The 3-0 Los Angeles Rams host the also undefeated division rival Arizona Cardinals this Sunday in a marquee week four showdown for first place in the NFC West. The Cardinals have been red hot on offense to start the 2021 season, averaging 34.3 points per game.
The only team in the NFL that has scored 30+ points in each of the first three games this season.— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) September 27, 2021
We have recorded 400+ yards and 30+ points in each of the first three games of a season for the first time in franchise history. pic.twitter.com/bP3yFtvF2o
Those high point totals have them tied with the 2-1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the highest scoring teams in the league.
While Arizona’s production has been undeniable, there is one significant area of their offense that has been at best below average: third down conversions.
Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray has a bevy of weapons to choose from when it comes to extending drives on the money down, including using his legs to run and pick up a first down. So far this season, he has targeted All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and first year Cardinal A.J. Green the most with five third down targets each, followed by Christian Kirk and Rondale Moore with four and three third down looks, respectively. Tight end Demetrius Harris has also been targeted once, which resulted in an interception by Kevin Byard of the Tennessee Titans. Murray has also run the ball the ball twice; a nine yard scramble that led to a first down and a zone read that didn’t.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, all of those options have still left a bit to be desired in what may be their only legitimate offensive weakness. Arizona only converts 34.58 percent of their third down attempts, which ranks near the bottom of the league at 23rd.
With the Rams playing much more of a bend but don’t break style of defense this season, they have allowed opposing offenses to convert 45.7 percent of their third down attempts, which also ranks near the bottom of the league at 24th.
If L.A. can continue to have success in limiting big plays, and also find a way to keep Arizona closer to their third down conversion rate instead of the higher rate that Los Angeles has allowed over the first three weeks, the odds of the Rams winning should increase greatly.
If history is any indication of what will happen, the Rams certainly have it on their side. The Cardinals haven’t defeated the Rams in their last eight games. In those eight contests, L.A. has outscored Arizona by an embarrassing 251 to 91. To his credit, new Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford holds a three game win streak over the Cards. Let’s hope both trends continue in the Rams’ favor.