There are a lot of words that can be used to describe the 2022 season for the Rams. Is “over” one of them with a loss on Sunday? You never want to refer to a game as a “must win” until it is from a mathematical standpoint, but Sunday’s tilt against the Arizona Cardinals is undoubtedly huge for the Rams.
Arizona Cardinals at Rams (-1 1/2, 41)
If anything goes right for the Rams this season, it will be a breath of fresh air. This week, quarterback Matthew Stafford is in concussion protocol. That announcement from head coach Sean McVay caused this line to move from -3 to -1 1/2. We’ll see if Stafford gets cleared in time, but it will be John Wolford’s show if he does not. If he doesn’t, the Cardinals, who have a bevy of problems of their own, will be road favorites at SoFi Stadium.
Stafford has been hit a lot this season, as the Rams have allowed the third-most sacks in the NFL and clearly haven’t been able to block in the running game either. Stafford has been sacked 28 times after only being sacked 30 times in 17 games last season. Arizona ranks around the middle of the league in pressure percentage and has only managed 16 sacks, but the Cardinals blitz at the second-highest rate in the NFL behind only the Giants.
That all-or-nothing defensive strategy leaves a lot of one-on-one coverage downfield and the Cardinals have been burned in that area. They have allowed 212 more yards after the catch than any other team in the league. They have the worst defense in the NFL by dropback success rate, a metric used to describe how effective a play was based on the down and distance. Not surprisingly, the Rams beat the Cardinals earlier in the season, but things have not gone well with a 1-4 record since then.
Whether Stafford plays or doesn’t, the defense will be under the spotlight again. The Rams have been terrific against the run, but rank 24th in dropback success rate, so the pass defense has shown some cracks. Against a Cardinals team that also can’t run the ball, it will be on the secondary to stand out. Kyler Murray was 37 of 58 for 314 yards in the first meeting, but failed to get to the end zone. However, Murray is also dealing with a hamstring injury.
Obviously a lot of things about this handicap are contingent on the health of the quarterbacks. Stafford seems to have a harder path to being cleared with the NFL’s midseason adjustments to the concussion protocols and policies. Murray is said to be managing the hamstring and that it isn’t a huge concern for his availability.
At this point, one play that makes sense is to put the Cardinals in a six-point teaser with the Broncos. A teaser bet is a parlay in which you improve the lines of the teams that you are betting. In this case, taking two underdogs in low-scoring games from +1 1/2 to +7 1/2 creates a lot of value by getting the key numbers of +3 and +7. Even with the quarterback uncertainty here, that’s a solid play on Arizona.
Pick: Cardinals +7 1/2/ Broncos +7 1/2, six-point teaser