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Three Big Things: Wild Card Playoff Week

A look at the top storylines for Monday's game against Rams

3 Big Things (1)


The three biggest things to watch for Monday when the Cardinals play the Rams at SoFi Stadium in a Wild Card playoff game:

Seeing Red And Getting In The Zone

When Kyler Murray talks about the offense, he not incorrectly notes the Cardinals have still been able to move the ball a chunk of the time. The issue is the inability to cash in with touchdowns, like the Cardinals were doing earlier in the season. In the last three games, the Cardinals have gotten to the opponent's 25-yard line or closer 14 times. They have tried eight field goals (missing one), scored just five touchdowns and knelt to run out the clock once. That's a conversion rate that won't win many -- if any -- playoff games. With James Conner still trying to see if he'll be able to play with his ribs injury, the red zone in close becomes a potential concern. With no DeAndre Hopkins, that hurts in the passing game. But the Cardinals have to find a way to get six instead of three when they have the opportunity. With Murray's ability to pass and run, and the emergence of Zach Ertz, it can be done. But the Cardinals have to execute.

Make Stafford Sweat

Kyler Murray, as a quarterback, is naturally going to have pressure on him. He was made for this situation, but he knows he has to show it. Whatever pressure Kyler might have, however, it pails to what faces Rams QB Matthew Stafford, who was acquired specifically to get the Rams to a Super Bowl. That said, finding a way to get in Stafford's face with the pass rush will be crucial. In Stafford's last four games he's thrown eight touchdowns but also eight interceptions; he can get his team in trouble. The team with the better quarterback play usually wins, and that's been true of both Cardinals-Rams games this season.

NoteCards wildcard

NoteCards 2021 Wild Card vs. Rams

Aaron Donald 1 V. Aaron Donald 2

There are always a million ways to break down a game, to parse what details might change the outcome. It's possible, however, that this game comes down to one player, Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. In the first meeting, Donald's impact was mitigated – he's never not impactful – and the Cardinals rolled. The second meeting? "Aaron Donald wrecked the entire game," coach Kliff Kingbsury said. "I thought he had as dominating a defensive performance as you'll see, which is not unusual for him." That can't happen again. (Donald had more QB pressures against the Cardinals in the second by himself game than the Cardinals had total against Stafford.) One way to do it is to create something consistent in the running game. But O-line coach Sean Kugler also knows he's got to have the right plan, because Donald is going to be a factor.