The NFL playoffs have finally arrived and the field of 14 teams vying for a Super Bowl is set. Super wild-card weekend concludes on Monday with an exciting matchup.
Here are our best bets for the Monday night game between the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams.
Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams (-3.5, 50)
Burke: For two teams with good records, it doesn’t feel like either the Rams or Cardinals are trustworthy. The two head-to-head meetings during the regular season came down to turnovers. The Cardinals won 37-20 as an underdog in Los Angeles because of Rams miscues, including a turnover on downs, a missed field goal and a fumble that led to a short field. The box score was actually pretty even, as both teams averaged at least six yards per play.
In the second meeting, won 30-23 on the road by Los Angeles as an underdog, it was Arizona’s turn to give up a short field and have a red zone turnover. In that game, both teams also had at least six yards per play. The offenses outperformed the defenses in both games, so maybe you look towards the over here.
I’ll be taking Arizona here. It isn’t that I like the Cardinals and dislike the Rams; it simply boils down to the fact that these teams look to be virtual equals. Both were better on the road, which will be a talking point here, but is not the reason I like Arizona. Matthew Stafford’s inconsistency from half to half is a major problem for the Rams, as they can look like world-beaters for 30 minutes and then look like a mediocre team for the next 30.
If Kyler Murray had stayed healthy and in rhythm, maybe the second half goes differently for Arizona. There are a lot of narratives out there about Kliff Kingsbury, who has never won a big game at any level, and you have to respect that to some degree at this time of the year, but the second-half swoon camouflaged how good the profile looks for the Cardinals. This has been a top-10 defense throughout the season and remains a dynamic offense.
Ultimately, I’m getting four points in a game that should be a field goal or lower. The Rams were -3.5 when they lost to the Cardinals at home earlier this season and I don’t really see any reason why this line should be higher than that. This should be a tight game and I’d rather be on the side getting points.
Pick: Cardinals + 4
Tuley: Are you ready for some playoff “Monday Night Football”? We get it with this matchup to wrap up the long weekend. Both teams won outright as small road underdogs in their regular-season meetings, and the Cardinals inadvertently did themselves a favor by losing to the Seahawks on Sunday as they’re 8-1 on the road compared with just 3-5 at home. The Rams were just 5-3 at home compared with 7-2 on the road, so we don’t see too much of a home-field advantage here.
The problem with the Cardinals is they haven’t been playing as well as they were when they routed the Rams 37-20 at SoFi Stadium back in Week 4. They limped into the playoffs, losing four of their last five games. The Rams had won four straight before losing to the 49ers on Sunday, but they’ve had their own troubles, most notably Stafford turning the ball over eight times in the last three games. Stafford is 0-3 in the postseason -- all with the Lions -- and there is some doubt about how he’ll perform with the pressure ramping up. These rivals know each other very well, so we trust we’ll have another close game here. Taking more than a field goal with the live road ‘dog is clearly the play.
Pick: Cardinals + 4