2021 Dynasty/Fantasy Game Analysis Week 4: Cardinals 37, Rams 20
There’s not a lot anyone can say about this game. There was no nuisance to it. The Arizona Cardinals are a better football team than the Los Angeles Rams right now. Not by a lot. The Rams could totally beat the Cardinals in their next match up. But, in general, Arizona has the better team right now. The better quarterback and the better defense.
The media absolutely does not think that. They are just now waking up to the Arizona defense about two months too late. They still think the Rams are the best defense in football because the only defensive player any of them are aware of is Aaron Donald. Sometimes they reference Jalen Ramsey as a great shutdown corner, but they haven’t noticed that he’s not really playing CB this year he’s more of a linebacker. And, of course, they’re so bought and paid for on the Matt Stafford story they can’t handle the fact that Kyler Murray is just better than him…and that once again Matt Stafford just Matt Stafforded up another game. Stafford is always good but just when he’s about to grab that brass ring he’ll fall short. It’s been the story of his entire career. He looks really good playing for Los Angeles this season, but he got totally worked by the great Arizona defense at this game.
The Rams and the Cardinals are the two best teams in the NFC West. It’s just that Arizona is better, that’s all. It shouldn’t need any further explanation. I suspect Arizona will win the division but depending on injuries and the schedule the Rams are gonna be right there as well.
To me, what happened here was a statement about the toughness of the Rams football team…it’s not very tough, again. It’s pretty talented, though. But anytime opposition comes in and punches them in the face they tend to cower in the corner until the beating is over. And that’s what happened in this game. The Rams started out pretty toe to toe but Arizona kept answering every punch by the Rams with a harder punch of their own, and then the Rams stopped punching. They just looked defeated as Arizona kept up a flurry of punches until they knew the Rams were no threat to them to come back. Second half whenever the Rams were trying to get back going, Arizona would just shut it down…even missing their top CB Byron Murphy the whole 2nd-half.
The Cardinals are undefeated, but I’m not sure I would call them the best team in football yet. And it wouldn’t surprise me that they have a letdown in Week 5 confused by the wrinkle of Trey Lance. But it also wouldn’t shock me if they terrorized Trey Lance into multiple turnovers and sent his career back a year in confidence. If they do that, then maybe Arizona really is the best team in football.
Fantasy Player Notes…
— There’s not much to talk about with these two quarterbacks from this game. Kyler Murray (24-32 for 268 yards, 2 TDs/0 INT), 6-39-0) is the better all-around quarterback…and is only getting better with each passing month of NFL play.
Matt Stafford (26-41 for 280 yards, 2 TDs/1 INT) is a really good quarterback as well, but the Arizona defense was too much for him. Stafford is going to be fine in most matchups, but he blinked in this one.
— I’m tired of seeing Chase Edmonds (12-120-0, 4-19-0/5) fall short of the goal line and stealing easy TDs to James Conner (18-50-2). I’m also tired of mentioning it or writing about it or complaining about it. It is what it is. It happened with Kenyan Drake last year, and now it’s happening with James Conner. It’s a smart way to go because Conner is better suited to get 1-yard then the slender, wiry Edmonds.
Edmonds is fine otherwise for PPR. He’s a nice solid RB2 with hopes that a little flurry of TDs comes his way. Most likely it won’t happen, and the Edmonds will wind up with around 3-4 rushing TDs this year. I’m hoping he starts to add receiving TDs to supplement that. But Conner is the better one-yard run and Kyler Murray tends to take a lot of goal line runs too, and they like to get Rondale Moore touches near the goal line as a runner. It’s just not Chase Edmonds best role (short yardage), so we should probably stop complaining about it. It is what it is.
— Speaking of the Arizona wide receivers…
What’s wrong with DeAndre Hopkins (4-67-0/7)? He looks fine. He is still great. It’s just Kyler Murray is such an exceptional quarterback right now, and has so many options to explore and mismatches to go after… But he’s no longer leaning on Hopkins for every throw. He doesn’t have to in 2021. Kyler’s got plenty of stuff to choose from and he doesn’t seem to lean on one option like most elite QBs tend to do. Hopkins is still his main man but not to the detriment of everyone else getting targeting.
AJ Green is consistently staying relevant as an option for Kyler. Green doesn’t look very athletic. However, when Kyler dials him up a throw, even though he’s covered, Green tends to shield away his defender and ends up making a key clutch catch. It’s definitely not the AJ Green of old but he’s a reliable source for Kyler and it doesn’t seem to be falling away, but it’s not going to be WR1 work either. More WR3 off and on.
Christian Kirk (1-5-0/1) returned back to earth this week. He’s going to be one of the most difficult fantasy players to predict from one week to the next because Kyler does not lean on him like he does Hopkins or Green. Kirk is a luxury that Kyler uses and doesn’t use as he sees fit. There’s a little rhyme or reason to Kirk's targeting. Good luck trying to figure it out or use him in any given week.
