Preview of Week 17 Matchup – The Arizona Cardinals versus the Los Angeles Rams: Four Point Stance

by Rick Harriman
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The Arizona Cardinals (8-7) travel to So-Fi Stadium to face the Los Angeles Rams (9-6) on Sunday, 1/3 at 4:25 ET.  This is more than a rematch from week 13, this is essentially a playoff game for both teams desperate to make the post-season.  The Rams enter this game as a 3-point underdog at home according to MGM with an over/under of 40.5 pts.

1st Stance: Offense

The offense for the Cardinals is top 10 in total yards, rushing yards and total points but the offense has stalled the second half of the season.  With a 3-5 record over their last eight games, the offense is not performing as advertised.  Since November, the offense has been averaging almost 5.5 points less per game than in the first half of the season.  QB Kyler Murray has been a shell of himself both passing and running.  RB Kenyon Drake gained only 45 yards last week against a banged-up 49er defense.  Thanks to Murray’s 75 yards, the Cards kept their hold in top 5 for rushing yards but that was the only bright spot for the offense.  Murray is recovering from a lower leg injury that he suffered in the loss to the 49ers.  Coach Kliff Kingsbury is hopeful Murray can play (and it looks like he will), but if he cannot than Kingsbury has options, albeit questionable ones.  Options are Chris Streveler as the named backup and Brett Hundley also as a possibility.

  • Chris Streveler: The 2018 UDFA is fresh off winning a Grey Cup for the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers. A dual-threat for Minnesota and then small-school South Dakota in college, Streveler is described as a Taysom Hill-esque “swiss-army-knife quarterback” by the Cardinals’ website. Streveler just turned 25. His odds of making the 53-man roster will be long. Streveler has 4 career NFL snaps with no passing attempts and 1 rush for 3 yards.  He played 2 seasons at the University of South Dakota where he threw for 6,081 yards and 54 TDs.  He earner the MVFC Offensive PoY award in 2017 and was a runner up for the Walter Payton award.
  • Brett Hundley: The 5th round pick of the Green Bay Packers, Hundley has seen the field as a career backup.  In Green Bay he replaced Aaron Rodgers in week 6 of the 2017 season.  He finished the season with Rodgers recovering but the Packers missed the playoffs and he was traded the following season to the Seahawks where he never saw the field.   The Cardinals have had him on a series of one-year contracts since 2019.  His career NFL stats are 18 GP, 199/337 (59.1%, 105.7 Y/G), 9TDs and 13 INTs with no 300+ yard games.  In those 18 games, he has 46 rushes for 309 yds (17.2 avg) with 2 TDs and only 2 fumbles lost.  He played 3 seasons for UCLA and surpassed Cade McNown in all-time TD passes (75) and total offense in just 3 seasons compared to McNown’s 4 seasons.

As much as the Cards have struggled in the 2nd half on offense, the Rams have done so all season long.  While there have been spurts of greatness, it has been subpar most of the season and the roller coaster continues going into the biggest game of the season:

The Rams will be without QB Jared Goff, WR Cooper Kupp, RB Darrell Henderson and all-pro OT Andrew Whitworth.  RB Cam Akers is also questionable so it will be time for QB John Wolford, RB Xavier Jones and WR Van Jefferson to come in strong and make a difference.  You can also expect a heavy dose of RB Malcom Brown and TEs Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee in this game.  The new names here are Wolford and Jones:

  • John Wolford: Coach Sean McVay likens Wolford to Doug Flutie in that he’s not fast, but he is quick and shifty. His size is questionable at 6’1” and 200 lbs, but his grit is not.  He was recruited out of HS by Lincoln Riley (then for East Carolina), he instead chose Wake Forest, and he was so good his senior year the hashtag #WhyNotJohn was trending to push for his dark horse Heisman candidacy.  For a great breakdown of “The Wolf”, check out this article on DTR by Hunter Sanders (@itssandstorm) and video by DTR CEO Jake Ellenbogen (@JKBogenDTSN).  Here is something to think about – in college, Wolford went 28 for 34 for 461 yards and 5 TDs against Louisville for a 42-32 win against none other than Lamar Jackson.  The kid has talent.
  • Xavier Jones: McVay likes him enough to keep him on the 53-man roster although he has no carries this season.  Per McVay: “I think he’s a slash-type runner.  He’s a bigger body than what you think, but he’s got the speed to be able to finish and naturally can work edges on guys. I think he is built for a lot of the things that we do specific to the zone-running scheme and really be able to press it outside in one gap at a time and put your foot in the ground. So, he did a nice job with the opportunities that we had to evaluate him throughout the course of camp. I think he’s done a good job on the look teams. This week he’ll get a chance to make some plays for the offense.”  Jones played college at SMU and amassed 3,434 yards and 45 TDs in 4 years with 1,276 yards and 23 TDs in his senior campaign.

