In Week 3, who could have know that DeSean Jackson would put up 120 yards and a touchdown against the defending Super Bowl champions? Who could have known that Tom Brady would throw for 432 yards and be the team’s leading rusher and still lose?
Anything can truly happen come game day in the NFL.
In Week 4, the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams enter the game undefeated in a divisional battle for first place. The matchup pits two of the best offenses in football against one another and is guaranteed to have some fireworks. What crazy things could happen on Sunday? These are my bold predictions.
Donald gets Rams sack record
Aaron Donald was voted as the Defensive Rookie of the Year by the NFL in 2014, was the defensive player of the year in the 2017, 2018, and 2019, earned the #1 position in the NFL Top 100 in 2019, has appeared in seven pro-bowls and has six First Team All-Pro ballots entering just his eighth season of his career. This Sunday Donald has the opportunity to earn one more accolade in his outstanding career thus far on Sunday—the Rams all-time sack leader... officially.
Officially because the NFL has only counted player sacks since 1982. Thanks to the hard work and research by the folks at Pro Football Reference we now know that former Rams legend Deacon Jones accounted for 173.5 sacks in his career, followed by Jack Youngblood with 151.5 sacks. Of course, this is unofficial, and the current official sack record co-holder is Leonard Little with 87.5 sacks. Come this Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, however, Donald will be in sole possession of the record and laminate himself as one of the best in franchise history.
What better way to earn the honor against a division rival and an electric QB Kyler Murray. Though Murray is 0-4 in his career against the Rams he has done a decent job staying upright against Donald. With just two and a half sacks against Murray in his career Donald will have his hands full trying to contain the speedy quarterback, much less bring him down.
Update: Aaron Donald is still really good— The Big Guy (@WeAreBigGuys) September 26, 2021
This is all.
Murray appears to be much improved from last season and has entered early MVP talks after his Week 1 appearance in which he put up 289 yards passing and five total touchdowns against the Tennessee Titans. Many thought that he got snubbed in the first week awards when Matthew Stafford took NFC player of the week after his debut with Los Angeles. Murray has built on his success from Week 1 throwing for over 300+ yards in his last two matches and 10 total touchdowns in just three games, leading his team to a 3-0 record and first in points in the NFL.
Murray is also coming off a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in which he was not sacked once and has only been sacked five times on the season thus far, but the Cardinals have yet to play against a defense as good as LA’s. As is the case for most of Donald’s career Arizona will attempt to implement a plan to keep the game wrecker at bay, but Donald will dominate as usual and achieve the top spot as the franchise leader in sacks for the Rams (officially).
Fuller gets his first pick of the season
Los Angeles has been known for trading away their first round picks to procure proven talent instead of taking risks on the unproven. Thus far it has been effective as it has landed them Jalen Ramsey and Stafford, but without early draft capital they have relied on late round gems, one such gem is Rams safety Jordan Fuller.
In his rookie season Fuller had three interceptions, two of which came against Tom Brady in Week 11, and the other against Nick Mullen’s 49ers. Entering the fourth week of the season Fuller is still looking for his first pick of the year, and his best chance yet just might be against the Cardinals.
Though Murray has put up quite the campaign in three games he has had some trouble keeping the ball away from defenders, throwing an interception in each match this season for a total of four.
Kyler Murray has thrown at least one pick in every game this season.— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 26, 2021
Something to clean up.pic.twitter.com/gCPfe1V4mb
If the defensive front for the Rams can get to Murray up front and make life difficult for him, it could force Murray into a bad decision and allow Fuller to get his first pick of the year. The good news for Fuller? The Rams front is really really good, which is why I am predicting Fuller’s fourth interception of his career.
Murray has his best game yet against the Rams
Murray has not been very successful against Los Angeles in his career, going 0-4 against them since being drafter number one overall by the Cardinals in 2019. His best game against them came in his second meeting with the divisional rival during his rookie season in a 31-24 loss. In that game Murray went 26 of 42, 325 yards, two touchdowns and had two interceptions.
That was Murray of the past.
2021 Murray is currently putting up MVP numbers. In just three games the quarterback has 1,005 yards, averaging 9.9 yards per attempt, 10 total touchdowns and has all kinds of weapons to utilize that Murray of 2019 did not have. Deadly DeAndre Hopkins headlines Cardinal’s passing attack, followed by standout third year receiver Christian Kirk, then for good measure new addition AJ Green and rookie Rondale Moore rounds out Arizona’s receiving core.
Murray leads an offense that enters Sunday’s game as the leader in points, second in total yards and net yards per pass attempt, and also is fourth in the NFL for points per drive. It is safe to say that the Cardinals are for real this season with Murray’s absurd improvements from last year, but it is also safe to say that Arizona has yet to play against a team of LA’s caliber.
We will see on Sunday if Murray and company can squeeze out a win against the Rams and award head coach Kliff Kingsbury with his first victory over Sean McVay. Regardless of a win or loss, an improved Murray will put up his best career game against the Rams this weekend.
Robert Woods has a breakout game
It’s interesting to write “Robert Woods has a breakout game” as a header after watching the reliable receiver put up two 1000+ yard seasons in his tenure with the Rams, barely missing the mark last year with 936. This year Woods only has 11 receptions on 19 targets for 124 yards and a touchdown through three games—putting him behind Kupp, Van Jefferson, DeSean Jackson, and just ahead of Tyler Higbee for receiving yards.
Robert Woods gets a big gain on 3rd down and then finishes the drive for a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals in the week 17 contest from 2019 pic.twitter.com/2qcGXXXXqr— RAMS ON FILM (@RamsOnFilm) September 30, 2021
A lot of it has to do with Kupp’s complete dominance as a true number one receiver on the Rams depth chart. Kupp currently leads the league in yards, touchdowns, and is tied for first in receptions as he proves to be Stafford’s favorite target thus far.
Arizona’s game plan defensively may be to attempt to limit the NFC offensive player of the month which would give other Rams pass catchers an opportunity to shine this Sunday. Though Kupp, Jefferson, Jackson, and Higbee will have their names called upon against the Cardinals, it will be the Robert Woods show as the ninth year veteran puts a clinic on Arizona’s defense—reaching 100+ yards for the first time this season and contributing two scores for the Rams offense.
What are your bold predictions for Sunday?