Rondale Moore (3-28-0/3, 2-9-0) is getting very specific plays/touches because everyone knows how good he is with the ball in his hands. He had two carries in this game in one of them he was lined up as a legit tail back taking a carry…and he looks fantastic. He also gets tunnel screens in specific plays to try to spring him. Rondale‘s role should continue to grow but he’s not Kyler‘s #1 or #2 looks yet. Rondale is not on the field all game (yet) so he’s more of a random WR3 flyer who could have a monster game/moment at any time, but also do very little depending on the game script.
Out of nowhere Maxx Williams (5-66-1/5) seems to be one of the more trusted options for Kyle. It’s not that things are being generated for Williams…it’s more that there are so many options in an Arizona passing game and defenses can’t cover them all but when they do get good coverage or Kyler doesn’t get the matchup he wants there sits Maxx usually sitting wide-open in the middle of the field . And Kyler is making use of it. The old Kyler never even looked at the tight ends. 2021 Kyler is a much savvier quarterback. Perhaps the best vision of the field of any quarterback in the NFL. Kyler doesn’t have a 76.1% completion percentage YTD because he’s lucky.
— On the Rams side of the passing game, it’s still all about Cooper Kupp (5-64-0/13). But we just have to understand, given his low production game here, that the Arizona Cardinals have the best coverage group in the NFL so #1 WRs are not necessarily going to go off against them. Stafford was still getting after it and there were some near miss moments, so I’m not worried about Cupp at all -- it was just an Arizona thing.
Kupp being down is a reason why I think Van Jefferson (6-90-1/6) had a decent game here. Arizona so takes away the top guys that Stafford had to smartly make use of some of the alternative matchups. Jefferson is really good. He’s going to be the new Robert Woods in the near future. I just don’t think we’re there yet. But there will come a day Jefferson is a steady PPR WR2. It’s just a little too crowded today and he’s not a top look he’s just a good look for Stafford right now.
Robert Woods (4-48-1/6) hasn’t had a very good year so far. He’s the loser of the Matt Stafford sweepstakes because Stafford’s guy is Cooper Kupp. Woods is just a random WR3 with Jefferson nipping at his heels. There’s been a lot of talk about getting Woods the ball more this week, because I’m sure Woods is complaining behind the scenes. Expect Woods to have a good game Week 5 to shut him up for a while.
I’ve got my eye on Tyler Higbee (4-36-0/6) because Stafford does seem to have a pretty good connection with Higbee as an alternative to the wide receivers. And it’s a good time to consider getting Higbee on the cheap because he just had it down game but we saw that coming because Arizona may be the best team covering tight ends in the NFL. Isaiah Simmons is a shutdown coverage linebacker. It’s not Higbee‘s fault. There will be more games than not where Higbee will be able to win his matchup or slip out into coverage undetected, but against Arizona is not one of those games.
— This game for Darrell Henderson (14-89-0, 5-27-0/6) put to rest any of my punchlines about how Sean McVay hates Darrell Henderson.
This was the perfect time, with Henderson banged up, to split carries between Henderson and Michel if McVay was even thinking about a Michel turn or just a nice split. Nothing of the sort happened. In a very important key critical NFC West matchup/battle for 1st place -- they went all in on Henderson. That says a lot about McVay’s mindset on his backfield. I have no interest in Sony Michel (3-11-0) anymore for my fantasy teams outside of the randomness of having any number to RB hoping the #1 RB gets hurt. Samaje Perine is as FF-attractive as Sony Michel as a sit and hold/hope from that perspective. The Sony Michel narrative is officially dead… Until Henderson gets hurt again.
-- I thought DeAndre Hopkins might’ve had a weaker output game here because Jalen Ramsey (5 tackles, 2 PDs, 1 TFL) decided to cover him more, but that was not the case. Jalen Ramsey is still playing mostly linebacker/joker, pretty much roaming around wherever he wants to go. It makes him a very attractive DB for IDP because most people see him as a low output shut down corner. And as I’ve said for a couple of weeks now, and detailed last week, it’s not true in 2021. He is playing all over the place…and not much cover corner.
How good is that Arizona Cardinals defense? You’re starting to become a believer now, aren’t you? This upcoming week with the 49ers will be interesting because Trey Lance could be a very confusing wrinkle that no one has any real tape on…or Lance could be in over his head and serve up several pick sixes. The Cardinals defense is going to be a sweet DFS play/gamble, and an intriguing/scary play for your fantasy team. This defense is just so good that it’s hard to bet against them now. If the 49ers are missing Trent Williams for this game, that’s another feather in the cap of rolling with the Cardinals DST Week 5.
Arguably the best defense of player the Cardinals have his quarterback Byron Murphy, but he got here partway into this game and didn’t really play in the second half. Consider how amazing that is -- the Cardinals were missing their best cover corner and they even more shut down the Rams in the second half in the passing game. That’s how good and deep this Arizona defense is.
Snap Counts of Interest:
65 = Kupp
65 = Woods
46 = Van J
22 = DJax
61 = D Henderson
07 = Michel
75 = Hopkins
67 = AJG
56 = Kirk
33 = R Moore
52 = Edmonds
33 = Conner