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Rams vs. Cardinals: Wild Card Round Prediction and Picks

Which team holds the edge? We give our predictions ahead of the Rams vs. Cardinals Wild Card Round matchup.

The Rams finished the regular-season finale last weekend with a gut-wrenching overtime loss to the 49ers. While L.A. ultimately clinched the NFC West due to the Cardinals losing in Week 18, the mood around the team was not upbeat.

Now, a week removed from the Rams' first loss in over a month, they'll need to put their recent shortcomings behind them and shift toward another divisional foe.

With a do-or-die game on the line, here are our staff predictions and picks ahead of the Rams and Cardinals Wild Card Round matchup:

Nick Cothrel, Publisher

The Rams finished the season winning five of their last six games, but the last three outings have not been appealing. They posted a 2-1 record across that stretch but surrendered eight turnovers in that span, a recipe that is not attainable to consistently win while committing self-inflicted wounds. The playoffs are here and the Rams will need to revert towards their early-season success when the offense could do no wrong. But which version of Matthew Stafford will show up on Monday night? The one that was in the MVP conversation after the first two months of the season or the one that finished the season tied with the most turnovers in the NFL? 

Meanwhile, the Cardinals have problematic issues at stake too. Arizona has lost four of their last five games, including three losses against teams that didn’t crack the playoffs. They also have a long list of players that are questionable for Monday's game, as health remains a question mark. On another note, star pass rusher J.J. Watt has taken steps throughout the week that give the impression that he'll be ready to return from injury following an 11-week absence.

With each team having monumental ceilings in what they can accomplish when everything clicks right, they also have a list of reasons to be concerned. In a game that I think comes down to the wire, I have the Cardinals coming away with the victory, as I see the Arizona pass rush being troublesome for the Rams offensive line to slow down, which ultimately is the difference-maker.

Prediction: Cardinals 27, Rams 24

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Connor O'Brien, Writer

Two quarterbacks who started the season stronger than they finished face off in the Wild Card Round. Matthew Stafford has consistently turned the ball over recently, throwing 13 interceptions in his past nine games. Meanwhile, in Arizona, Kyler Murray posted a 110.4 quarterback rating in his first eight games this season, before posting an 89.3 QB rating in six games since returning from an ankle injury.

With both quarterbacks struggling, I think this game is won by the rushing attack and defenses. Sony Michel has been impressive for the Rams and their defensive stars impose a significant challenge for the Cardinals offense. I think this turns out to be more of a gritty slugfest than the offensive dominant games we've seen these teams play this season. With home field advantage on their side, I think the Rams squeeze out a marginal win over Arizona in their third meeting of the season.

Prediction: Rams 20, Cardinals 17

MJ Hurley, Writer

Anytime two teams meet for the third time in a season, the results are always chaotic. Anytime the NFC West has divisional matchups, the results too seem to be chaotic. Will Matthew Stafford be able to keep the ball safe? Will Kyler Murray be able to follow the Arizona gameplan? There are so many questions and many angles to analyze what lines up to be one of my favorite matchups. The Cardinals may hold the edge with players returning from injury, compared to the Rams' injury-riddled secondary following last week's game. Unless Stafford returns to his early-season glory, I have the Cardinals pulling this one out.

Prediction: Cardinals 24, Rams 20

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Nick Cothrel is the publisher of Ram Digest. Follow Nick and Ram Digest on Twitter @NickCothrel & @RamDigestSI for more Rams coverage.