Rams vs. Cardinals Odds, Predictions, NFL Picks: An Expert’s Guide To Betting Monday Night Football Week 14
Getty Images. Pictured: Rams QB Matthew Stafford, Cardinals QB Kyler Murray
- The Cardinals host the Rams for Monday Night Football in Week 14. Our expert has you covered on the matchup with his prediction and pick in the betting preview below.
- In the second meeting between two division foes, where is the value on this total? Read on to find out his top over/under play.
|Time||8:15 p.m. ET|
We’ve had some underwhelming primetime matchups in the NFL this season, but that won’t be the case on Monday night when the Cardinals host the Rams in a divisional showdown.
This game will have massive playoff seeding implications.
With a home victory, the Cardinals (10-2) can clinch their first playoff appearance since 2015. A win would also allow them to maintain their place atop the NFC, keeping them on track to grab the highly-coveted No. 1 overall seed and sole postseason bye. They would also effectively extend their lead in the NFC West to four games with only four to go since they would own a series sweep over the second-place Rams.
However, a loss would drop the Cardinals out of the No. 1 overall seed if the Packers take care of business against the Bears since Green Bay owns the head-to-head tiebreaker after winning in Arizona. The path to a division title and the top seed becomes much more difficult if the Cardinals drop this game and come back to the pack in the top-heavy NFC.
For reference, here’s the remaining schedule for the Cardinals:
- at Lions
- vs. Colts
- at Cowboys
- vs. Seahawks
Meanwhile, the Rams (8-4) currently sit two games behind the Cardinals in the division and held the NCF’s No. 5 seed heading into Week 14. Considering they sat two games clear of the No. 6 seed Washington Football Team (6-6) coming into Week 14, a loss wouldn’t be devastating to their playoff hopes by any stretch.
However, LA does have a fairly difficult remaining schedule:
- vs. Seahawks
- at Vikings
- at Ravens
- vs. 49ers
Plus, the latter won’t even really be much of a home game with the potential for more 49ers to be in attendance. A loss to the Cardinals would certainly put more pressure on the Rams down the stretch, while effectively ending any hope they had for a division title.
By contrast, a win would almost guarantee the Rams of a postseason berth and put them within one-game of first place in the NFC West.
Coming into this season, the Rams had absolutely owned the Cardinals in the Sean McVay era. After taking over as head coach in 2017, the Rams went on to sweep the season series against the Cardinals in four consecutive years. Over that stretch, the Rams went 8-0 straight up (SU) and 7-0-1 against the spread (ATS), covering by an average margin of 13.5 points per game.
LA scored at least 30 points in the first seven of those contests with only one being decided by single digits. The eighth came in Week 17 of last season, when the John Wolford-led Rams eliminated the Cardinals from playoff contention. Pure and utter dominance.
However, the Cardinals finally turned the tables earlier this season and ended the eight-loss streak with a resounding 37-20 win on the road in early October. Both offenses had huge days, each amassing more than 400 total yards while averaging more than six yards per play.
Turnovers were the primary difference, as the Cardinals had two takeaways without turning it over. Leading 14-10 in the second quarter, they recovered a Sony Michel fumble at the Rams’ 21-yard line, then scored a touchdown after Kyler Murray scrambled for 18 yards on third-and-16 to keep the drive alive and extend their lead to 21-10.
The Cardinals never looked back, but the Rams also helped the Cardinals out in other ways with a missed field goal and a turnover on downs after failing to get in twice from the 1-yard line. It was certainly a misleading final score, but the drought had been broken.
Can the Cardinals make it two in a row? Or will the Rams maintain order in what I like to call the “NFC West Circle of Life,” which also includes the following circular rule of thumb: The 49ers own the Rams, who own the Seahawks, who own the 49ers.
Let’s take a closer look at the matchup.
