Can the Rams get their mojo back after being undressed on national TV?
It's meeting one of two between NFC West rivals as the Arizona Cardinals host the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. With the Rams two games out of the playoffs, they'll need more of the same from this divisional matchup.
Last year, the Rams won both matchups by a combined score of 65-9. LA took the first game at home, 34-0, with three rushing touchdowns from Todd Gurley as well as a pair of two-point conversions. Meeting two was the C.J. Anderson show in Arizona in December, as the veteran ran for 167 yards in the victory. The Rams have won four straight and six of their last eight in the series.
Los Angeles started off hot at 3-0, which including a home victory over the Saints. The team's trademark defense showed up, and the offense clicked on the ground and through the air. But that streak was followed up by a three-game skid with losses to Tampa Bay, Seattle, and San Francisco. With wins in three of their last five games, the Rams sit at 6-5. The problem is that Jared Goff has fallen off a cliff and has thrown for fewer than 250 yards in each of his last three contests.
On the other side, the Cardinals have also been as streaky as they come. They opened up the year with a 27-27 tie with the Lions and then followed it up with three straight losses. After that, Arizona figured things out and won three in a row against weaker competition. Unfortunately, the Cards couldn't follow that up with much because they've lost four straight since.
Los Angeles at Arizona
Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 1 at 4:05 p.m. ET
Spread: Los Angeles -3
Three Things to Watch
There are a ton of intangibles to consider here. The Rams are coming off a horrific 45-6 loss to the Ravens in which the offense sputtered again and the defense couldn't get anything going. It's a short week with only a moderate amount of travel. The other thing to consider with LA is that they host the Seahawks next week before taking on Dallas and San Francisco once again. It could be easy for them to overlook this game against the lesser Cardinals. Arizona is coming off a Week 12 bye, and it should help tremendously. Kyler Murray gets a chance to breathe and digest the first 11 games. It also begins a stretch of three straight at home for Arizona, who won't leave the state until Dec. 22 when the team travels to Seattle.
2. Young and the Restless
Kyler Murray is putting up some decent numbers in his rookie season for the Cards with a 64.6 percent completion rate to with 2,703 yards, 14 touchdowns, and just five interceptions. The rookie signal-caller has been on the run quite a bit because of his mediocre offensive line and has been sacked nine times the last three contests. You can see his potential in spurts though. He had 324 yards passing and three touchdowns against Tampa Bay in a tight road loss earlier this month. Murray is prone to some mistakes but has just one of his five interceptions over his last five games. Jared Goff has taken a step back from his fantastic campaign last year. The quarterback has 12 interceptions to just 11 touchdowns. His 38.4 QBR is 30th overall. Goff has to be better with the top-of-the-line wide receivers that he has at his disposal.
3. Keeping teams honest
There's a lot of pressure on Kyler Murray and Jared Goff to succeed, so it's imperative for each team's run game to help out. The Rams are trying to manage the number of carries Todd Gurley gets. Gurley should be fresh for this one after having just six carries against the Ravens. This came after a season-high 25 against the Bears, which led to just 97 yards at a 3.9 yards per carry average. Gurley's season average is 4.1 with seven touchdowns. Backups Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson Jr. spell him when needed. It's more of a team effort for Arizona, which has dealt with injuries in their backfield. So much so that they acquired Kenyan Drake from Miami, and he's been a solid pickup. Drake is averaging 5.2 yards per carry and has 16 receptions as well. It was David Johnson's job, but injuries have slowed down his effectiveness. Throw in the uber-talented Chase Edmonds, and you have the makings of a solid trio.
I'm going with the upset here, as I like the Cardinals at home fresh off their bye week. As I said above, I think it gave Kyler Murray a chance to slow down and digest the season so far. If he were in college, he'd be pretty close to the end of the regular season. Yes, Arizona's defense isn't great, but Jared Goff is slumping big time. Add in a short week and trap game potential, and that's the recipe for an upset.
Prediction: Cardinals 24, Rams 16
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.