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Cardinals vs. Rams: What’s at stake in Week 17

Sunday’s game doesn’t matter in the standings, but it matters in plenty of other ways. Let’s see what’s at stake.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals
The Rams have had the Cardinals’ number recently. Can we stop that trend on Sunday?
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals are riding a 2-game winning streak and will be looking to end the season on a positive note in Los Angeles this weekend. Neither team really has anything to play for with both teams eliminated from playoff contention, but that doesn’t mean the game is meaningless. Here’s what’s at stake for the Cardinals in the final week of the season.

Offensive Rookie of the Year for Kyler Murray

Josh Jacobs has been the favorite for weeks, but his injury issues have let Kyler back in the race. He didn’t put up the gaudiest of numbers in last week’s win against the Seahawks, as he missed a good chunk of the game with an injury of his own, but the win still goes down on Kyler’s resume as the starter. If he can notch another road win over a division rival to close out the season, he might be able to leapfrog Jacobs—especially if the RB doesn’t suit up again. Of course, players like A.J. Brown, Miles Sanders, and Terry McLaurin are coming on strong as well. It will be a photo finish in this award race.

A Record-Breaking Season for Chandler Jones

Jones has the season sack title all but sewn up—he’s 2.5 ahead of Tampa Bay’s Shaquil Barrett—but the Redbirds pass rusher has his sights set higher. He’s just 3 sacks shy of Michael Strahan’s season record of 22.5. He has two 4-sack games this season—another one would set a new record. It could be tough, though, as Jones only managed a half-sack against the Rams the last time out. And don’t count on Jared Goff to do Jones any favors à la Brett Favre and Strahan. The sack record would have to look awfully impressive to Defensive Player of the Year voters as well (although the poor performance of the unit as a whole will be working against him).

Draft Position

Another losing season means another December of checking the standings for draft positioning. At 5-9-1, the Cardinals currently hold the 9th pick in the draft. A loss could put us as high as the 6th pick, while a win could see us drafting as low as 13th. There will be good players available no matter where we draft in the 1st round, but we likely won’t have a shot at a truly elite prospect at #13. It’s an unenviable quandary only losing teams face—root for a win or a higher draft pick? Hopefully it’s a position Cardinals fans won’t be in again in 2020.

Avoiding Double-Digit Losses

With a third-straight win, the Cardinals would finish the season at 6-9-1—not bad for a team with a rookie coach and QB. Not to mention that we were 3-9-1 just a couple weeks ago. That would mean entering the offseason on a positive note with a 3-game winning streak and a single-digit number in the L column. A loss, however, would put a decided damper on things with an ugly 10 in that L column, leaving a bad taste in everyone’s mouths. Regardless of how it impacts draft position, I know I’ll be rooting for a W on Sunday for that reason.

Jobs on the Line

As with any losing teams, there will be plenty of jobs on the line on Sunday. The Cardinals especially have a ton of potential free agents—the healthy ones will all get one last chance to make their case for remaining on the roster in 2020. But there are also jobs on the line beyond the field. Vance Joseph’s defense has looked improved the last two weeks, but you have to imagine his seat is still quite hot to the touch. Another man whose seat is less hot than it was a few weeks ago is GM Steve Keim. His job seems much safer now than during the nadir of the team’s 6-game losing streak, but what if the Rams take us out behind the woodshed… again? Another 34-7… or 31-9… or 34-0 loss might make Michael Bidwill think twice about bringing Keim back.

Final Thoughts

The 2019 season has been far from a success, but it also hasn’t been a disaster. Whatever the result is on Sunday won’t change that either way. But, as we have seen, there’s still plenty to play for. Let’s hope the team shows up even with nothing on the line, standings-wise. Here’s to ending the season on a winning streak, draft position be damned.

Do you agree, Cardinals fans? Let us know where you’re at with this 2019 team here on the eve of Week 17. What are you hoping to see on Sunday?