The Los Angeles Rams are entering a crucial part of their schedule over the next three weeks. Over the first five games, the Rams finished 2-3 which is about right where they should be at this point in the season. Losses to the San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals, and Philadelphia Eagles were supposed to happen.
However, now the Rams enter a stage in the schedule where we’re going to find out what this team is going to be. Over the next four games, they play the Arizona Cardinals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, and Green Bay Packers. All four of those games will be winnable. With that said, it all starts against the Cardinals and it’s important that the Rams don’t overlook their division opponent. According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Rams are currently seven-point favorites at home.
Depending on how the Rams finish this four game stretch, we’re going to find out if this is a team that is going to hang around .500 all season or if they can pull out some tough wins and go on a run. With the Steelers, Cowboys, and Packers on deck, it would be very easy for the Rams to overlook the Cardinals, a team that is 1-4 through five weeks. It’s crucial that they don’t make that mistakes.
The Cardinals may be 1-4, but like the Rams, they’ve been feisty and played teams tough. In fact, they beat the Dallas Cowboys in Week 3. Outside of the last two games, the Cardinals were leading heading into the fourth quarter in their previous three. Against the Bengals and 49ers, they only trailed by four and five points respectively heading into the final 15 minutes.
In Week 6, the Rams are teetering on the line of being in a spot where they can compete and being in a position where losing might be the better option. We’ll find out more about the answer to that question starting on Sunday.
Rams Offense vs. Cardinals Defense
Did the Eagles put out the blueprint on how to slow down the Rams offense last week? Not many teams have the physicality at cornerback than the Eagles and the Cardinals have one of the worst defenses in the NFL.
NFL Defenses - Entering Week 6 pic.twitter.com/kVosdvXZgY— SumerSports (@SumerSports) October 12, 2023
This could end up being a tale of two halves. The Cardinals defense ranks 14th in the NFL in first half defense EPA, but are 30th in the second half. Meanwhile, the Rams have the fourth best first half offense and drop to 25th in the second half. It’s going to be crucial for either team to get off to a fast start.
Matchup to Watch: WR Cooper Kupp vs. CB Marco Wilson
This could end up being a huge game for Cooper Kupp. Marco Wilson is allowing the most yards after the catch in the NFL this season and that’s typically where Kupp thrives in the Rams offense. Look for Sean McVay to exploit that matchup as much as possible.
Rams Defense vs. Cardinals Offense
The Cardinals actually do a lot of fun things in the run game. In fact, as a team, they rank eighth in the NFL in rush EPA. James Conner will be out in this game, but he ranked ninth in rushing yards over expected per attempt at 0.76 and fifth in yards per attempt. This is a team that can run the ball.
Cardinals put the TE on a speedy back-and-forth motion and run Split Zone. Look at the path around the QB! pic.twitter.com/7bSeSJyJDK— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) October 5, 2023
It’s going to be important for the Rams edge rushers to remain disciplined as well as for Ernest Jones to navigate through blocks/traffic. If the Rams allow the Cardinals to lean on the run game, it could be a long day. Bobby Brown will be out, meaning Kobie Turner will be asked to do more on early downs as well.
Matchup to Watch: CB Derion Kendrick vs. WR Michael Wilson
Rams fans are going to find out who Michael Wilson is if they didn’t already after his time at Stanford in the Pac-12. Josh Dobbs has a 153.8 passer-rating when targeting Wilson this season. He may only have 15 receptions for 255 yards, but he’s been a pleasant surprise for the Cardinals offense as he’s been able to stay healthy. Given Marquise Brown’s speed, Kendrick may be the cornerback lined up across from Wilson in this game.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Cardinals leading after the first half in this game. Arizona may be 1-4, but they are much better than their record. They rank 21st in DVOA compared to 18th for the Rams. These teams are much closer than meets the eye. The Cardinals will be without James Conner.
This isn’t a game where the Rams can disappear in the second half as they have over the past four weeks. The Rams need to be able to put together a full 60-minutes because the Cardinals are good enough to take advantage. With a mostly healthy team, I expect the Rams to sneak out a close win at home and get back to .500.
Prediction: Rams 24, Cardinals 16