Game Scout: Los Angeles Rams (11-3) At Arizona Cardinals (3-11)
SERIES HISTORY: 80th regular-season meeting. Rams lead series, 39-38-2. Arizona is 18-18-2 in the series at home, but the Rams have won the last three meetings at State Farm Stadium. The Rams have won the last three meetings overall, outscoring the Cardinals by a 99-16 margin, and two of those were shutouts as L.A. toppled Arizona last year in London, 33-0, and beat the Cardinals in Week 2 at home, 34-0.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Simply put, the Rams need to get back to playing to the level they produced over the first 11 weeks of the season. That means Jared Goff playing more efficiently, the offensive line protecting him more effectively and blocking better for Todd Gurley II and the Rams as a whole limiting the back-breaking turnovers and penalties that have plagued them the last two weeks. If they do, they should have an easy time against the Cardinals, who have neither the personnel nor necessary sense of urgency to stay with the Rams if the Rams are on top of their game.
The Cardinals want rookie quarterback Josh Rosen to continue to get snaps as they close out a disastrous season and they think even in bad times the experience will serve him well moving ahead. In order to keep him upright against the Rams, they'll be employing multiple mass-protection fronts. That will limit Rosen's targets and passing situations at times, but it's probably for the best. It can also be a boost for running back David Johnson, who remains the team's primary threat on offense. He's 157 rushing yards from reaching 1,000 for the season and the Cardinals will try to pound the ball through him and its patchwork offensive line. When Rosen does throw, look for him to lock on veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald early and often as not only is Fitzgerald the team's best pass catcher, but this might also be the last home game in Fitzgerald's 15-year run with the Cardinals.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
LOS ANGELES RAMS
--QUESTIONABLE: RB Justin Davis (shoulder), RB Todd Gurley II (knee)
--QUESTIONABLE: S Rudy Ford (ribs), DE Markus Golden (ankle), DT Rodney Gunter (foot), OL Will Holden (shoulder), WR J.J. Nelson (illness, not injury related), CB Patrick Peterson (illness), TE Ricky Seals-Jones (illness)
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Cardinals LG Colby Gossett vs. Rams DT Aaron Donald. The Cardinals think they've found a hidden gem in Gossett, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Appalachian State. They'll probably get a much clearer picture of him Sunday when he has to fend off Donald, along with help from rookie C Mason Cole and RG Oday Aboushi. Gossett has looked capable and has had his share of fairly clean games since getting thrust into the lineup for the injured Mike Iupati, but this is a matchup that could get him exposed badly.
--Cardinals LB Haason Reddick vs. Rams RB Todd Gurley II. Reddick has faced Gurley three times and Gurley has found a way to do significant damage to the Cardinals on all three occasions. It remains to be seen how many carries Gurley will get, assuming he plays with knee inflammation, but the Rams are counting on him in their efforts to get home-field advantage throughout the playoffs or at least a bye and Reddick knows that means getting Gurley's best. He said he thrives for such competition and is ready to bring his best against Gurley, knowing full well he'll need help when it comes to bringing the running back down.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Rams DT Aaron Donald leads the NFL in sacks (16.5). Donald posted a career-best 4.0 sacks in Week 7 against the 49ers. L.A. is 16-0 since Sean McVay and Wade Phillips arrived in 2017 when Donald records a sack. Donald had three straight games with multiple sacks and has posted six multi-sack games on the season. Donald, who is in his fifth NFL season, has recorded at least 8.0 sacks in each of his first five NFL seasons, including a then career-best 11.0 sacks in 2015 and 2017.
FAST FACTS: RAMS QB JARED GOFF completed 24 of 32 (75 pct.) for 354 yards with 1 TD vs. 1 INT for 108.1 rating in Week 2 meeting. In 4 games vs. division this season, is 4-0 with 1,195 pass yards (298.8 per game) & 6 TDs vs. 3 INTs for 108.2 rating. ... RB TODD GURLEY II leads NFL with 21 TDs & ranks 2nd in NFL in rush yards (1,251) & scrimmage yards (1,831). Had 124 scrimmage yards (76 rec., 48 rush) & tied career-high with 10 receptions last week. Had 3 rush TDs in last meeting. ... WR ROBERT WOODS aims for his 14th in row with 60+ rec. yards. ... DT AARON DONALD leads NFL in sacks (16.5) & ties for lead in TFL (20) this season. Has 3 sacks & 4 TFL in his past 3 vs. Az. ... CB AQIB TALIB had INT last week, his 1st INT with LAR. ... S JOHN JOHNSON had career-high 14 tackles last week. ... CARDINALS QB JOSH ROSEN (rookie) has 2+ TD passes in 2 of his past 3 at home. ... RB DAVID JOHNSON had 101 scrimmage yards (68 rec., 33 rush) & rush TD in Week 15. Has 608 scrimmage yards (121.6 per game) & 3 TDs (2 rush, 1 rec.) in his past 5 at home vs. division. ... WR LARRY FITZGERALD led team with 7 catches & 82 rec. yards in Week 15. Had 10 catches for 98 yards & TD in last home meeting. ... WR TRENT SHERFIELD had 1st-career TD catch last week. ... DE CHANDLER JONES has 5.5 sacks in his past 6. Leads NFL in sacks (40) & TFL (55) since 2016. ... DE BENSON MAYOWA aims for his 4th in row with TFL. ... LB HAASON REDDICK had sack & PD last week. Aims for his 3rd in row with TFL. ... S ANTOINE BETHEA leads NFL safeties with 110 tackles. ... DE MARKUS GOLDEN had sack last week.
PREDICTION: The Rams hit their first real stumbles of the season with consecutive losses to Chicago and Philadelphia on national television. The Cardinals are the worst offense in the league and it would be a major upset if the Rams did not win this by double-digits.
OUR PICK: Rams, 31-7