An NFC West showdown highlights the NFC Wild Card playoffs when the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams face off on Monday Night Football. BetUS sportsbook installs the Rams as the favorites across the NFL odds board, but market favoritism alone is no guarantee of success. Typically, divisional matchups are amongst the toughest to predict.
- Game: Arizona Cardinals (11-6-0) vs Los Angeles Rams (12-5-0)
- Location: SoFi Stadium, Inglewood
- Day/Time: Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET
- Television: ESPN
Arizona Cardinals vs Los Angeles Rams NFC Wild Card 2022
Kyler Murray Holds Cards to Victory
Struggling form, capped off by a disappointing 38-30 loss to the Seattle Seahawks at Glendale, came at a steep price for the Arizona Cardinals: the NFC West crown and home advantage for the playoffs.
Even though coach Kliff Kingsbury’s side was already assured a spot in the playoffs, that wasn’t how it was supposed to go down in their regular-season finale. Across online betting markets, the odds heavily favored a Cards win in Week 18. In addition, bookmakers closed Arizona as the whopping 5½-point home chalk.
Losing to the Seahawks isn’t just about the upset in the betting or missing out on divisional glory. Granted, becoming NFC West champions would have been great. It would have gone a long way to underscoring Arizona’s credentials, as well those of third-year quarterback Kyler Murray and third-year coach Kingsbury in their first-ever sojourn into the playoffs.
The real miss was their failure to throw down the gauntlet, though. The Cardinals were up 24-17 midway in the third quarter, but they fritted it away spectacularly.
The last 20 minutes of the game were a real head-scratcher. Murray and the offense could only muster up a couple of field goals while the Seahawks put up touchdowns on three straight possessions. It’s these kinds of offensive struggles that pose obstacles for an extended run in the postseason. Thus, quite literally, Murray holds the cards to victory.
*Kyler Murray Appreciation Post*
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) January 6, 2022
Rams Victimized by Turnovers
Although coach Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams were crowned NFC West champions on Sunday, the watershed moment followed a 27-24 loss to the San Francisco 49ers that raised more questions than answers.
The belated return to the championship circle somewhat validates McVay’s decision to bin-off quarterback Jared Goff in a trade with the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford. Equally, for the veteran signal-caller, moving to a championship-ready team this offseason was a no-brainer.
Stafford’s 41 touchdowns – his highest tally since the 2011 season – with the Rams attests to the fact. But his 17 interceptions, also a high since the 2012 season, is a worry. That’s all the more worrisome because 13 of those came since November and eight since December, one of which was the game-sinking interception that delivered the win to rivals San Francisco in their regular-season finale.
After the Niners managed to score only a field goal on their first possession in overtime, the balance tipped in favor of the Rams. The game was there for the taking. The victory – that would confirm the NFC West title and, in turn, Los Angeles as a legitimate Super Bowl contender – was within reach until Stafford tossed it all away.
This is more than bad optics, though. It’s about the missing element: the knockout punch. The Rams have the talent and quality to be a competitor, but they haven’t put it all together.
In Which NFC West Team Do We Trust?
The market for this game is cornered with the Los Angeles Rams, though home advantage mainly underscores the Rams’ odds for NFL picks against the spread. In truth, though, very little separates this pair.
It’s not quite a pick’em, but it’s close enough, and that makes predicting the winner a challenge. Both teams are coming off a loss, which doesn’t instill confidence in either camp. Similarly, both offenses are prone to mistakes, while the defenses are the more reliable units.
In some respects, the weight of expectation is greater for the Rams than it is for the Arizona Cardinals. They’re the reigning NFC West champions. But the postseason and a run at Super Bowl glory is precisely the reason why McVay ransomed Los Angeles’ future for Stafford.
The problem is that Stafford has yet to win in the postseason (0-3 SU in the playoffs). Neither has Murray, but it’s his first trip into the Promised Land. So, all eyes will be on the veteran signal-caller, as a result, and, in turn, on McVay. That amounts to pressure. The kind that Stafford hasn’t dealt with well over his career. The kind that might leave McVay having to explain where it all went wrong if things don’t go to plan.