If they defeat the Rams (9-6) on Sunday, they will clinch a playoff berth. If they lose, their season is over. If the Bears lose to the Packers but the Cardinals and Rams tie, both NFC West teams will advance to the playoffs.
What is very interesting about their up-and-down season is the fact that they faced many teams that were without some of their top players.
In Week 1, the Cardinals played a 49ers team that was without their top two wide receivers in Deebo Samuel and first-round pick Brandon Aiyuk. In Week 3, the Cardinals threw three interceptions and struggled to run the ball against a Lions defense that struggled in the first two weeks of the season. The Panthers were without Christian McCaffrey, Jets were without Sam Darnold, Cowboys without Dak Prescott, and the Seahawks were without Jamal Adams.
Let’s throw in the fact that rookie quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts both made their second starts of their careers against the Cardinals. Both put out their best statistical output of the season against this team.
Hurts (WK15): 338 passing yards, 63 rushing yards, four total touchdowns, 102.3 passer rating
Tagovailoa (WK9): 248 passing yards. 35 rushing yards, two touchdowns, 122.3 passer rating
With that said, it is clear that the Cardinals have had an easy schedule this season due to major injuries to their opponents and not just because they played the NFC East.
They had incredible victories against teams such as the Bills, Cowboys, and Seahawks. They also lost to teams such as the Lions, Panthers, Patriots, and most-recently the 49ers (all teams that the Cardinals were expected to beat).
Next, they will face a Rams team that will be without their franchise quarterback in Jared Goff. They will be led by quarterback John Wolford, the AAF leader in touchdown passes before it got disbanded.
Despite Wolford making his first-career NFL start and playing in his first regular season game, the Cardinals have had their share of struggles against inexperienced quarterbacks. Not only that, Sean McVay is 7-0 against the Cardinals since he was hired as the Rams’ head coach in 2017.
Expect McVay to dial up a lot of bootleg, play action plays for Wolford that the Cardinals defense have struggled to defend this season. Wolford ran for over 1,100 rushing yards in his collegiate career at Wake Forest, another element in his game the Cardinals will need to be prepared for.
If the Cardinals are going to end their losing streak against the McVay-led Rams, there is no better time than this weekend. Including Goff, the Rams could be without running backs Darrell Henderson (ankle), Cam Akers (ankle), and wide receiver Cooper Kupp (COVID).
At this time of year, every team is banged up and is functioning at less than 100 percent health through the rigors of a full NFL season but in the Rams case, they could be without four of the top players on the offense.
The Cardinals have dealt with injuries of their own. Kyler Murray suffered a lower leg injury in the loss to the 49ers. They lost Chandler Jones and Corey Peters earlier in the year.
But judging by this video, it looks like Murray will be good to go this weekend.
Kyler Murray (lower leg) participated during all portions of the observable period at #AZCardinals Wednesday practice ahead of the final game of the regular season against the #Rams. pic.twitter.com/snvmF1BgYl— Mason Kern (@MasonKernMedia) December 30, 2020
In a must-win game, the Cardinals need to put out their best performance of the season if they are going to beat the Rams. Through all the games that they should have won this season, this Sunday’s game is the one they cannot afford to lose.
There are no more excuses for Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals. This is a do-or-die situation and the Cardinals must come out on top.