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Opponent Scouting Report: LA Rams at Arizona Cardinals

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Can the struggling Rams still sweep the the seemingly ascending Arizona Cardinals?

Phoenix Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams
ANAHEIM, CA: Michael Stewart of the Los Angeles Rams circa 1987 returns an interception for a touchdown against the Phoenix Cardinals at Anaheim Stadium in Anaheim, California.
Photo by Owen C. Shaw/Getty Images

With a 3-7-1 record, the Arizona Cardinals definitely aren’t back yet, but there seems to be a growing excitement in the desert about a vastly improved offense and a quarterback selection that appears to be working out. Behind a surprisingly healthy offensive line, quarterback Kyler Murray has been able to throw 14 touchdowns with only 5 picks, sufficient for a 91.2 rating so far. His elusiveness has been an asset as Murray has scrambled to 418 yards, yet he’s been under control and made generally sound decisions when outside the pocket. Running backs David Johnson, Kenyon Drake, and Chase Edmonds have all chipped in to help build a successful ground game this season, which has averaged 5.0 yards per carry (4th in the NFL). The Cards ground attack has provided sufficient balance to Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, which is now ranked 15th in scoring, after being ranked dead last just a year ago. Outside, living legend Larry Fitzgerald is on pace for 88 receptions, and second year receiver Christian Kirk continues to blossom into a quality NFL receiver.

That’s the good news for Cardinals fans.

Unfortunately, while Kinsbury’s offense has improved, the Cardinals defense has decayed into one of the league’s worst units. Just as the Rams defense will likely be built around stars Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey for years to come, the Cardinals defense is built around edge rusher Chandler Jones and cornerback Patrick Peterson. However, Peterson hasn’t had a great year, and may ultimately not be offered an extension in Arizona. Safety Budda Baker has been solid, but rookie cornerback Byron Murphy is still figuring things out and the Cardinals have been generally terrible against the pass and have surrendered the most yardage in the league. Will that lure the Rams into forgetting Todd Gurley, and muting Jared Goff’s play action? If the Rams can invest in the run early, this game could represent an opportunity for Jared Goff to get right.

The Rams would probably need to win out to make the playoffs, and that seems incredibly far-fetched based on the team’s recent offensive struggles. However, this Sunday’s game could be interesting as it’s the Rams first matchup against Kyler Murray. Winning out starts with winning one, but this week’s game is definitely not the easy matchup that the Cardinals represented a year ago.