Cardinals vs. Rams Odds & Picks: The Undervalued Home Dog
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images. Pictured: Kyler Murray, Jared Goff
Cardinals vs. Rams Odds
The Cardinals and Rams meet for the first time this season in an NFC West showdown with playoff implications.
Both teams are currently inside the playoff picture, but the Cardinals are losers of back-to-back games and need to find their form. Currently holding the last spot in the NFC, their cushion is shrinking by the week.
Meanwhile, the Rams are coming off an ugly loss to the 49ers and looking to get right against the Cardinals. L.A. comes into this one as a 3-point road favorite and looks to continue its recent dominance over Arizona, but a closer look at the matchup suggests the Rams won’t be successful in that endeavor.
Los Angeles Rams
Sean McVay has had the Cardinals’ number since becoming the Rams’ head coach: McVay is 6-0 against Arizona since becoming the head man in Tinsel Town and is 5-0-1 against the number over that span.
The Rams’ motion-heavy scheme has given the Cardinals fits, as L.A. has won those six matchups by an average margin of 23 points.
L.A.’s defense showed up in San Francisco last week, forcing three turnovers while limiting the 49ers to just four third-down conversions out of 13 attempts. Led by Aaron Donald, the defensive line is going to be able to get pressure on Kyler Murray and stop the backfield of Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds from picking up a head of steam.
However, Jared Goff let the Rams down last week. He could not handle the 49ers defense, throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble. If teams are able to generate pressure on Goff, he does not have the processing speed, arm motion or speed to get out of the pocket and make plays.
L.A. is going to hope the run game can find sustained success in this one to give Goff some time in the pocket.
This is a Cards defense that can be had on the ground, and by forcing the Cardinals to think twice about dropping defenders back in coverage, this can set up the play action attack that McVay loves to call for his offense.
The Cardinals defense is one of the best at limiting chunk pass plays, but considering that the Rams offense consists of a lot of low air-yardage passes (Goff is 17th in air yards this season), this can work to L.A.’s favor with its throws underneath.
Arizona plays almost all man coverage, which Goff does struggle to throw against, so it is going to be on the likes of Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp to win their matchup at the point of attack and get open.
The story of the Cardinals lately has been the health of Murray’s shoulder. The electric quarterback has been timid taking off and it has led to drives dying on third-and-short.
Murray, always a threat with his legs, has rushed for only a combined 46 yards in his last two games. Before that, he rushed for more than 60 yards in five straight contests. If he isn’t as much of a threat with his legs, this changes the trajectory of the explosive Arizona offense that can score at will. Against L.A., with a rushing Donald, this can be very problematic.
Murray was limited in practice on Wednesday but was a full participant the rest of the week, and all reports make it seem that he should be feeling better on Sunday.
Arizona’s defense is not as talented as L.A.’s by any stretch, but there’s a path for the Cardinals to slow down the Rams’ attack. While L.A. could pick up some first downs on the ground and with throws underneath, Arizona’s defense is one of the best in the red zone, allowing a touchdown on just 53% of opponents’ tries.
When the field shrinks, the Cards can collapse to the ball and keep the Rams out of the red zone. On top of that, this is an L.A. team that turns the ball over, with 13% of drives ending in a turnover this season, seventh-most in the NFL.
With a scheme that favors Arizona’s defense against Goff, the secondary is going to have its fair share of chances to make plays and flip the field with a turnover or two.
Sean McVay vs. Kliff Kingsbury is the underrated coaching mismatch of the week. Kingsbury has really struggled to be a firm decision-maker in clutch plays, and it could end up costing Arizona a playoff berth, let alone this game.
Not to mention, McVay has Arizona’s number since entering the role.
However, I do think Arizona is being a bit undervalued in this spot. Home underdogs in NFC West matchups are 45-36-1 against the spread dating back to 2003. These teams are familiar with one another over the years and the stakes are high.
On top of that, I can’t ignore that four of our five NFL PRO Report signals hint that the Cards are the right side here:
At anything less than +3, I’m staying off the Cards, but Murray’s shoulder should hold up, and the undervalued home dog can cash here. I would play Arizona +3 up to -120 to lock in that key number.
PICK: Cardinals +3