The NFC West Division race had more twists and turns than a Hollywood movie script, with the Arizona Cardinals in a position to not only win the division but also earn the top seed in the NFC playoffs. When Arizona went into a tailspin, the Los Angeles Rams took control. The division title was going to be decided by the outcomes of Arizona’s game against Seattle and Los Angeles’ contest against San Francisco in the regular-season finales.
There was plenty written about what would happen if the Cardinals and Rams both won, or if one team won and the other lost. The thing few expected was for both teams to lose. However, that is exactly what happened to set up the third matchup of the season between the division rivals.
The Rams (+1000) still have the third-best odds to win the Super Bowl among NFC teams, trailing only top-seeded Green Bay and reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay. Arizona’s odds have fallen to +2500.
Game: Arizona Cardinals (11-6) at Los Angeles Rams (12-5)
Location: SoFi Stadium
Day/Time: Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET
Cardinals at Rams Betting Lines
Arizona Needs to Shake Off Late-Season Swoon
It wasn’t too long ago that the Arizona Cardinals were sitting pretty with a 10-2 record. The division title was there for the taking, and perhaps even the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, and its first-round bye and home-field advantage until the Super Bowl. However, quarterback Kyler Murray wasn’t the same player when he returned from injury as the one who was a leading MVP candidate.
Losing star receiver DeAndre Hopkins and injuries at the running back position didn’t help as Arizona lost four of its last five games, including three to teams that missed the playoffs. No loss was more of a stunner than the one to a terrible Detroit Lions squad.
Even with all that, the only thing that stood between Arizona and its first division title since 2015 was a win over Seattle. The Cardinals twice led by seven points, but fourth-quarter touchdown runs by Russell Wilson and Rashaad Penny proved to be too much to overcome.
The only good news for Arizona is that the Rams are hardly entering the playoffs on a roll.
The Cardinals missed the playoffs the previous five seasons and, while some key players have postseason experience with other franchises, this will be a brave new world for many of Arizona’s young stars. Running back Chase Edmonds and rookie receiver Rondale Moore will have to wait to make their postseason debuts, but Arizona could be getting back former NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt.
Arizona has lost its last three playoff games when listed by the NFL picks against the spread as the underdog and the Cardinals will need to change that trend.
Now or Never for the Rams
The Los Angeles Rams weren’t shy about making the moves they felt would give them the best chance to make a run at the Super Bowl.
It started when quarterback Jared Goff and the Rams’ No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL draft were sent to Detroit in exchange for quarterback Matthew Stafford. Los Angeles acquired receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and pass rusher extraordinaire Von Miller during the season, giving up more draft capital. None of that will matter if Los Angeles is the last team standing.
First, however, the Rams will need to dispatch their division rivals.
Recent history is on the side of the Rams, as Los Angeles has defeated the Cardinals in nine of the last 10 meetings. The Rams were listed by the Las Vegas odds as the favorite in nine of those 10 games. The Rams won the first eight of those matchups, with only one game decided by less than 10 points.
However, the visiting Cardinals rolled to a 37-20 win as four-point underdogs at Los Angeles on Oct. 3. A key in that win was holding NFL receptions leader Cooper Kupp to five catches on 13 targets. Kupp has 13 receptions on 15 targets in the Dec. 13 rematch that was won by the Rams 30-23.
Running back Cam Akers could play after missing the first 16 games in the regular season due to a torn Achilles tendon. He had five carries for three yards in Sunday’s loss to the 49ers.
In his season debut on Sunday, RB Cam Akers played 20 percent of the Rams’ offensive snaps (13 of 65). Finished with eight total touches (five carries + three receptions).
— xz – Stu Jackson (@StuJRams) January 10, 2022
The Rams are just 6-7 in the postseason since winning the Super Bowl following the 2000 season and are 1-2 in their last three home games in the playoffs. The Rams are 3-4 when the Las Vegas odds list them as favorites during that stretch
The opening line varied wildly across the board in no small part due to the number of key players on both teams who have either missed large stretches of the season or have clearly been less than 100 percent. The earliest lines ranged anywhere from -3 to -5 in favor of the Rams, with four being the consensus number that emerged in the end.
Both teams have explosive offenses that the opening total of 51 must have caught the eye of those who bet online. It did drop to as low as 49½-points in early action, but has bumped back to the current 50½ — but that certainly shouldn’t be the last movement before kickoff.
Of note, these teams combined for 53 and 57 points in their two matchups this season.