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How will Jared Goff do against the Cardinals?

What the signs point to for Sunday’s important showdown

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Regression. It’s real. It exists in all sports. It requires patience and any understanding of it and expectation for it to level out the un-level might mitigate the reactionary hot takes that drive many members of the lazy, uninformed media we’ve become accustomed to by 2020.

If a player is extraordinarily hot, expect him to come back to his typical performance level. If a player is struggling, expect him to “find a rhythm” eventually. If more members of the media were rational, their followers would naturally follow.

Then again, sometimes players do “find it” or “lose it” and maybe I am just as flawed as the rest.

I do not believe that Jared Goff has proven over his career that he’s capable of consistently repeating the success he had in 2018. Not at this point. I also do not believe that he’s as bad as he’s been over the last month and I expect him to return to something that exists in between his highs and lows.

That or he really did get “found out” in late 2018 and in the Super Bowl and the LA Rams will never see Goff play as well as he did prior to that collapse.

This Sunday, the Rams play the Arizona Cardinals and coming off of his most disappointing performance of the season Goff will need to “find it” if he’s going to quell questions about his future as LA’s franchise quarterback. He turned the ball over four times against the San Francisco 49ers and he hasn’t been accurate since he deemed himself as a player who had never struggled with accuracy in his life prior to the Rams’ first loss to the 49ers this season.

How should we expect him to play against the Cards?

Cardinals defense, total stats

Opposing passers: 256 of 395, 64.8%, 2,702 yards, 19 TD, 10 INT, 6.8 Y/A, 28 sacks

Arizona ranks 14th in points allowed and points per drive allowed, 13th in passing yards allowed, eighth in net yards per pass attempt allowed, 22nd in rushing yards allowed, 22nd in yards per carry allowed and 18th in takeaways. Some of these numbers were impacted by facing one of the worst NFL passers of the last five seasons: Cam Newton. More on him later.

The Cards also rank 15th in third down defense and fifth in red zone defense.

Quarterbacks against the Cardinals this season

Two touchdowns, no interceptions:

  • Matthew Stafford - 22 of 31, 232 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 4 sacks
  • Tua Tagovailoa - 20 of 28, 221 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 3 sacks, 7 rush, 35 yards
  • Russell Wilson - 23 of 28, 182 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 3 sacks
  • Jimmy Garoppolo - 19 of 33, 243 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 3 sacks

Looking at this group, one thing stands out and it’s that no quarterback has had an exceptional statistical day against Arizona this season. Even the most solid games by Wilson, Stafford and Tagovailoa came with at least three sacks.

It also occurs to me that because of the way their scheduled played out, they avoid facing most elite quarterbacks. No Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson or Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees or Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger or Ryan Tannehill or even a Justin Herbert. It’s also occurring to me that the AFC could be catching up to the NFC in this category.

Statistically, the Cards could be benefiting from some scheduling. However, we also know that as of today, Goff doesn’t belong in the elite category or even the “above average” category with his recent play.

Two+ touchdowns, some interceptions:

  • Josh Allen - 33 of 50, 296 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT, 0 sacks, 7 rush, 38 yards
  • Russell Wilson - 33 of 50, 372 yards, 3 TD, 3 INT, 2 sacks, 6 rush, 84 yards
  • Teddy Bridgewater - 26 of 37, 276 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 0 sacks, 6 rush, 32 yards, 1 TD

Allen may have an argument as the second-best quarterback that Arizona has faced this season. Both he and Wilson completed 33 of 50 passes in high-scoring close losses to the Cards in which each team had multiple turnovers. Bridgewater bumped up against his ceiling and the Panthers had a fairly easy win against the Cardinals despite Kyler Murray having a productive day.

<2 TD:

  • Andy Dalton - 34 of 54, 247 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 3 sacks
  • Joe Flacco - 18 of 33, 162 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 3 sacks
  • Dwayne Haskins - 19 of 33, 199 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 4 sacks, 1 FL
  • Cam Newton - 9 of 18, 69 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT, 3 sacks, 9 rush, 46 yards

Arizona has also faced four of the worst starters in the NFL. This is obviously not the category that Goff wants to live in.

Jared Goff vs the Vance Joseph Cardinals defense

Week 13, 2019 - 32 of 43, 424 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 1 sack (34-7 win)

Week 17, 2019 - 29 of 45, 319 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT, 1 sack (31-24 win)

Against not-the-Cardinals last season, Goff had 17 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in his 14 other starts. He dominated Arizona and combined in both starts he completed 61 of 88 passes for 743 yards, an average of 8.44 yards per attempt. His 424 yards were the second-most of any of his 2019 starts with the exception of the ridiculous 55-40 loss to the Bucs and his three touchdowns in Week 17 were the most he had in any game last year.

How many of those Cards defensive players remain? Not many.

Linebacker Jordan Hicks returns but Chandler Jones is on injured reserve with a torn biceps. Patrick Peterson is in the secondary as always but former high second round pick Byron Murphy started at cornerback last year but is in a reserve role in 2020. Budda Baker returns at safety but Jalen Thompson has dealt with multiple injuries.

Their replacements include former first round linebacker Haason Reddick, veteran corner Dre Kirkpatrick and 30-year-old journeyman safety Chris Banjo.

The Cardinals started Corey Peters (IR) and Caraun Reid (gone) along the defensive line last year and now it’s Zach Allen (2019, third round) and Angelo Blackson (free agent) because their top offseason signing in that area, Jordan Phillips, is on injured reserve. They may also play Trevon Coley, a 26-year-old who has bounced around the league over the last few years. They added 36-year-old Domata Peko just last week.

The other new face we may say get significant snaps is linebacker Markus Golden, a former Arizona player who was traded back to them at the deadline for a sixth round pick. Golden intercepted Newton last week and has one sack, five QB hits in four games since returning to the Cardinals.

Rookie do-everything Isaiah Simmons, the eighth overall pick in the draft, has played in only 27% of the snaps because it remains unclear what he can actually do best. But Simmons has a sack in each of the last two games and he intercepted Wilson in Week 7.

Despite their best efforts to improve that side of the ball with an offseason that included adding Simmons, Phillips and linebacker Devon Kennard, the Cardinals have seen injuries take their toll. Arizona has allowed just under 30 points per game over their last five games.

How will Jared Goff do against the Cardinals?

With my simplistic view of things laid out here, I do believe that Goff has an opportunity to “rebound” against Arizona. He had two of his best starts of 2019 against the Cardinals and Arizona’s defense has not been near the same without Chandler Jones and they’ve been hit hard with injuries in several others areas of that side of the ball.

It’s possible the Cardinals defense has never had less to work with this season than what they’ll be able to put on the field on Sunday. If Goff struggles against Arizona despite their current state of affairs and his own personal bevy of weapons like Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson, Van Jefferson and Malcolm Brown, then it’s going to be time again to take another hard look at what changed for him after such an encouraging start to the season.

My stab in the dark? 25 of 35, 280 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 1 sack