The stakes couldn’t be higher for the Cardinals-Rams regular season finale, but Los Angeles is entering extremely short-handed.
The Rams' offense took another major hit Wednesday, as star wide receiver Cooper Kupp is not expected to play in Week 17 due to COVID-19.
The Rams won't have starting quarterback Jared Goff, leading rusher Darrell Henderson and Kupp, their leading receiver. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth is not expected back from a knee injury, and running back Cam Akers is questionable with a high ankle sprain.
Los Angeles is turning to backup quarterback John Wolford to lead the way, and he's never taken an NFL snap. Despite all of the personnel concerns, Sean McVay does not sound like a coach who believes he is bringing a knife to a gunfight.
"I'm confident in John, and I'm also confident in the other 10 players around him and understanding what guys need to do to step up," McVay said. "We've got to go do it. We've got to go do it collectively, but, man, what a great opportunity to respond. Let's go lay the chips out there and see what the heck happens."
Wide receiver Robert Woods is the Rams' best remaining skill player, and he spoke glowingly of Wolford on Wednesday.
The Cardinals know they have to be prepared for a quarterback who has arm talent and the type of mobility that can keep defenses honest. The Cardinals and Rams can both clinch a playoff berth with a victory.
"He's still an NFL player, and he's over there for a reason," outside linebacker Markus Golden said. "I bet he's excited to get his chance, so you know he's going to come in and go hard. We've got to stick to the script and do everything our coaches ask us to do."
The Cardinals were in a similar situation last week against a 49ers team that was missing multiple starters. The personnel shortage wasn't apparent during the game, as San Francisco secured a 20-12 victory that was more lopsided than the final score indicated.
"Last week, everybody assumed or felt that we should have won the game just because of the circumstances," quarterback Kyler Murray said. "It's still the NFL. At the end of the day, we have to go execute to win the game."
Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury was aggressive against San Francisco, attempting five fourth-down conversions before the final drive. He said the Rams' injury situation will be a part of the calculus for in-game decisions, but he's not banking on a defensive slugfest.
"That'll definitely be taken into account, but with Sean calling plays and with those weapons they still have, it's going to be a tough challenge for us to try to slow them down," Kingsbury said. "We've lost to these guys seven times in a row. It's going to be a deal where we have to play our game."
CHASE EDMONDS DOESN'T PRACTICE
Running back Chase Edmonds, who left Saturday's loss to the 49ers in the first half, did not practice on Wednesday due to his hip injury.
The others who missed practice were outside linebacker Haason Reddick (hip), tight end Maxx Williams (ankle), tight end Darrell Daniels (hamstring), safety Chris Banjo (hip), wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (groin), wideout DeAndre Hopkins (hip) and defensive tackle Domata Peko (not injury-related).
Safety Jalen Thompson was a full participant, which indicates he should be back on Sunday after missing most of the season with an ankle injury. Murray, who said he will play against the Rams, was also a full participant.
Those limited were cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (hamstring/calf), tight end Dan Arnold (back) and running back Jonathan Ward (ankle).
The Rams had a walkthrough on Wednesday. If they practiced, the team estimated that Akers, Goff and linebacker Micah Kiser (knee) wouldn't have practiced. Those limited would have been running back Malcolm Brown (shoulder) and offensive lineman David Edwards (ankle).
DEANDRE HOPKINS AWARDED TEAM MVP BY ARIZONA WRITERS
The Arizona chapter of the Pro Football Writers Association named wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins the winner of the Lloyd Herberg MVP Award on Wednesday. Hopkins has a franchise-record 111 catches this season for 1,372 yards and six touchdowns.
Left tackle D.J. Humphries was given the Steve Schoenfeld Good Guy Award for his cooperation and insight while dealing with the media.
Herberg was the Cardinals beat writer for The Arizona Republic from 1988 to 1994 before dying of cancer. Schoenfeld covered the Cardinals for the Republic from 1988 until 2000, when he was killed by a hit-and-run driver.
NO SWITCH AT CENTER
Kingsbury said there are no plans for starting center Mason Cole to cede playing time to backup Lamont Gaillard.