Rams vs. Cardinals: 4 key matchups to watch in Week 17

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Cameron DaSilva
·3 min read
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The Rams will be short-handed against the Cardinals on Sunday as they look to secure a postseason berth with a win. They’ll be without a handful of key starters, opening the door for guys like John Wolford, Malcolm Brown and Van Jefferson to step up.

Los Angeles is understandably an underdog against Arizona, but the Rams still have plenty of talent to carry them to a win. Here are four of the biggest matchups to watch in this one, with these individual battles likely helping decide the outcome of the game.

Jalen Ramsey vs. DeAndre Hopkins

(AP Photo/Jennifer Stewart)

Ramsey and Hopkins squared off earlier this season for the eighth time in their career, a matchup Ramsey undoubtedly won. Hopkins caught eight passes for 52 yards and a touchdown, but only three of those catches for 17 yards came against Ramsey in coverage. Kyler Murray had very little success throwing the ball against the Rams in Week 13, especially with Hopkins all but being erased. If Ramsey can take Hopkins away again, it’ll force Murray to look elsewhere, and neither Larry Fitzgerald nor Christian Kirk are close to the playmakers than Hopkins is. It’s critical that Ramsey plays his best against the Cardinals’ top receiver.

John Wolford vs. Vance Joseph

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Rams offense with Jared Goff, Darrell Henderson and Cooper Kupp sidelined. But the biggest question mark is at quarterback with Wolford starting. There’s only preseason tape on the Rams’ new starter, so Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph won’t have much to go off of. But given Wolford’s inexperience, expect Joseph to throw a lot of pressure, mixed coverages and stunts at the young quarterback in an attempt to rattle him. Only three teams blitz more than the Cardinals, and only six generate pressure at a higher rate. It’ll be up to Wolford to stay poised in the face of pressure throughout the game because the pocket will inevitably collapse at least a few times.

Rob Havenstein vs. Haason Reddick

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Reddick has shot up the charts in sacks this year, specifically in December. He has 7.5 sacks in his last three games, including five against the Giants in Week 14. He rushes against both the right tackle and left tackle, but more often than not, he’ll be going up against Havenstein on the right side. The Rams are the last team not to allow a sack to Reddick, and they didn’t even let him hit Jared Goff once in their first meeting. He’s gotten hot since then, but Havenstein and Joe Noteboom have to keep him away from Wolford because Reddick can wreck this game like he did against the Giants.

Justin Hollins vs. D.J. Humphries

(AP Photo/Jennifer Stewart)

Hollins did as good a job against Kyler Murray as any Rams defender in Week 13, recording three tackles. one sack, two QB hits and a forced fumble. He was outstanding at setting the edge in the running game and didn’t let Murray escape the pocket to pick up yards on the ground. Terrell Lewis is back and will also contribute, as will Samson Ebukam and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, but expect Hollins to get a lot of playing time after the way he performed against the Cardinals in Week 13. His ability to close down running lanes will be critical against the elusive quarterback because when Murray is held in check on the ground, the Cardinals tend to struggle offensively.

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