Los Angeles Rams vs. Arizona Cardinals
Line: Los Angeles -3.5
Where: SoFi Stadium
When: Monday, 1/17 at 8:15 p.m. ET
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford will be seeking the first playoff win of his career when Los Angeles hosts Arizona to wrap up Wild Card Weekend on Monday night.
Stafford reached the postseason three times during his 12 seasons with Detroit, but the Lions lost in the wild card round on all three occasions. Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray is looking for the first playoff win of his career as well, setting up a highly anticipated matchup between a pair of former No. 1 picks and NFC West rivals.
The Rams and Cardinals met twice during the regular season, with the road team winning both contests. Los Angeles has won nine of the last 10 matchups between these teams, covering the spread in eight of those games.
Oddsmakers opened the Rams as 4.5-point home favorites, but the line has dropped to -4 as of Saturday night. Monday night’s total opened at 50.5 before dipping to 49.5.
The Cardinals will not mind going on the road, as they became the ninth team in NFL history to win eight road games in a single season. They rushed for 216 yards in a Week 4 win over Los Angeles as 4-point road underdogs. The Rams responded with a 30-23 win as 3-point road underdogs in Week 14.
As good as Arizona was on the road, it struggled down the stretch of the regular season. The Cardinals lost four of their final five games, failing to cover the spread in all four losses.
They enter the playoffs ranked third in the NFL in rushing, averaging 122 yards and scoring 23 touchdowns on the ground. Running back James Conner leads the team with 202 carries for 752 yards, while Chase Edmonds added 116 attempts for 592 yards.
Quarterback Kyler Murray has completed 69.2 percent of his passes for 3,787 yards and 24 touchdowns. Wide receiver Christian Kirk has caught a team-high 77 receptions for 982 yards and veteran A.J. Green has 54 catches for 848 yards. They will be facing a Los Angeles defense that ranks No. 17, allowing 344.9 yards per game.
The Rams have been better offensively, finishing the regular season at No. 9 in yards per game (372.1). They went on a five-game winning streak before losing to San Francisco in overtime in Week 18.
Stafford has completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 4,886 yards and 41 touchdowns, but he also threw 17 interceptions. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp has been the NFL’s leading receiver, catching 145 passes for 1,947 yards. Wideout Van Jefferson added 50 catches for 802 yards and six touchdowns.
Running back Sony Michel leads the rushing attack with 208 carries for 845 yards and four touchdowns. Darrell Henderson Jr. is ‘out’ with an MCL sprain. The Rams will be facing an Arizona defense that is No. 11, allowing 329.2 yards per game.
The Cardinals are expected to get JJ Watt back after he missed the last 10 games with a shoulder injury. They went 7-0 in games with Watt on the field this year, but they were 4-6 without him.
Arizona has covered the spread in eight of its last nine road games, while Los Angeles is 3-7 ATS in its last 10 games as the favorite. The total has gone ‘over’ in four of the last five head-to-head meetings between these teams.
The pick: Los Angeles -3.5
These teams have very similar season-long numbers and they split their regular-season meetings, so I have to defer to their form heading into the playoffs. Arizona struggled during the final month of the regular season, as its offense was unable to consistently move the ball without wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Los Angeles was well on its way to winning and covering in five straight games prior to coughing up a 17-3 lead against San Francisco last week. The Rams have won and covered in nine of the last 10 meetings between these teams. They have a little more talent and are in better form, so I’ll take the Rams on Monday night.