the Rams own Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals over the last three seasons with a 5-1 outright record and a 4-1-1 ATS mark in this series.
Los Angeles is 4-1 toward unders in its last five games.
Matthew Stafford is stumbling into the playoffs with eight INTs and a 7.4 YPA average in his last four games after throwing just nine INTs while 8.3 YPA in his first 13 contests. Stafford has totaled 567/5 passing while averaging 8.0 YPA in his two matchups with the Cardinals this season. Arizona could get J.J. Watt (shoulder) back this week, and they’ve held opponents to 20 or fewer points in six of its seven games with Watt in the lineup — the Rams scored 20 points in Week 4. Cardinals’ opponents have posted 20+ points in 8-of-10 games without Watt in the lineup — the Rams scored 30 points in Week 14.
Cooper Kupp became the fourth player to win the receiving Triple Crown by leading the league in receptions (145), receiving yards (1947), and touchdown catches (16). He erupted for 13/123/1 receiving in their last matchup in Week 14 after posting his “worst” performance of the season against them in Week 4 with 5/64 receiving on 13 targets.
Odell Beckham has fallen below 40 receiving yards in four straight games and in six of his eight games with the Rams this season. He has scored five touchdowns in his last seven games, and his top fantasy performance came against the Cardinals in early December when he posted 6/77/1 receiving on seven targets.
Van Jefferson has cooled off since he scored in three consecutive games in Weeks 12-14, which included a 2/58/1 receiving performance against his father — Cardinals’ WRs coach Shawn Jefferson. Van has seen just a 13% target share (4.0 targets/game) over the last four contests, and he’s fallen below six FP in three of the four games. Jefferson has 8/148/2 receiving in his two matchups against the Cardinals this season.
Tyler Higbee is surging late in the season during his quarterback’s roughest stretch of the season, posting 41+ yards and 5+ catches in four straight games. He had his best game of the season with 6/55/2 receiving on eight targets against the 49ers. He missed Los Angeles’ matchup with the Cardinals in Week 14, but he had 4/36 receiving on six targets in their previous matchup.
Sony Michel got smothered by the 49ers in the season finale, averaging an ugly 2.0 YPC with 21/43 rushing and just a six-yard catch for 5.9 FP. He’s still seen 18+ carries in six straight games, but his other dud in that span came against the Cardinals when he finished with 20/79 rushing for 7.9 FP. The Rams got Cam Akers back in the mix last week with five carries and three catches for just 13 yards, which is a minor miracle considering he tore his Achilles just over six months ago from his return to action. It’s possible his role will grow more this week against a Cardinals’ defense that’s allowing 4.6 YPC to RBs.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 28.1 (13th)
Plays per game: 68.9 (8th)
Pass: 58.0% (25th) | Run: 42.0% (8th)
Pace: 28.3 (16th)
Plays per game: 64.1 (24th)
Pass: 62.9% (9th) | Run: 37.1% (24th)
Arizona is sliding into the playoffs having dropped four of their last 5 games and their point differential in those contests was a poor -7.2 average. Despite their slide, the markets have kept this spread tight all week long with the Cardinals laying just 4 points to the Rams. It’s not like Matthew Stafford and the Rams are rolling either.
That being said, I think we’re going to see HC Sean McVay empty the play sheet on Monday Night. This Cardinals secondary was lit on fire to close out the season, allowing a 70.5% completion rate, 7.8 YPA, and 11 TDs to 0 INTs over their final four games. The Rams are the third-most pass-heavy team in close games (65.3%) and they have all of the matchup-based appeal you could ask for to come out throwing here.
The Cardinals ended up running a whopping 75 plays in their last matchup with the Rams back in Week 14 because they got down 27-13 early in the third quarter and had to play fast to try and catch up. That’s kind of been the theme of their last few games: They get behind and have to ratchet up their pace offensively by circumstance. The Cardinals are the fourth-fastest offense when trailing this season.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
It hasn’t been pretty, it’s actually been quite painful to watch. An incredible 41.2% of Matthew Stafford’s INTs (seven-of-17) have been collected over the last three games. Fortunately for Stafford and the Rams, Arizona’s secondary will travel to Los Angeles this week. They field a defense without both of their starting perimeter CBs, Robert Alford and Marco Wilson. They do utilize Byron Murphy Jr. on the outside when opposing offenses play from 12-or-equally heavy personnel, but those snaps will be few and far between against the Rams.
In conjunction with Stafford, Odell Beckham will square off against Antonio Hamilton. The 2016 UDFA is delivering 0.29 FP/CS, 1.39 YPCS, 0.18 AY/CS, and a 96.7 TPR. The former three numbers would each rank in the bottom-15, if qualified.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
The key for Arizona’s offense in this game, at least from a fantasy perspective, is the availability of RBs James Conner (ribs) and Chase Edmonds (ribs, toe). As of now, it looks like Edmonds has a better chance to go than Conner.
Edmonds was asked about James Conner playing. Stressed that he's not a doctor and doesn't want to speak to another player's health.— Darren Urban (@Cardschatter) January 13, 2022
But "I find it very hard to believe that J.C. is going to miss this game."
We’re not going to get a final status report until Saturday, but I expect both Conner and Edmonds to be listed as “questionable.” That could make Eno Benjamin an interesting pivot play for playoff contests, though this game being Monday night really makes this a tricky situation.
In worse news for the reeling Cards, who have lost four of their last five games, it doesn’t appear that DeAndre Hopkins will be able to play at all this postseason, though I do anticipate they will make adjustments if they make a deep run.
DeAndre Hopkins (knee) is not expected to play for the Cardinals at any point in the postseason, per sources: https://t.co/AE0xEB4F4L— Kyle Odegard (@Kyle_Odegard) January 12, 2022
If the Cardinals are going to win this game with a secondary that is absolutely decimated, they’re going to have to do it like the 49ers beat the Rams last week — with a pass rush that got to Matthew Stafford frequently. Stafford was sacked five times last week, tying a season high.
And the Cards might just have a player to help them do that.
J.J. Watt was out there again on Friday, his left arm looking healthy. pic.twitter.com/GJDSsk0cfP— Josh Weinfuss (@joshweinfuss) January 14, 2022
All in all, as Wes alluded to above, this is a good matchup for Stafford and his receivers, and I expect Cooper Kupp to be targeted significantly on Monday night.
How about the Rams signing 37-year-old Eric Weddle to replace injured safety Jordan Fuller, by the way?