Click the arrow to expand injury reports
Rams vs. Cardinals Injury Report
- C Brian Allen (knee): Doubtful
- LB Terrel Lewis (back): Questionable
- CB Dont’e Deayon (illness): Questionable
- NT Justin Kerr (ribs): Out
- OL Justin Pugh (calf): Questionable
Rams vs. Cardinals Matchup
|Rams Offense||DVOA Rank||Cardinals Defense|
|Rams Defense||DVOA Rank||Cardinals Offense|
|Football Outsiders’ DVOA measures efficiency by comparing a team’s success on every play to the league average based on situation and opponent.|
Concerns with the Rams
The Rams go as their offense goes, and they undoubtedly have one of the league’s best. They rank fourth in Expected Points Added (EPA) per play and success rate, while also sitting fifth in overall DVOA. They haven’t been as elite at running the ball as other McVay groups in the past, but their ground game is still above average.
However, questions have popped up about the offense in recent weeks. Los Angeles has a few key injuries in the interior of its offensive line and lost starting wide receiver Robert Woods to a season-ending injury.
The latter is an injury that not enough people are talking about — although you’d expect the offense to get better with time as it adjusts to life after Woods and Matthew Stafford builds more chemistry with Van Jefferson and the newly-acquired Odell Beckham Jr. And when in doubt, the always-reliable Cooper Kupp will probably be open somewhere, especially on third downs.
Speaking of Stafford, questions linger about his health. He did look great last week, but that came against a horrid Jaguars defense playing without its top cornerback. In the three previous weeks (all losses), he threw multiple interceptions, including a pick-six in each.
Also, some still don’t believe in Stafford when he steps up in competition.
For his career, Stafford is just 24-57 (29.6%) SU against winning teams. In fairness, he played for some dreadful Lions teams that had horrid defenses and special teams, but his ATS results are just as poor. Over that span, he was just 30-49-2 (38%) ATS against above .500 teams, failing to cover by an average margin of 3.9 points. That makes him the least profitable of 238 quarterbacks in that situation since 2003, per our Action Labs data.
Should Rams fans also be concerned about McVay’s offenses down the stretch? Some have suggested so based on the glaring discrepancy in the historical output between the first and second half of seasons — it’s certainly an angle I’m monitoring.
How do the second-half-of-the-season QB decline for McVay’s offenses rank relative to the rest of the league?
All are basically 80th+ declines, which point to this being something about the scheme/coaching rather than random variance pic.twitter.com/JGy24C7WWG
— Robby (@greerreNFL) December 2, 2021
On the other side of the ball, the Rams defense is a stars-driven unit with two of the NFL’s best players in Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. They also recently acquired Von Miller, who should continue to get better as he gains familiarity with the scheme.
However, this unit is nowhere close to as elite as what we saw in 2020 after losing so much talent in the offseason.
Through 13 weeks, Los Angeles’ defense ranks ninth in EPA per play and 17th in success rate. Even so, after adjusting for opponent, the Rams still boast a top-10 defense that’s been surprisingly stout against the run (they’re one of three teams allowing fewer than four yards per rush), even with a high frequency of light boxes at times.
The biggest issue for the Rams defense has been preventing explosive passing plays due to some of the attrition in the secondary.
Last season, they led the league with the fewest receptions allowed of more than 20 and 40 yards with 36 and four, respectively. In just 12 games this season, they’ve already allowed 35 receptions of more than 20 yards (12th) and seven of more than 40 (tied 18th). That’s certainly something to watch for against a very explosive Cardinals offense that now has all of its wide receivers healthy.
The Cardinals have obviously had a tremendous season, as evidenced by the league’s best record through 13 weeks. They even had to play three games without both Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins — and found a way to go 2-1 in those games, with the two victories coming against division opponents and Colt McCoy under center.
It all starts with an elite offense that’s improved drastically from last season due to the progression of Murray, who ranks No. 1 among all quarterbacks in EPA+CPOE composite — just ahead of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. (Stafford ranks sixth, for what it’s worth.)
However, it’s not all Murray.
The additions of James Conner, Rondale Moore, Zach Ertz (after Maxx Williams went down) and A.J. Green have all paid dividends. The offensive line has also gotten better with the offseason acquisition of center Rodney Hudson.
Put it all together, and this offense ranks No. 2 in EPA per play and No. 3 in success rate. The run game hasn’t been great after adjusting for opponent (25th in DVOA), but the offense has been close to unstoppable when Murray drops back. For the season, Arizona ranks No. 1 in drop back EPA and success rate — even with some key offensive injuries for 25% of their games.
