There is a little over a month remaining in the 2020 NFL season and it’s been nearly impossible to guess what Los Angeles Rams team is going to show up each week as they prepare to face the Arizona Cardinals in Week 13. Are they the team that was able to defeat the Seattle Seahawks and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Or are they the team that has looked hopeless against the Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers (twice)?
Regardless of their previous outings, the Rams are entering the final stretch of their schedule, facing an NFC West opponent in three out of their final five games. After getting swept in the season series by the 49ers in Week 12, Los Angeles will look to bounce back in Week 13 in their first meeting of the season against the new-look Cardinals.
The Cardinals are a much-improved team in their second year of having Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray. Murray has instantaneously become one of the headache-inducing quarterbacks to gameplan against in the NFL. His ability to create with his legs, whether it be through the air or on the ground, is what makes him one of the up-and-coming stars in the league.
On the other hand, Jared Goff is hoping to continue his success against Arizona, who are a team he’s had plenty of success against in recent seasons. Besides the quarterbacks on both sidelines, let’s take a deeper look at the must-see matchups that could transpire in Week 13 between the Rams and the Cardinals.
Cooper Kupp vs. Byron Murphy
In recent seasons, Goff has typically had success through the air versus the Cardinals. The former No. 1 overall pick has thrown for 1,313 yards, seven touchdowns, and one interception in his past four meetings with Arizona.
If Goff is going to bounce back from a downtrodden performance against the 49ers from a week ago, he’ll likely be targeting Cooper Kupp early and often. Kupp leads all Rams wide receivers this season in targets (96), receptions (66), and receiving yards (763).
When the Rams travel to the desert to take on the Cardinals on Sunday, it’s probable that Byron Murphy will draw Kupp in coverage more often than not. Murphy has spent the majority of his snaps in the slot, allowing a 61.4 completion percentage and an 87 passer rating when targeted this season.
With veterans like Patrick Peterson and Dre Kirkpatrick on the outside for Arizona, look for Los Angeles to attack the young cornerback throughout the game. Though, the Cardinals could deploy Budda Baker on Kupp some if Murphy struggles with the well-rounded wideout.
Rams’ Front seven vs. Kyler Murray
Arguably the most important aspect of Sunday’s crucial tilt with the Cardinals is the Rams’ ability to contain Murray in the pocket. When Murray is able to escape the pocket and do whatever he wants with his legs, then that is when Arizona’s offense is nearly impossible to defend.
The dynamic signal-caller averages 59.1 rushing yards per game and has scored 10 rushing touchdowns this season. He’s also been a lethal passer with the addition of DeAndre Hopkins, completing 68.2 percent of his attempts for 2,814 yards, 19 touchdowns, and nine interceptions.
Without a doubt, Brandon Staley is going to use a linebacker to spy on Murray to prevent him from running rampant on the defense. Besides the linebackers, it’s going to take the members of the defensive line to be meticulous in how they defend Murray.
Of course, Aaron Donald is going to make his presence felt in the interior for the Rams. But it’s going to come down to everyone in the front seven to play diligently to keep Murray from breaking loose on the ground.
Jalen Ramsey vs. DeAndre Hopkins
When the Cardinals acquired Hopkins via trade this past offseason, everyone was giddy to see he and Jalen Ramsey face each other twice a season again. Ramsey and Hopkins are familiar with one another — RamsWire’s Cameron Dasilva did a fantastic breakdown of their first seven meetings — when they both resided in the AFC South.
Even when Ramsey was a young cornerback with the Jacksonville Jaguars, he accepted the challenge of covering Hopkins all game when he was on the Houston Texans. Fast forward to now and Hopkins is still arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL while Ramsey is arguably playing the best football of his career.
Ramsey is playing a new role in Staley’s defense, being utilized in a variety of ways to showcase his multiple talents at cornerback. However, when the Rams face an All-Pro level talent at wide receiver, Ramsey is usually given the responsibility of shadowing them for most of the game.
There have been some classic matchups between Ramsey and Hopkins throughout their careers. This is one of those games that proves why you made Ramsey the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history.