Los Angeles Rams vs Arizona Cardinals: Breakdown and Prop Prediction
The final game of wild card weekend is here, and this one gives us an NFC West divisional matchup with the Arizona Cardinals (11-6) on the road to face the Los Angeles Rams (12-5). The NFC West was a tight race this year and is the only division with three teams in the playoffs. The last postseason meeting between these two was all the way back in 1975 when the Cardinals were in St. Louis, and in that one, the Rams pulled off a 35-23 win. Which ex-St. Louis team will take it tonight? Let's take a closer look at this matchup and find out.
The Rams come into the postseason with good momentum, going 4-1 over their last 5, including a road win over the Cardinals. Matthew Stafford has had an impressive first year in LA, and he's top five in just about every important metric, but that includes interceptions. Even in a career year for Stafford, he's tied with Trevor Lawrence for the most interceptions this year with 17. Limiting turnovers will be critical for LA against a Cardinals defense that ranks 7th in the NFL with 1.6 takeaways per game. The big story for the Rams' offense will be the return of Cam Akers, which adds another level to the rushing attack for the Rams. Today's most significant injury for the Rams will be Taylor Rapp, meaning two starting safeties for the Rams will miss tonight's game, with Jordan Fuller also watching this one from the sidelines. This leaves the secondary thin for the Rams, and the corners will have to step up tonight to limit Murray from a big game.
This year, The Cardinals hobble into the playoffs, going 1-4 over their final five games, including their loss to the Rams in week 14. The offense is finally mostly healthy, with the only significant loss being Deandre Hopkins still out with an MCL injury. Kyler Murray has had an impressive third year with the Cardinals. This year, he is second in completion percentage (69.2%) while also being fourth in yards per pass (7.9), which is crazy when you think about it. He's also gotten it done on the ground, with 388 rushing yards on 83 carries. Arizona's success has been in part by this offensive production, but also in part by their 6th ranked overall defense by DVOA. That defense gets a huge boost today, as J.J. Watt is expected to play. Watt suffered an apparent season-ending injury in week seven but will be in tonight. He will most likely be on a snap count, but the energy he brings and his level of play elevate this defensive unit.
The play for me tonight will not be on a side but a player prop. With a thinner safety core for the Rams tonight, and the Rams focusing on Kirk more, I expect A.J. Green to have a big game tonight against the Rams. The current line is around 42.5 receiving yards on most books. Green topped this in both his meetings against the Rams and in 10 of his 16 games this season. Against LA, he posted lines of 5/67/1 in week 4 and 7/102/0 in week 14. I think he is in for another big game tonight, especially on plays he isn't covered by Jalen Ramsey. Due to the banged-up safety position, I expect LA to play more zone, and zone coverage is where A.J. Green thrives. Rams head coach Sean McVay is excellent at shutting down opposing top receivers (primarily due to star corner Jalen Ramsey), which would be Christian Kirk. That focus on Kirk opens up more opportunities for Green. This same school of thought is what led Green to such success against the Rams in their previous meetings this year. Both meetings between these two teams this year were also high scoring, with both going over their total. High-scoring games mean extra yards, which never hurts an over on a player prop. Expect A.J. Green to break this total today and move article plays to 9-1 tonight.
Pick: A.J. Green O42.5 Receiving Yards (-110)