Arizona Cardinals (8-7) at Los Angeles Rams (9-6)
The Rams had a chance to clinch the division last week with a win in Seattle, but instead that game went about as bad as it could, as not only did the Rams lose, but they lost their starting quarterback Jared Goff, among other players who won’t be available for what is now a must win game against the Cardinals, as a loss and a Bears win against the Packers would lead to the Rams being out of the playoffs in a three way tie at 9-7.
In Goff’s absence, the Rams will start 2018 undrafted free agent John Wolford, who has never thrown an NFL pass, and he’ll be without the benefit of running back Darrell Henderson, possibly running back Cam Akers, and wide receiver Cooper Kupp, on an offense that has already been without stud left tackle Andrew Whitworth for the past 6 weeks. The Rams ranked just 20th in first down rate over expected at -0.11% before their recent injuries and, while they’ve been carried by a defense that ranks 1st in first down rate allowed over expected at -5.07%, defensive performance is much more inconsistent on a week-to-week basis than offensive performance.
All of a sudden, the Rams have gone from having a chance to clinch the division in week 16 to being underdogs in a game they may need to win to stay alive. This line has shifted from Los Angeles -4 on the early line to Arizona -3 this week, but I think that is a little much, especially with the Cardinals dealing with some absent skill position players as well (Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, Chase Edmonds). The Rams still rank 22nd in my roster rankings because of their defense, while the Cardinals rank 16th without the players they are missing. My calculated line favors Arizona by just 1 point, though that’s not enough line value to get me to bet on a quarterback as unproven as Wolford.
Arizona Cardinals 20 Los Angeles Rams 19
Pick against the spread: LA Rams +3