After clinching a convincing road win over the Chicago Bears, the Arizona Cardinals will now face off with the Los Angeles Rams for what may arguably be the must-watch game of Week 14.
Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray made his return to action last week against the Bears after being sidelined due to an ankle injury. He showed that he fully recovered from the injury as he not only threw a pair of passing touchdowns but also recorded two rushing touchdowns to go along with his 59 rushing yards on the day.
The Rams are also coming off of a potent performance of their own, as they took care of business with a 30-point home win against the Jacksonville Jaguars. This showing from quarterback Matthew Stafford and company was sorely needed, as they had dropped their previous three games.
The Cardinals come into Week 14 with four different scenarios on how they can clinch a playoff berth for the first time since the 2015 season. The simplest way for the Cardinals to officially punch their ticket to the playoffs would be for them to notch a Monday Night Football win over the Rams. For this to transpire, the Cardinals must achieve each of these four possible feats against their NFC West rival.
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Arizona Cardinals Week 14 Predictions
4. Chandler Jones records three sacks in a statement performance
Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones was deemed as the heavy favorite for the 2021 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award after his five-sack performance in Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans. However, the veteran pass rusher has since totaled for 3.5 sacks with all of them coming in his last four games played with Arizona.
The Cardinals sure could use a vintage showing from the three-time Pro Bowler this week, and he should do just that. Jones has what it takes to be a difference-maker for the current NFC West leaders with a possible three-sack showing.
This potential feat may be an arduous one for Jones — especially as the Rams offensive line has been among the best in the NFL in pass protection so far this season. Rams quarterbacks have been sacked a combined 18 times, which ranks just behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (15).
3. Cardinals’ red zone success becomes the X-factor in the game
One notable factor behind the Cardinals’ grand success on the offensive side of the ball this year has been their efficiency in the red zone.
Over the 2020 season, the Cardinals ranked at 10th in the NFL in red zone touchdown percentage with a 65.5 percent mark. This year, they have been among the more proficient teams in the league in making the most out of their trips to this area of the field due to their 68.8 red zone touchdown percentage, which ranks at 4th. Overall, their 33 total red zone touchdown drives on the year trail only the Buccaneers (36) this season.
When the Cardinals last faced off with the Rams earlier in the campaign, they scored on three of their five red zone touchdown drives. If they aspire to complete the season sweep over the Rams, then they must once again come away with crucial red zone touchdowns.
2. James Conner shines in the Cardinals’ passing attack
Cardinals running back James Conner sure has showcased his versatility so far in the campaign. Overall, he has totaled for 839 yards from scrimmage and 14 touchdowns — both of which lead the team.
As of late, Conner has exerted a keen influence in Arizona’s passing attack. A notable 175 of his 209 receiving yards on the year have come in his last four games with the team this season, which also include two receiving touchdowns.
Whether in screen plays or in slant routes down the middle, the Cardinals must continue to feature Conner in the pass offense. This could help them become one of the more potent, multidimensional offenses in the league.
1. Cardinals inch closer to clinching the NFC West with a win over the Rams
As the NFL season nears the stretch run, the Rams can not afford to drop any more games this year if they aspire to overtake the Cardinals for the top spot in the NFC West standings. Still, the Cardinals should inch a bit closer to clinching a division title with a home win against the Rams in Week 14, which would then move them to an 11-2 record on the year.
In the big picture, a win in this contest is needed for Arizona considering just how chaotic the NFC playoff picture has become as of late.