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NFL Wild Card Round - Los Angeles Rams vs Arizona Cardinals
Two of the three NFC West teams to make the playoffs this season will square off at SoFi Stadium when the Arizona Cardinals take on the Los Angeles Rams. These teams split their two matchups during the regular season and will hope that the rubber match will take them into the Divisional round. The Rams enter this game as four-point favorites, but the shaky form for both sides entering this game has made it anyone’s contest to win.
The Arizona Cardinals lost at home against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 18, in a game that would have won them the NFC West had they pulled it out. Arizona gave up 38 points in the losing effort against a Seahawks offense that had struggled for most of this season. Now, the Cardinals will have to play on the road against a Rams team that has beaten them in nine of their last ten meetings dating back to the 2017 season.
For Arizona, the question coming into this game is how they overcome their lack of experience on this big stage. This is the first postseason game for the Cardinals in the Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury era of the franchise. They will need to avoid any early wobbles under the bright lights to avoid falling behind against a Rams team that has dominated them over the last few seasons.
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Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams lost to the San Francisco 49ers last week but still won the NFC West thanks to the Cardinals’ loss to the Seahawks. Los Angeles took a 17-0 lead against the 49ers but gave that lead away in a second half where they were outplayed from start to finish by San Francisco. After giving up a field goal to start overtime, the Rams’ fate was sealed when Matt Stafford threw a game-ending interception.
This week, the Rams can’t afford to play with the lack of consistency that they showed a week ago against San Francisco. They need to be on-point offensively for the entire game, or they could fall behind against this explosive opponent from Arizona and never recover.
Keys To The Game
The biggest key to this game for the Cardinals will be their running game, as they will need it to set up their passing attack. Arizona has struggled to move the ball through the air since DeAndre Hopkins was lost for the season. If the Cardinals can use their running attack to force the defense to take its attention away from the pass, Arizona could roll into the Divisional round.
Conversely, the biggest key to this game for the Rams is their pass defense. They are banged up in the secondary, having lost Jordan Fuller for the season and with Taylor Rapp in concussion protocol. They signed Eric Weddle out of the blue before this game, and their need to add help at safety so close to the playoffs could be a sign that they are in some trouble in the defensive backfield.
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