The three biggest things to watch for Sunday when the Cardinals play the Rams at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum:
To Play Or Not To Play, That Is The (Kyler) Question
Kyler Murray wants to play. Kliff Kingsbury wants Kyler Murray to play. Can Kyler Murray, with a hamstring that was tweaked in Seattle? There is no way Murray will go if his hammie hampers him. Murray isn't Murray without the ability to weave his way out of trouble or down the field with his legs. But in a time when the easiest thing to do would be to simply shut Murray down, that hasn't happened. Kingsbury won't make the official decision until Sunday, and give Murray the longest chance to heal. Murray would also like a chance to go against the Rams again, after a floundering post-bye performance in the first meeting. Yes, the argument can be made not to put Murray in even the slightest harm's way in a game that ultimately doesn't mean much. But unless Murray is in danger of tearing something – and the doctors know what the issue is – Murray and the Cardinals also know he has a couple of months to deal with whatever tweak might come about if it gets aggravated in the game.
Making Sure Defensive Revival Isn't A Passing Fancy
The Cardinals were not competitive against the Rams in the first meeting. Todd Gurley ran the ball pretty well, but it was the passing game that turned the Cards' defense into a pretzel. Jared Goff was over 400 yards throwing the ball with more than eight minutes left in the third quarter. The Cardinals have played much better defense since then. They gave up 16 points to the Steelers; 17 to the Browns before a late, meaningless TD drive at the end of the game; and then 13 to the Seahawks. Cornerback Patrick Peterson is finally playing like Patrick Peterson. Chandler Jones is pushing toward a 20-sack season. The Cards have played a little better against the tight end. All that will be on display against a Rams offense that can score, that has tight end Tyler Higbee on a major roll, and a coach in Sean McVay who has shown over and over he can handle whatever the Cards throw at him.
Kingsbury v McVay Round Two, Or The Cardinals Want To Keep It Close
The friendship of Kliff Kingsbury and Sean McVay is well-documented, but McVay wasn't very friendly the first time the teams met. Then again, McVay hasn't been very friendly to the Cardinals in the five meetings they have had in his Rams' tenure; the Rams have won all five by an aggregate score of 164-32. No matter who is playing QB, it's hard to think the Cards will be as flat as they looked in the first 2019 game, a 34-7 loss that could've been worse. One of the reasons the Cardinals have looked so good the past two games is because of their run game, cracking 200 yards each time. That'd be one way to keep Goff on the sideline. The Rams, disappointingly eliminated from the playoffs, don't have much to play for. It'll be interesting to see how that could impact their effort.