Cardinals vs. Rams: How to watch, TV, live stream, odds, pick, keys for ‘Monday Night Football’. Matthew Stafford and the Rams visit Kyler Murray and the Cardinals in a pivotal NFC West showdown
At the end of a wild Week 14 in the NFL, we have one last matchup rife with playoff implications as the Arizona Cardinals host the division rival Los Angeles Rams on “Monday Night Football.”
Arizona holds the top spot in the NFC with a 10-2 record, and needs a win to hang on to that spot. Los Angeles is currently in a wild card position, but in danger of falling too far behind the Cardinals to make a run at the division crown before the end of the season. With Arizona having won the first matchup between these two teams, the Rams need a win here to achieve a season split and make the tiebreaker more complicated.
How will it all go down on Monday night? Will the Cardinals solidify their hold on the conference, or will the Rams make the playoff picture a whole lot muddier? We’ll find out later this evening. For now, let’s break down the matchup.
How to watch
Date: Monday, Dec. 13 | Time: 8:15 p.m. ET
Location: State Farm Stadium (Glendale, Arizona)
TV: ESPN | Stream: fuboTV (click here)
Follow: CBS Sports App
Odds: Cardinals -2.5, O/U 51.5
When the Rams have the ball
The Rams finally got back on track last week, hanging 418 yards and 37 points on the Jaguars. They had managed just 60 total points and 326 yards per game over their previous three contests, which they lost in decisive and somewhat concerning fashion to the Titans, 49ers, and Packers.
Matthew Stafford — who had combined for six turnovers (two of which were pick-sixes) during that three-game stretch — took care of the ball against Jacksonville, completing 26 of 38 passes for 295 yards and three scores before exiting the game due to the blowout conditions. He got back into a rhythm with Cooper Kupp before the game got into blowout territory, finding the league’s leading receiver for eight completions, 129 yards, and a score.
Kupp’s worst game of the season came all the way back in Week 4, when the Cardinals held him to just five catches on 13 targets, which totaled 64 yards. Byron Murphy spent most of that game in coverage on Kupp, and has emerged throughout the year as a quality option in the slot. Per Pro Football Focus, he’s allowed just 248 passing yards on 227 coverage snaps when aligned inside, as well as a 79.6 passer rating. He should see a lot of Kupp once again on Monday night, though the Rams do move Kupp around quite a bit more these days than they did earlier in his career. (He’s lined up on the outside on a career-high 32.5% of his routes, per TruMedia.)
Kupp, though, accounts for the significant majority of the team’s passing tree. Van Jefferson has separated himself from Odell Beckham as the No. 2 receiver (Beckham split snaps with Ben Skowronek last week), though, and has at least seven targets in each game since Robert Woods’ season-ending injury. Beckham still has a role, but his recent injuries and lack of familiarity with the offensive terminology after arriving just a few weeks ago limit what he can do within the flow of the offense and outside of the scripted game plan and situational plays. He and Stafford have not really been on the same page since his arrival in Los Angeles, and the quarterback obviously has far better chemistry with the two wideouts that have been there all season.
The Rams are better in pass protection on the outside (and Andrew Whitworth will become the league’s first 40-year-old to start at left tackle in this game) than on the interior. That vulnerability up the middle does not necessarily match the strength of Arizona’s front, as in the absence of J.J. Watt, it’s Markus Golden and Chandler Jones generating the majority of the rush on opposing quarterbacks. Protection will be key here, with Stafford showing extreme vulnerability when hassled in the pocket in recent weeks.
Darrell Henderson was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list after being active in only an emergency capacity last week, which means Sony Michel is again in line for feature back duties. He handled them well against the Jaguars, but even though Arizona’s run defense is weaker than its unit against the pass, it is still a top-half-of-the-league group, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA. It’s worth noting that the Rams ran the ball quite well in the first matchup between these two teams (17 running back carries for 100 yards), but that was in the context of a blowout.
When the Cardinals have the ball
It’s tough to get a read on the Cardinals’ offense, because we haven’t really seen this offense play since, like, Week 8. Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins each missed three consecutive games, with the Cards going 2-1 in their absence. Murray and Hopkins returned last week, but Hopkins had his snaps limited and the Cardinals were up by so many points, so quickly that they barely got to run anything resembling their real offense. (Murray threw only 15 passes, though he looked just fine health-wise, accounting for four total touchdowns.)
So, this should be an interesting week if for no other reason than we will get a look at the way one of the league’s best offenses wants to attack when it has its fully healthy personnel. (That’s assuming Chase Edmonds is activated off injured reserve before the game.) It’s been quite a while since we’ve gotten to say that about this team.
Back in Week 4, the Cardinals racked up 249 passing yards and 216 rushing yards in this matchup, with each of Murray (six carries for 39 yards), Edmonds (12-120), and James Conner (18-50 and two touchdowns) contributing in big ways on the ground. The Rams like to encourage the run from their opponents with their alignment, but they obviously don’t want to encourage it so much that they give up over 200 yards. Striking the right balance is key — as is making sure not to give up too many underneath passes to Edmonds if he suits up, due to his ability to break tackles and create splash plays.
On the perimeter, we likely should not expect to see Jalen Ramsey shadowing Hopkins. He’s played in the slot more often than he’s followed the opposing team’s top receiver around the field this season, the better to get him close to the ball on a greater volume of plays. That will likely see him matched up with Christian Kirk and/or Rondale Moore more often than not, but it’ll also allow him to contribute to run fits, keep his eyes on Murray when he scrambles, and come on the occasional blitz off the edge.
The No. 1 thing to look out for against the Los Angeles defense is always Aaron Donald. Having Rodney Hudson operating in the pivot has done wonders for Arizona, even if he has not played up to his full capabilities. He has been able to help Murray with protections and pickups, and he’s a strong fulcrum for the run game. Donald is of course fully capable of wrecking a game no matter who lines up across from him, and it’s worth noting that Arizona’s guards have been somewhat vulnerable in pass protection. That’s where Murray’s ability to improvise, escape the rush, and make something happen with his legs or by giving his receivers time to get open down the field, comes in.