The Cardinals have the better offense, and the Rams are missing their leading passer, rusher, and receiver for this game.  Edge to the Cardinals but it would not surprise me if new QB John Wolford has a HUGE day.

2nd Stance: Defense

The Cardinals defense is middle of the pack in most categories but has a top 10 pass defense.  Last week against the 49ers, they simply could not stop the run.  They gave up 227 yards, 183 of those to Jeffrey Wilson.  This week will be a conundrum for them as they are planning against a mobile QB and a smash mouth runner in Malcom Brown with change of pace from Xavier Jones.  If Cam Akers can go, expect him to have a field day against this porous run defense.  Last week the defense of the Seahawks stifled the Rams, expect the Cardinals to try to emulate a little of that but to also mix coverages in disguise in order to try to confuse the offense into making mistakes.

The Rams defense is one of the best in the NFL and they will need it in this game to get into the playoffs.  The attack is led of course by the oft double and triple teamed Aaron Donald.  The addition and emergence of Leonard Floyd in the pass rush has exceeded expectations.  The secondary of Jalen Ramsey, Darious Williams and John Johnson III is arguable the best in the league.  Throw in Troy Hill, Jordan Fuller and Michael Brockers, this is the best defense Los Angeles has ever seen. {Note – as of the time of posting, Brockers is undergoing COVID 19 protocols and may not be able to play, in his place Morgan Fox has played at a very high level this year and will step in for the snaps.}

Marcus Spears think the Rams Defense will win this game and put them into the playoffs:

The Rams have a huge advantage on defense and if Kyler Murray is hobbled in any way from his injury, the Rams will have a field day.

3rd Stance: Special Teams

Holistically, neither team is particularly good on special teams.

Arizona is adjusting to the idea of possible moving on from injured Zane Gonzalez as he has been inconsistent all year long.  For now, journeyman Mike Nugent is filling the role, but a new kicker will be a premium for the Cards next season.  All in other facets of special teams, Arizona is not special.

Los Angeles already had their kicking woes, and it looks like Matt Gay is a keeper.  Last week against the Seahawks, Gay was the only one to post points as the offense was anemic.  The other bright spot on special teams is the always steady punting of Johnny Hekker, but coverage on kicks and punts has been an issue.

Edge to Arizona as their stats are better, but it is almost a push.

4th Stance: Intangibles

  • Coaching – Sean McVay versus Kliff Kingsbury. Head-to-head, McVay is 3-0 vs Kingsbury and has a longer head coaching career with a Super Bowl visit.  McVay has never has a losing season, Kingsbury has never had a team finish above .500.   While Kingsbury has a bright future ahead of him in the NFL, McVay has a clear edge
  • Trend/Mojo – Both teams are on a losing streak and need to win the game to keep this season’s playoff hope alive. Win and in, lose and hope for help.
  • Tale of the Tape:
  • Post of the week from Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) – If you are not following Jourdan, you are missing out, she is the BEST.  If you are not subscribing to The Athletic, you are REALLY missing out as she goes deep into Rams coverage that you should not miss. This one says it all about how the team feels about John Wolford.

“RAM”dom information from the week:

  • Playoff scenarios for both teams
    • Arizona: A win earns a playoff spot. Otherwise, Arizona would need to tie and a loss from Chicago against Green Bay
    • Los Angeles: A win or tie earns a playoff spot. Otherwise, Los Angeles would need a loss or tie from Chicago against Green Bay
  • Los Angeles won the previous game with Arizona in week 13 by a score of 38-28, the game was not as close as the score.
  • Here is the formula to win on Sunday according to this quick clip from @danorlovsy7:
  • Best pic of the week:


The Rams continue their undefeated streak against coach Kingsbury and win this one running away 31-14 as the defense scores and put the offense into good field position all game.

Happy New Year to all of you, we need a 5-game win streak to finish on top and it starts on Sunday.

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