Rams vs. Cardinals: 6 key matchups to watch in wild-card round

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For just the second time ever, the Rams and Cardinals will square off in the postseason. They’ll meet in the final game of wild-card weekend on Monday night, Round 3 of their season series after splitting the first two games.

They know each other well, which should make this a close and tough game for both teams – even though the last 10 meetings have all been decided by seven-plus points.

It’ll take a complete team effort in all three phases for the Rams to beat the Cardinals this week, but winning these six individual matchups will go a long way, too.

Von Miller vs. D.J. Humphries

Miller played a critical role against the Cardinals in Week 14, recording nine pressures and three stops in the Rams’ win. Humphries struggled in that game and he’s coming off one of his worst performances of the season against the Seahawks in Week 18.

Miller and Leonard Floyd will have to be more disciplined with their rushes against the ever-elusive Kyler Murray, which makes them both key players in Monday’s game. If they get too deep in their rushes, Murray will step up and escape through the B gap. If they don’t get upfield enough, Murray will roll to his left or right and make plays as a passer.

Miller now has experience rushing against Murray and should have a big night on Monday.

Troy Reeder vs. Zach Ertz

In their last meeting, Ertz caught five passes for 42 yards, most of which came against Ernest Jones in coverage. The Rams won’t have Jones this time around, leaving things up to Reeder to cover Ertz – a mismatch that favors the Cardinals. Reeder has really struggled in coverage this season, allowing 40 catches on 51 targets for 361 yards and two touchdowns.

Expect Murray to target Ertz at least six or seven times when Reeder is covering him, particularly on third down and in the red zone. Reeder will need to be better than he has been this season with Jones still sidelined, both in coverage and against the run.

Cooper Kupp vs. Byron Murphy Jr.

Round 3 of Rams-Cardinals means it’s also the third meeting of the season between Kupp and Murphy. In Week 14, Kupp caught three of four targets for 53 yards against Murphy after catching just two of five targets for 44 yards against him in Week 4.

It’s been a battle between these two players this season and they’re sure to match up against each other often on Monday night. The Cardinals did the best job of any team covering Kupp back in Week 4 and they’ll need Murphy to put together another performance like that one if they’re going to slow him down again.

Darious Williams vs. A.J. Green

Green has had plenty of success against the Rams this season, catching a total of 12 passes for 169 yards and one touchdown in two games. He caught a 36-yard pass against Williams in Week 14 when Jalen Ramsey was out, and he’ll probably see more of Williams in coverage on Monday.

The Rams can’t afford to put David Long Jr. on Green again after the way their last meeting went, and Dont’e Deayon is too small to match up with him, too. So if Ramsey is lining up in the slot like he often does, expect to see Williams and Green going at it throughout the game.

Rams OTs vs. Chandler Jones and Markus Golden

The clearest way for the Cardinals to disrupt the Rams offense is by rushing Matthew Stafford from the edge with Jones and Golden. They’ll match up with Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein, which are both good battles on the outside.

Whitworth and Havenstein have been two of the best tackles in football this season so they’re more than up to the challenge of blocking Jones and Golden. In Week 4, Havenstein allowed four pressures against the Cardinals, but Whitworth has allowed just one pressure in two meetings this season.

Greg Gaines vs. Rodney Hudson

If both James Conner and Chase Edmonds are healthy on Monday night, the Cardinals could try to pound the ball on the ground against the Rams, which worked in Week 4 when they rushed for 216 yards on 40 attempts. Gaines is a major part of Los Angeles’ run defense in the middle of the line and he’ll once again be tested by Hudson at center.

Aaron Donald is going to pressure Murray and make his own run stops, but Gaines has to keep up his high level of play from recent weeks and help slow down Conner and Edmonds. A big reason the Cardinals won the first meeting of the season was their running game.

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