The LA Rams are a 4-point favorite over the Arizona Cardinals in their first playoff game. The Cards have plenty of reasons to be confident, however: they won five straight games against division rivals and led the NFL with 314 points this season.
The “what do cardinals symbolize” is a question that many people have been asking lately. The Cardinals, who are currently in the playoffs, represent hope and new beginnings.
INGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Kyler Murray just has to look to his Arizona Cardinals opponent across the field at SoFi Stadium on Monday night to realize the importance of seizing opportunities whenever a club makes the NFL playoffs.
Matthew Stafford, like Murray, is a former No. 1 overall choice who, despite being among the NFL’s best quarterbacks, has never won a playoff game.
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Since Murray was in seventh school, Stafford has been attempting to break the drought.
When the fourth-seeded Los Angeles Rams (12-5) face the fifth-seeded Arizona Cardinals (11-6) in the first playoff game at the multibillion-dollar stadium that will host the Super Bowl less than four weeks later, two top quarterbacks will aim to capture their first postseason victory.
Murray’s Cardinals did not make the playoffs in his first two seasons, but Stafford’s Detroit Lions only made the playoffs three times in his 12 years there, each time falling in the wild card round.
While Stafford is tight-lipped about his personal motivation for making the playoffs, everyone knows the Rams acquired him in exchange for Jared Goff, who guided the team to the Super Bowl, because they believed Stafford could help them go even farther.
“I’m proving myself every time I foot on a field,” Stafford remarked. “This is, without a doubt, a team game, but do I know that when the quarterback performs well, you have a higher chance of winning?” Absolutely.”
The game will be the third of the season between divisional rivals who split their previous two meetings, with each team winning on the other’s home turf. Both clubs limped into the playoffs after heartbreaking home losses: the Rams were soundly defeated by the 49ers, but won the NFC West because the Cardinals fell to last-place Seattle.
Los Angeles built its self-described All-Star team with high-priced midseason acquisitions of Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr. specifically to attack this Super Bowl window, while the Cardinals’ similarly star-studded roster started 7-0 and 10-2 before stalling down the stretch of an impressive breakthrough season.
Before Kliff Kingsbury’s team won in Inglewood in October, Sean McVay had defeated the Cardinals eight times in a row. In December, the Rams prevailed in Glendale, but this rivalry is no longer one-sided.
“As an organization, they had our number,” Kingsbury said. “However, the previous two of games have been a back-and-forth scrap. A lot of people are putting in strong efforts and keeping the game tight. That’s what I’m hoping for on Monday night. There are a lot of excellent guys on the pitch.”
WARRIORS ON THE ROAD
In an unexpected turn of events, the Cardinals are looking forward to going on the road for the playoffs. That’s because Arizona has been considerably better on the road than at home, going 8-1 on the road and 3-5 at home.
The Cardinals’ turnover margin is a significant factor for their road success: they have 21 takeaways and just three turnovers in nine road games.
ROLLS AND ROCKS are two words that come to me when I think about rock music.
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INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 12: Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay monitors play before to a game against the Chicago Bears at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California on September 12, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Harry How) )
Before their season-ending loss to San Francisco, the Rams had won five consecutive games. McVay seemed to believe that his squad’s late-season surge is more representative of the club than its final failure, pointing to his defense’s continuous gains despite big personnel losses, including top tackler Jordan Fuller, who is out for the season with an ankle injury.
The Cardinals finished the regular season with a 1-4 record, losing to three non-playoff teams as well as the Rams. DeAndre Hopkins hasn’t played since the team’s season-opening defeat to the Rams, and the star receiver isn’t expected to return this week after knee surgery.
YEAR THREE FOR KYLER
Despite missing three games due to an ankle ailment, Murray passed for 3,787 yards and 24 touchdowns this season. He established a team record and was second in the NFL by completing 69.2 percent of his throws, which was a career best.
GLENDALE, ARIZONA – DECEMBER 01: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo #45 of the Los Angeles Rams hits Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals as he tosses the ball during the second half at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona on December 01, 2019. The Rams won by a score of 34-7. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Norm Hall)
Murray’s athleticism has vexed the Rams in prior encounters, so it’ll be intriguing to watch how much he runs in his first playoff game. The dual-threat quarterback only ran for 423 yards this season, but his ability to run can be a major asset if employed correctly.
“I believe this is the three-year wait he’s been waiting for,” Kingsbury said. “He’s a man who understands he’s playing for something and wants to be playing for it.” This is his first postseason appearance, and I anticipate him to put forth the finest performance of his career.”
For pass-rushing fans, this game should be a treat. Murray and Stafford would better have their heads on a swivel while being pursued by some of the finest sack masters of this age, particularly if Arizona’s J.J. Watt can return from his shoulder injury.
Watt and Chandler Jones might be on the field for the Cardinals, while Von Miller and Aaron Donald will lead the Rams’ defense. The foursome has a total of 423 career sacks.
When Fuller broke his ankle and Taylor Rapp went into the concussion protocol last week, the Rams’ already fragile secondary lost two starting safety. They’ll fill up the holes behind All-Pro Jalen Ramsey with dubious backups and even 37-year-old Eric Weddle, who returned to LA last week after a two-year hiatus. Christian Kirk, A.J. Green, Rondale Moore, and Zach Ertz will all have plenty of opportunity to create plays for Murray.
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