Unbeaten Cardinals, Rams Meet in NFC West Showdown Armed with MVP-Caliber QBs

Kyler Murray - Matthew Stafford

Getty Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray and Los Angeles QB Matthew Stafford can settle the early MVP debate on the field when the Cardinals and Rams meet in an NFC West showdown Sunday, October 3, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.

The Arizona Cardinals can’t say enough good things about Matthew Stafford.

And the Los Angeles Rams keep gushing about Kyler Murray.

While some of that may be gamesmanship, both quarterbacks are deserving of the high praise for their MVP-caliber starts to the 2021 season. Both rank in the top six in passing yards, passer rating, passing touchdowns and total TDs, and both have guided their teams to wins in their first three games.

  • Passing yards: Murray, 1,005 (third); Stafford, 942 (fifth)
  • Passer rating: Stafford, 129.8 (second); Murray, 113.4 (sixth)
  • Passing TDs: Stafford, nine (tied for second); Murray, seven (tied for fifth)
  • Total TDs: Murray 10 (tied for second); Stafford, nine (fourth)

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Murray and Stafford have emerged as the odds-on favorites for NFL MVP, and they can settle the early season debate on the field when the NFC West rivals square off Sunday, October 3, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. Kickoff is set for 1:05 p.m. MST.

Kliff Kingsbury: Matthew Stafford Is a ‘Freak Show’

Arizona’s Kliff Kingsbury is winless in four tries against Los Angeles and his friend/fellow coach Sean McVay. Overall, the Cardinals have lost eight in a row to the Rams, with Arizona’s last win coming on January 1, 2017.

The challenge of ending the losing streak became more difficult in March, when the Rams shipped quarterback Jared Goff and a slew of draft picks to the Detroit Lions for Stafford.

The Rams were good with Goff, 26, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft who led Los Angeles to two NFC West titles, three postseason appearances and one trip to the Super Bowl. Through three games, they’ve been even better with Stafford, 33, the No. 1 overall pick in 2009 who’s now in his 13th NFL season.

Kingsbury, who played and coached at Texas Tech, watched Stafford play in high school in Highland Park, Texas. Even back then, Stafford’s arm strength was “legendary,” the Cardinals coach said.

“He is a freak show at that position,” Kingsbury told reporters Wednesday, September 29. He continued:

“Matt just has incredible arm talent. Some of the throws he’s able to make and cut loose, a mortal man wouldn’t even attempt, but he can do it. He’s always had that gunslinger mentality where he’s going to take his shots and push the ball downfield, and he can really drive the football. It’s impressive to watch. It’s kind of the perfect storm when you get a play-caller like McVay and a guy like that who’s played at such a high level for so long.”

Sean McVay: Kyler Murray Is an ‘Unbelievable Playmaker’

Meanwhile in California, McVey praised Murray’s play this season, calling the 24-year-old quarterback an “unbelievable playmaker” who’s “seeing the field really well.” He added:

“You talk about being able to make plays on schedule (or) off schedule, being able to create with his legs, being able to extend plays with his legs but then be able to deliver the football down the field. He’s making as many plays as anybody. He’s outstanding, and he’s a problem.”

Murray, now in his third NFL season, has struggled in his previous four games against the Rams, throwing four interceptions while averaging 187 passing yards and scoring six total touchdowns. The No. 1 pick of the 2019 NFL Draft also been sacked 11 times and has a passer rating of 75.8 in those games.

Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris called Murray a “unique” player who’s “dynamic” both in and outside of the pocket.

“He’s got a great arm,” Morris told reporters Thursday, September 30. “He can throw, he can run (and) he’s fast. He becomes particularly dangerous in the red zone.” He continued:

“It’s a great challenge for us to try to get him on the ground. It’s a great challenge for us to try to fluster him. It’s a great challenge for us to try and get him off his rhythm and off balance. It’s our job to do that. We’ve got some capable players to do it too, and I look forward to the challenge.”

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