NFL Week 17 Betting Preview, Picks, and Player Props: Cardinals at Rams

Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals
Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals (photo credit: USA TODAY Sports)

Another one of the meaningful NFL games in Week 17 sees the Arizona Cardinals take on the Los Angeles Rams. Like the Packers vs. Bears game, there are playoff implications involved for both sides. If the Cardinals win, they’re in the playoffs. If the Rams win, they’re in the playoffs. Looking at the Cardinals vs. Rams betting odds, the Cardinals are road favorites. In this NFL betting preview, we’ll break down the Cardinals vs. Rams matchup from an NFL betting perspective and provide a few free picks for the game.

Arizona Cardinals (-3) at Los Angeles Rams

Sunday, January 3, 2021, at 4:25 p.m. ET
SoFi Stadium
Inglewood, CA

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The Cardinals vs. Rams point spread has Arizona as a 3-point road favorite, which might be surprising if you have been living under a rock. In all seriousness, the Rams will be without starting quarterback Jared Goff and wide receiver Cooper Kupp. At QB, it will be John Wolford getting the start. On the other side, there were some concerns over Kyler Murray, but it looks as though he’s going to play. So with Goff and Kupp out and Murray in, the Cardinals are favored on the betting line. The question now is, should the Cardinals vs. Rams betting line look like this?

Our answer is no, but it’s not as simple as just giving a one-word answer and then moving on, so let’s dive in.

Goff is out and Wolford is in for the Rams, which might sound scary. We don’t think it’s that bad, though. Goff isn’t that great to begin with and there’s a ton of hand-holding that head coach Sean McVay must do every single week to get Goff through games. Because of where we rate Goff, we don’t think the drop off to Wolford will be as much as people seem, so right away we’re thinking there’s some over-adjustment in the betting line.

McVay is a solid head coach and should be able to get Wolford up to speed given a full week to prepare. Isn’t wasn’t as if the Goff news came late in the week. The Rams were pretty aware that Goff wasn’t going to be able to go in this one almost immediately after last week’s game. Wolford spent time in the now-defunct AAF before joining the Rams practice squad. He played in some preseason games and has been a backup under Goff, so he should have a grasp of McVay’s system. Wolford also has the potential to be a bit more mobile than Goff is. There are times when Goff should break pocket and doesn’t, and then there are times like last week when Goff breaks pocket but makes a horrendous decision that leads to a turnover. We’re not saying it’s a guarantee, but there’s certainly potential that Wolford can be a better mobile quarterback than Goff.

The Cardinals defense isn’t that great. Arizona can be run on, which is what the Rams like to do even when Goff is in at quarterback. Cam Akers is questionable and Darrell Henderson is on injured reserve, but Malcolm Brown should be able to be plenty effective against the Cardinals run defense.

We’re also not too high on Arizona’s pass defense. The Rams will be without Kupp, but Robert Woods, Josh Reynolds, Van Jefferson, and the tight ends should be plenty for Wolford.

For the Cardinals, there are a few key points we want to hit on. The first is with Murray.

Murray has said all week that he’s fine and good to go for the game, but should we believe him? The last time Murray was banged up, similar things were coming out of Arizona saying that Murray was fine. But then when you watched Murray play through the shoulder injury, you could tell he wasn’t the same Murray we’ve seen this season. Murray was running less in order to avoid hits, presumably to avoid injuring his shoulder more. Now he’s dealing with a leg injury and the way it is being approached smells a little. If Murray and the Cardinals are downplaying the injury, there’s a very good chance Murray isn’t as electric as he’s known to be.

Furthermore, Murray and the Cardinals offense are up against a tough Rams defense. Per FootballOutsiders.com, the Rams are ranked fifth in total defense DVOA. Their weighted defense DVOA has them second, and they’re ranked third in both pass defense DVOA and rush defense DVOA. This Rams defense is very good, and it’s arguably the best in the league. Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey are absolute studs, but the entirety of the defense is at the top of the league.

DeAndre Hopkins could have some lingering effects with his hip injury, and now Hopkins has to go against Ramsey. Even at 100% healthy, this isn’t an easy matchup for Hopkins.

Lastly, the coaching edge here absolutely has to go to McVay over Kliff Kingsbury.

To make free sports betting picks for your chance to win, check out the SharpSide sports betting app, available now for iOS and Android.

Point Spread Pick: Rams (+3)

As you likely gathered from everything we’ve said so far, we’re on the Rams (+3). Even with Wolford as the starting QB and no Kupp for the Rams, we think this Cardinals vs. Rams betting line should be closer to a pick, and we wouldn’t totally be caught by surprise if the point spread showed Rams (-1).

We believe in McVay, we believe in the Rams defense, we don’t believe Murray and the Cardinals about the QB’s leg injury, and we don’t believe the gap between Goff and Wolford is that big.

Moneyline Pick: Rams (+130)

If you want to pass on the point spread altogether, we like some action on the Rams moneyline. You can find it for around +130, but make sure you shop around for the best odds. That’s always important. For us, we’ll be taking the Rams (+3) to win 1 or 2 units and then we’ll slap 1/3 units on the Rams moneyline.

Player Prop: DeAndre Hopkins under 75.5 receiving yards

With as good as the Rams defense is and with Ramsey being the one who will guard Hopkins, we like the under on 75.5 receiving yards for Hopkins.

The matchup with Ramsey presents a bad one for Hopkins, and it gets worse if he’s not 100% because of his hip injury. It’s also worse if Murray isn’t himself, either. The last time these two teams played, Hopkins was held in check by Ramsey, catching 8 balls for 52 receiving yards.

Player Prop: Malcolm Brown anytime TD

No Henderson, Akers is banged up, and we know the Rams love the run the ball. Brown is decent but feels much more capable than not in this matchup with the Cardinals, who don’t have the best run defense.

The odds on Brown to score a touchdown can be found for right around -110, and we like that price given the opportunity for extra work he should see.

Player Prop: John Wolford over 28.5 rushing yards

We’ve already hit on Wolford’s mobility as being something we’re positive on. Knowing how well McVay can scheme things up, don’t be surprised to see a few designed plays that have Wolford running the ball. He’s certainly capable of it. Take the over on 28.5 rushing yards for Wolford.

To make free sports betting picks for your chance to win, check out the SharpSide sports betting app, available now for iOS and Android.

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