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By: JB Scott
A battle for the NFC West divisional lead, who will step up and take the crown?
The Los Angeles Rams have had the Arizona Cardinals’ number in recent seasons and Sean McVay now owns a 10-1 record over his division foe since 2017.
But about this time last year, in Week 4 of the 2021 NFL season, Kyler Murray and the Cardinals trounced McVay’s Rams and it wasn’t even really that close.
Byron Murphy and company held Cooper Kupp to his lowest receiving yardage output (64) that he had all season long, including a 4-game playoff run. Between Chase Edmonds (who’s now with the Miami Dolphins), James Conner, and Kyler Murray, Arizona was well over 200 yards on the ground.
Despite coming out of the game slow for the first seven quarters of their regular season, the Cardinals came to life last week in the fourth quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders and they were able to overcome what seemed to be an insurmountable 23-7 lead.
With the Seattle Seahawks being outright bad and with the San Francisco 49ers having to go back to to the drawing board at quarterback, the NFC West could potentially become a two-horse race between the Rams and Cardinals, which emphasizes just how important Sunday’s game is.
Here are 3 bold predictions for the divisional matchup, but first let’s revisit our takes from last week:
1 – Cooper Kupp will be held to his lowest receiving total since 2020 (64 yards)
Kupp had a quiet first half versus the Falcons, but inevitably came alive in the second half to finish with 11 receptions for 108 yards and 2 touchdowns.
2 – Rookie Drake London will earn his first 100-yard game
Result: MISS (barely)
London didn’t reach the 100-yard mark, but he did snap 8 catches for 86 yards and his first career touchdown. His arrow is pointed straight up.
3 – Terrell Lewis will record 2 sacks on Mariota
It was OLB Justin Hollins that made the splash plays to win the game at the end. Hollins had a key tackle for loss prior to interception of Mariota by Jalen Ramsey, and then he knocked the ball loose on a sack for the final play of the game.
1 – Greg Dortch gets his revenge on the LA Rams by doubling his career yardage total (133 yards)
Dortch was a member of the Rams’ practice squad in 2019, and he’s Arizona’s leading receiving so far this year with 11 catches for 118 yards. Dortch has 7 more yards than Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, who the Cardinals spent a first round pick in order to acquire during this year’s NFL Draft.
Greg Dortch WR1 SZN continues ☄️pic.twitter.com/95II6y3hrI
— PFN Fantasy Football & Betting (@PFNFantasy) September 18, 2022
2 – Kyler Murray will throw more interceptions than Matthew Stafford
There has been plenty of talk this week about Stafford’s propensity to throw interceptions, but he’s probably due for a big outing after throwing at least 2 picks in the last three straight games.
Murray on the other hand has thrown only a single interception all season, and the Rams are going to get after him in this game. Sure, LA had Von Miller rushing the passer when Murray looked total rattled in the wildcard playoff game last year, but the Rams have held up well against Arizona’s franchise QB.
#Cardinals Kyler Murray throws a horrible pick-six to #Rams David Long.pic.twitter.com/jDn32jxDiL
— NFL Unlimited (@NFLUnlimited) January 18, 2022
3 – Darrell Henderson & Cam Akers will combine for 150 yards rushing and 2 TD’s
Entering this game, Henderson (94) and Akers (44) have combined for only 138 total yards, but they will work together to surpass this total on Sunday afternoon.
The duo roughly split the snap share in the backfield evenly against the Atlanta Falcons, but Akers ended up with more carries – 15 versus Henderson’s 10. The Rams will want to lean on the ground attack in this game in order to take pressure off an injury-riddled offensive line and to make their quarterback’s life easier. LA has not been able to push the ball downfield much in the passing game, and the lack of running attack and struggles in pass protection have been partially to blame in this regard.
Cam Akers is out of the dog house, but Darrell Henderson is still a DAWG pic.twitter.com/y1X5zgaEgV
— PlayerProfiler NFL (@Profiler_NFL) September 18, 2022