So this is awkward but I think the Rams are winning tonight.
Let me be clear: I don’t think the Cardinals are overrated, I think they are underrated. I don’t think the Cardinals are about to flush their 10-2 start down the drain; I think the Cardinals have as good of a chance to win the Super Bowl right now as any team in the NFL.
Nor do I believe the Rams are a sleeping giant. I think the Rams have been the most overrated team in the NFL since August and have the receipts to prove it.
I just think that tonight the Rams are going to be better than the Cardinals.
One reason is the Rams have to play with a desperation that’s hard, even for a team as disrespected as the Cardinals, to equal or exceed.
There’s a HUGE difference between the Cardinals being 11-2 and the Rams 8-5 or the Cardinals being 10-3 and the Rams being 9-4. The Rams know this better than anyone and I would expect their last gasp of Super Bowl relevance to be on full display tonight.
I also can’t really imagine it being this, relatively speaking, easy for the Cardinals to run the table in the NFC West and plant their flag on top of the NFC.
Feeding off disrespect has been a gift for the Cardinals all season; winning tonight forces everyone to reckon with their talents and recognize all of their successes - that almost feels counterproductive to me. Their destiny is to be the team that proves people wrong ever step - not the team that fulfills everyone’s expectations.
Mostly I’m picking the Rams because right now I trust Sean McVay leading a desperate team over Kliff Kingsbury leading a successful one.
On the field it’s hard to not like the Cardinals tonight. They’re better at every position group on the field with the lone exception of defensive line.. They have the better quarterback. They have a healthier roster. They have home field advantage. And they handily beat the Rams in Week 4.
Yet I can’t shake the feeling that the last time these two teams played, the Rams just seemed out of sorts. The Matthew Stafford/Cooper Kupp connection was off all game. Two Rams turnovers directly led to 14 Cardinals points. The Rams clearly took the Cardinals lightly in Week 4. Tonight, Sean McVay will make sure his team doesn’t do it a second time.
If the Cardinals are to win, they’ll need to get pressure on Matthew Stafford - he’s been sacked the second fewest times in the NFL. They’ll need Zach Ertz to perfectly fill Maxx Williams role from Week 4. And I think they’ll need Kyler Murray to do what Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers did for their teams yesterday and put the team on his shoulders and hope AJ Green turns around this time.
The biggest knock against the Cardinals success this season has been the doubt the team can keep doing it when it matters most.
I do think experience matters. I think it matters when you’re driving somewhere, raising kids or dating someone. If experience didn’t matter, why do we have resumes? Knowing how to do something doesn’t guarantee you’ll do it but it does let you know what to expect.
Win or lose tonight, the Cardinals will get the closest to postseason experience they can get in the regular season.
That experience will prove to be valuable when the actual postseason arrives.
Tonight, the Cardinals experience won’t be fun if my prediction holds up but I still fully expect the Cardinals 2021 season experience to be better than that of the Rams. It's just going to take a little bit more patience to see it through.
Rams 27, Cardinals 25.