That said, the biggest surprise might be the growth of the defense, which ranks No. 2 in EPA per play and 11th in success rate. The pass defense in particular has shined, ranking No. 1 in Dropback EPA per play. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph deserves a ton of credit for what he has done.
The run defense still remains extremely vulnerable, especially now that J.J. Watt is no longer in the mix. The Cardinals rank 25th in rush success rate and have allowed opponents to rush for an average of 4.7 yards per carry (30th). In their two losses and two close wins, opponents were able to move the ball on the ground and control the time of possession, keeping Arizona’s potent offense on the sidelines.
So, why hasn’t it cost Arizona more games? Well, the Cardinals been extremely fortunate in two key areas that have swung a number of games, especially early on:
- Turnovers (fumbles in particular)
- Fourth Downs
Let’s start with the first.
The Cardinals have fumbled a league-high 24 times. Amazingly, they have recovered 21 for an absurd 87.5% recovery rate, which clearly leads the league. Meanwhile, they’ve recovered 11 of their opponents’ 22 fumbles. Consequently, they rank second with a +12 turnover margin, thanks in large part to the fewest lost fumbles in the league (despite having the most) and the second-most fumble recoveries.
In regards to fourth downs, the Cardinals rank second with a 66.67% fourth-down conversion rate, while holding opponents to the third-lowest conversion rate (40%). A few of those have come in critical moments in goal-to-go situations to completely swing games.
From an EPA per play perspective, the Cardinals’ defense ranks No. 1 on third and fourth downs by a wide margin at 0.684 in non-garbage time. The next-highest is the Packers at 0.376. There’s much more variance in late down results, so I don’t think that’s anywhere close to a sustainable pace.
Both turnover and fourth-down luck have helped the Cardinals build early leads and position themselves into favorable game scripts in which opponents have to abandon the run. Look no further than the first meeting with the Rams, who ran the ball eight times for 66 yards in the first quarter. However, after Michel’s lost fumble led to a short field that resulted in the Cardinals taking a 21-10 lead, the Rams basically abandoned the run the rest of the way with only eight carries over the final three quarters.
Don’t be shocked if we see major regression in both categories that will cost the Cardinals a few games, starting with tonight.
Turnovers will certainly be a major factor in this game — they’ve basically told the story for the Rams so far this season as well. In their eight victories, Stafford has 23 touchdowns to just three interceptions compared to only seven touchdowns to six interceptions (with a lost fumble) in their four losses.
NFL Pick: Rams vs. Cardinals
I do think the Cardinals are slightly overvalued due to some fortunate bounces I detailed above. As a result, I probably don’t have them power rated as high as others do and still have the Rams rated higher, though not by much.
There isn’t much home-field advantage in a division game without weather, so I made this game essentially a coin flip. That’s why I wanted a field goal (+3) with the Rams, but don’t think we’ll ever see that number.
I personally teased the Rams when they were +2.5, getting them to above a touchdown if you have the option to bet an open teaser or want to tease them with something for next week, assuming you can tease them above +7.
If you’re looking to bet this game in isolation, the under is worth a look. Yes, these are two fast-paced teams with the Rams ranking first in situation neutral pace and the Cardinals ranking eighth. However, I show value in the under at 51 or higher (pre-game or live). I also don’t mind the first-half under one bit.
This is an important late-season division game between two teams very familiar with each other that has massive playoff implications. McVay has hinted he wants to establish more of a power running attack late in the season, so you may see a heavy run script here, especially early on. And the Rams have done a very nice job containing Murray in the past outside of their last meeting.
Additionally, questions still linger about whether both quarterbacks are fully healthy. Yes, Stafford looked good last week, but that came against the Jaguars. And yes, the Cardinals rolled in Murray’s first game back from injury, but he didn’t have to do much thanks to four Andy Dalton interceptions that essentially gift-wrapped the game to Arizona on short fields.
I’ll say we see some of that late-down and fumble regression for the Cardinals and the Rams get this win by a final of 27-20.
Pick: Under 51 | Bet to: 51
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