One year after playing in the Super Bowl, the Los Angeles Rams will see their season come to an end in Week 17 against the Arizona Cardinals. Kickoff will be at 4:25 EST on Sunday, December 29 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Fans throughout Arizona and Southern California will be able to watch the game on Fox.
Current betting odds have the Rams favored by 5.5 points. However, that number could change depending on the availability of Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray. Click here to check out a full list of the Week 17 NFL betting odds.
Needless to say, the Rams are disappointed with how this season turned out. Despite coming up short in the Super Bowl last season, they had high hopes for being one of the top teams in the NFC again in 2019. However, things didn’t pan out that way for L.A. To their credit, the Rams were able to keep themselves alive until back-to-back losses to the Cowboys and 49ers the last two weeks dropped them to 8-7 and knocked them out of the playoff picture. They now have to find some motivation to play at home in Week 17 and at least secure a winning season in 2019.
Meanwhile, things aren’t so cut and dry for the Cardinals. They’ve already improved their win total from last season, which is surely a step in the right direction under new head coach Kliff Kingsbury. But there is still a huge gap between Arizona and the top of the NFC West. The silver lining is that the Cardinals have won back-to-back games late in the year to get to 5-9-1. Winning three in a row to finish the season while avoiding a 10-loss season would be a great way to end the season, which should keep the Cardinals motivated to play in Week 17.
Another motivating factor for the Cardinals could be their desire to end a five-game losing streak at the hands of the Rams. The Cardinals won in their first visit to Los Angeles in 2017 after the Rams moved, but they haven’t been able to do much since then. In fact, the Rams have been dominant in their last five games with Arizona, winning those five games by an average of over 26 points, including a 34-7 win in the desert earlier this month.
Can Arizona completely turn things around after losing to the Rams by 27 points less than a month ago? It doesn’t seem likely, but I’m not sure how motivated the Rams will be in this game. When the teams met earlier this year, Los Angeles was playing for its playoff life. I think that intensity could be lacking this week whereas the Cardinals are still playing hard. Obviously, all bets are off if Murray doesn’t play, but assuming he takes the field, I think Arizona can at least beat the spread in this game.
There’s no doubt that Murray has had plenty of ups and downs as a rookie. But he has started to turn a corner late in the year. In nearly every game, there have been moments when he’s able to get the Arizona offense rolling. With the L.A. defense a little more relaxed and battling some injuries in the secondary, he could have a good game if he’s able to play.
In addition to Murray, Kenyan Drake has stolen the show in the last few weeks. He has 303 yards and six touchdowns over his last two games. The Arizona offensive line has been maligned for much of the year, but they’ve been much-improved the past two weeks. When the Cardinals are able to run the ball effectively, Murray can focus down the field rather than worrying about getting sacked, which makes him a dangerous playmaker with both his arm and his legs.
At the same time, the L.A. defense has been a mixed bag this season. Outside of their win over the Cardinals earlier this month, the Rams have had some trouble defending the run in recent weeks. If that trend continues, it could spell trouble for the Rams. Given the way Drake has performed the last two weeks, it’s not out of the question for him to have another big game and create trouble for the Rams.
Of course, the Cardinals aren’t that reliable on defense. Even after slowing down Russell Wilson and the Seahawks last week, I remain a little skeptical about the Arizona defense. However, this is not the same Los Angeles offense as a year ago. Todd Gurley has a total of just 68 rushing yards over the last two weeks. He could also see a diminished role with the Rams out of the playoff picture. Jared Goff has also been a little erratic this season, especially with four interceptions in his last three games. The Rams will likely score points, but Goff’s errors could also hold them back and make it hard for L.A. to maintain a comfortable lead.
All things considered, I don’t mind taking a chance on the suddenly surging Cardinals, as long as Murray plays. He and Drake have formed a great tandem for the last two weeks and I think they can give the Rams a run for their money. With potential questions about L.A.’s motivation, taking the Cardinals and the points might be the better option in this game.