The three biggest things to watch for Sunday when the Cardinals play the Rams at State Farm Stadium:
Kyler Finishing Strong, And What Will Ramsey Do?
The Cardinals' offense has been trending up, in large part because of the play of rookie quarterback Kyler Murray. Now they get a Rams' defense that was punched in the mouth against the Ravens, after the unit had been playing well, especially after the acquisition of Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Can Murray (and playcaller Kliff Kingsbury) find similar holes? The Cardinals have run the ball fairly well lately but aren't the same kind of rushing team as the Ravens. Rams stud defensive tackle Aaron Donald, virtually invisible last game, doesn't figure to disappear two weeks in a row. Given how the Cardinals' defense has performed – and struggled – much of the time, the Cards' offense must continue to find ways to put up a bunch of points. Maybe that will be enough to win.
Deploying Drake. And Johnson. And Edmonds.
It's become clear that Kenyan Drake is the starting running back. But the Cardinals have, not surprisingly, played coy how the snaps and touches may be spread around between Drake, David Johnson and the now-returning Chase Edmonds. No, Kliff Kingsbury said, he didn't watch any Knute Rockne video this week. The chances of seeing all three on the field – while intriguing – at the same time in some sort of full-house is unlikely. The question is, what exactly is likely? The most touches by the second running back in a game this season for Kingsbury has been 11, and that was from Edmonds in Cincinnati. Other than that game, the second Cardinals running back has averaged just 3.2 touches per game this season. Not only does that not seem to equate to work for a third back, the second back doesn't usually get a lot of work either.
Kliff Against McVay In An Official Capacity
There is no denying that Kliff Kingsbury became a candidate for the Cardinals' coaching job, at least in part, because of what Sean McVay accomplished offensively for the Rams. But 11 games into Kingsbury's NFL coaching career, he has shown it to be a smart hire. The Cardinals have evolved into one of the more potent offenses in the NFL already with quarterback Kyler Murray. Now Kingsbury will face his friend for the first time on the field, and the two will try to outduel each other. Of course, in both cases, it'll be the veteran defensive coordinators – Vance Joseph for the Cards, Wade Phillips for the Rams – who have to solve the respective offenses. But these head coaches know each other well – how that might impact how the game plays out will be fascinating.