It’s the first Monday night NFL playoff game ever when the Los Angeles Rams host the Arizona Cardinals on ESPN in an NFC Wild Card game. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. Eastern time.
This is one of two divisional rematches on the six-game wild card slate for the NFL this weekend. The other one is Bills vs. Patriots.
The fifth-seeded Cardinals and the fourth-seeded Rams met twice in the regular season with the Cardinals winning, 37-20, in LA in Week 4 as quarterback Kyler Murray had a pair of touchdown passes.
The Rams got revenge in Week 14, traveling to Arizona and beating the Cardinals, 30-23, breaking open a tie game at halftime. Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford had three touchdown passes in the win.
The Cardinals were the talk of the NFL starting with 7-0 but struggled in the second half of the season and enter the playoffs 11-6. The Rams, winners of five of their last six games won the NFC West, finishing 12-5.
The Rams have dominated the series as of late between the two divisional rivals, winning nine of the last 10 meetings. Overall, the Rams lead the series 46-39-2. The two teams have only met once in the NFL playoffs, way back in 1975, with the Rams winning.
The Cardinals franchise has reached the playoffs 11 times and has never won the Super Bowl. The Rams have made the playoffs 31 times, reaching the Super Bowl four times, winning in 2000.
How about this for consistency? In the two regular-season meetings this season, the Rams were favored by four points on the most popular sportsbooks in California.
For the wild card match-up, the Rams are favored again by four points on Caesars, with the over/under set at 49.5.
This season the Rams have gone 8-9 against the spread, while the Cardinals are 10-7.
Neither team is expected by the oddsmakers to make the Super Bowl. The Rams are +450 at Caesars to win the NFC. While the Cardinals, who were big favorites early in the season, are now +1100.
Sports betting initiatives in the Golden State are well on their way to the ballot this Nov. Football fans and bettors are eager to get in on the action with popular operators like DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM.
Looking things under/over
Right away it’s interesting to note that in the two previous meetings this season, both times the game went over Monday’s over/under total of 49.5.
The Rams are well balanced averaging 27.1 points a game – seventh-most in the NFL this season. While the Cardinals scored 26.4.
Defensively, the Rams defense allowed 21.9 points a game, while the Cardinals gave up 21.5.
This season, each team played in seven games that went over the 49.5-point total.
The rubber meets the road
When two teams meet for the third time in football, or any sport, it’s traditionally called “The Rubber Match”. Meaning, the third meeting is the most important and shows which team is superior.
This will be the third time the Rams and Cardinals have played this season.
In the last 10 “Rubber Matches” in the playoffs, the team that won both meetings in the regular season is 1-1. The New Orleans Saints beat the Panthers twice in the regular season in 2018 and won the playoff game between the two that year.
Last year, the Saints beat the Bucs twice in the regular season. But Tampa Bay beat the Saints in the playoffs on their way to a Super Bowl title.
In the other eight “Rubber Matches” the teams split their two meetings in the regular season. Who won in the playoffs? The lower seed won six times. That’s good news for Cardinal fans.
This is also a match-up of the fourth seed vs. the fifth seed. In the last 10 matchups between the four and five seed, it’s an even split 5-5.
Weather will not be an issue with the game played inside SoFi Stadium, the home of both the Rams and LA Chargers. SoFi Stadium is slated to host Super Bowl 56 on Sunday, Feb. 13.
The Rams would love to have home-field advantage for that one.
The winner will advance to the NFC Divisional Round against an opponent to be determined. If the seeds hold, the winner will travel to Green Bay to face the top-seeded Packers.
The Rams have played better football in the last six weeks of the season, but the playoffs offer a chance at a fresh start for the Cardinals.