RAMS AT CARDINALS
- 6:15 p.m. Monday
- State Farm Stadium
- Line: Cardinals -2.5 (For more details see BetMGM.com)
The three biggest things to watch for Monday when the Cardinals play the Rams at State Farm Stadium:
An Offense Coming Together Again
The weather will not be an issue. Kyler and Hop will be back to normal and there is still a chance Chase Edmonds or Justin Pugh can get back on the field. It's not like the Cardinals have been poor on offense, but to get the pieces back at this time of year couldn't have come at a better time. As Hopkins rounds into shape after missing so much time, the passing game should click back to a higher level, with even more chances down the field. There has been little time spent together once Zach Ertz arrived with all the options there for Murray. Maybe that happens against the Rams, but regardless, with the level James Conner has been playing, adding a settled Murray and Hopkins in the mix should produce fireworks.
Remembering The Blueprint Of Round One
The Cardinals beat the Rams, 37-20, the first time they played and the game was not that close. It figures to be tighter this time around, but the Cards have a chance to put Matthew Stafford – who has shown the proclivity for some ill-timed turnovers – in a bad spot. Slowing the Rams run game is crucial too, but it was the Cardinals' own running game that dominated the Rams in early October, and that was highlighted by a late 94-yard, all-runs, clock-eating field-goal drive that broke the will of the Rams. If the Cardinals can play like that, they'll have their big MNF win.
Taking Control Of The NFC West
The Cardinals clinch a playoff spot with a win, but at this point, that almost seems immaterial. Just making the playoffs isn't good enough anymore. The Cards can't clinch the division Monday night, but by beating the Rams a second time, they would reduce their magic number to winning the NFC West to one – any combination, with four games left, of one Rams loss or one Cardinals win. That would be an important step (and besides, a win is necessary in this epic race for the lone playoff bye as the No. 1 seed.)