Feels ‘like it’s a playoff game.’ Rams know what is at stake when they face Cardinals

Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) celebrates his touchdown with running back Sony Michel (25) and tight end Tyler Higbee (89) during a game against the Jaguars on Dec. 5 at SoFi Stadium. (Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

Five games remain in the regular season. But the Rams are not waiting for the postseason to play games they categorize as playoff-worthy.

The Rams (8-4) play the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals (10-2) at State Farm Stadium on “Monday Night Football.”

If the Cardinals keep winning, they are on track to be the top-seeded team in the NFC playoffs. The Rams are currently the fifth-seeded team.

But a victory over the Cardinals could set the Rams up for a run to the division title, and possibly to Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.

“I feel like it’s a playoff game,” Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald said.

Coach Sean McVay agreed.

“There’s a heightened sense of awareness and urgency,” McVay said Saturday, adding, “If you don’t take care of this game, you put yourself way behind the eight-ball because they’re three games up with four to go.”

McVay and his staff were adjusting their game plan after starting right tackle Rob Havenstein and rotational cornerback Donte Deayon were put on the reserve/COVID-19 list Sunday. They joined running back Darrell Henderson, who was put on the list on Saturday.

Running back Sony Michel, who started and rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown in a 37-7 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Dec. 5, will start against the Cardinals.

Joe Noteboom could start at right tackle. The fourth-year pro has started at tackle and guard. Against the Jaguars, he played as an extra tight end in so-called heavy run formations.

This is not the first time the Rams characterized an important game as playoff-worthy. A few weeks ago, that’s how outside linebacker Von Miller described it going into a matchup against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

The Rams lost, 36-28.

The game against the Cardinals will offer perhaps…

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