4 Reasons The Cardinals Will Upset The Rams In Wild Card Matchup

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The NFL’s first Super Wild Card Weekend will wrap up tonight as NFC West divisional foes will be meeting up for the third time this season. The Arizona Cardinals will be traveling to take on the Los Angeles Rams to split their season series.

Each team won on the other’s home field, as the Cardinals won the first meeting 37-20. The Rams won the rematch 30-23 in early December. Los Angeles comes into this one as the favorite, but Arizona cannot be counted out.

There are a lot of firsts in this game, as it is the first playoff game for Cardinals’ head coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray. This is the first time Matthew Stafford will be playing a home game in the postseason, but if it is anything like Week 18 against the San Francisco 49ers, the Rams have to be ready for an unusual experience at home.

Fans of the away team have infiltrated SoFi Stadium all season and Cardinal fans will look to do it again. What will it take for them to see their team pull off the upset? Here are four reasons Arizona will upset Los Angeles in the final Wild Card game of the season.

4. Defense Getting A Boost

The Arizona Cardinals struggled defensively down the stretch of the season. The team surrendered at least 30 points in three out of the final five games of the season, including unexpected losses to the Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks, in which they surrendered 68 points combined.

The Rams were one of the teams to reach the 30-point plateau and doing so again would put them in an excellent position to win the game. But, the Cardinals could be getting a boost defensively in this matchup from J.J. Watt.

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Watt was given a four to six-month recovery when he had to undergo shoulder surgery in early November. But, he returned to practice this week and didn’t experience any issues. As a result, he is trending toward being back in the lineup a little more than two months after the procedure.

Bookending Chandler Jones with Markus Golden also in the mix, Arizona’s pass rush could be a big reason they can pick up the upset. Given Matthew Stafford’s struggles with turnovers down the stretch, generating pressure could leave to some turnovers being caused.

3. Rams Third Down Struggles

One key to a defense being successful is getting spots on third down. Getting off the field is key and the Rams struggled to get stops when it counted most.

Los Angeles was near the bottom third of the NFL in third-down defense, something that the Arizona Cardinals can take advantage of. In their losses, the Rams allowed teams to convert more than half of their third-down attempts, which could dictate this game as well.

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Arizona is one of the best teams in the NFL on third down. They were fifth in the league during the regular season, converting 45.3 percent of their third-down attempts. If that success continues, they will be in a good position to pick up the win.

2. Strong Run Game

While a lot of attention is given to the Arizona Cardinals’ passing offense, as Kingsbury runs an air raid offense, their running game is actually what is key. If Arizona can get the job done on the ground, the rest of their offense opens up.

The Cardinals possess a true three-headed monster when it comes to rushing the ball. James Conner did an excellent job stepping up when Chase Edmonds was sidelined with an injury during the season. Edmonds was productive when on the field as well.

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Having a quarterback of Murray’s skill is also beneficial. Murray is one of the best running quarterbacks in the NFL with his speed and athleticism being something that defenses struggle to keep up with.

In their Week 4 win over the Rams, the Cardinals rushed for 216 yards, the most Los Angeles gave up in a game all season. Those issues have persisted to close the season, as the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers both ran the ball all over the Rams.

Setting the tone and being in control will put the Cardinals in a position to win.

1. Injuries To Defensive Backfield

The Los Angeles Rams have been hit hard by injuries. It is hard enough slowing down a familiar foe when at full strength, but the Rams will be short-handed in some key areas.

Los Angeles lost Jordan Fuller in Week 18 with an ankle injury that will sideline him the rest of the season. Taylor Rapp and Darious Williams were also injured. That prompted the Rams to sign Eric Weddle out of retirement.

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But, Fuller is a huge loss because he was the team’s signal-caller on defense. Having someone else call the plays and audibles for the defense could cause some communication issues. Expect the Arizona Cardinals to attack this possible weakness early and often, as the Rams’ secondary will be thin Monday night.