The Cardinals are 4-1 and coming off a huge win over the Vikings, but they still have some glaring weaknesses. With J.J. Watt returning to Houston this weekend, it will be interesting to see how his presence impacts their defense against Jared Goff’s Rams offense in Week 8 of the NFL season.

The Cardinals Are Likely Receiving a Massive, J.J. Watt-Sized Boost This Weekend Against the Rams

The Arizona Cardinals, who started the season as one of the hottest teams in the NFL, have crawled their way into the NFC playoff picture. They dropped four of their last five games, putting a bad taste in everyone’s mouth as the playoffs approached.

To make it much more difficult for the Cardinals, they will play the Los Angeles Rams in the first round in Los Angeles. The Rams were winners 30-23 the previous time these two teams faced.

This playoffs, the Cardinals are under a lot of pressure.

The Cardinals are a youthful and energetic club that has been on a winning streak for a number of years. Kyler Murray being selected first overall was a huge accomplishment; acquiring WR DeAndre Hopkins through trade was another, and head coach Kliff Kingsbury is now settling into his role as an NFL play-caller.

However, it doesn’t negate the fact that they’re all under a lot of pressure this playoffs. The moment has come to start drafting Murray’s first contract extension, and Kingsbury’s seat was getting a little hot before his 11-win season.

A loss to the division foe LA Rams in the first round would put serious question on the Cardinals’ core going forward. If the loss is very egregious, ownership may get agitated and propose an internal reorganization.

J.J. Watt is expected to return to the Cardinals this weekend.

Injury updates: — No issues at all for #AZCardinals DL JJ Watt after yesterday’s practice, which went very well. He’s trending toward playing. — No issues at all for #Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster after yesterday’s practice, which went well. He’s trending toward playing, too.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 14, 2022

The good news for Arizona is that one of its most important pieces will most likely be returned this weekend. J.J. Watt, a potential Hall of Fame edge rusher, was signed by the Cardinals this summer with the hopes of adding him to a defensive line that already had Chandler Jones. Watt was only able to play in seven games before suffering a shoulder injury, ultimately terminating his season.

However, in classic J.J. Watt manner, the veteran defensive end is striving to return in a hurry to help the Cardinals advance in the playoffs. He’s been training all week and is “leaning toward playing” against the Rams, according to sources.

Even if Watt can just come in for a few of key pass-rushing downs, this would clearly be a major help for Arizona. His presence on the field is enough to induce Los Angeles to change their play-calling strategy.

Will J.J. Watt be enough to lead Arizona to the Super Bowl?

Cardinals DE J.J. Watt.

Cardinals DE J.J. Watt. Norm Hall/Getty Images/JJ Watt

During Watt’s short seven-game stint with the Cardinals last season, he wasn’t putting up superstar statistics. He just has one sack and five tackles for loss in his career. However, it’s worth remembering that the Cardinals were unbeaten in Watt’s seven games.

Watt’s presence on the Cardinals’ defense clearly made things simpler for the rest of the team.

Will Watt’s return to the lineup, though, be enough for the Cardinals to defeat the Rams? According to Fox Sports, the Rams are presently 4-point favorites and are in terrific position heading into the playoffs after a 5-1 regular-season finish.

Will Watt be able to make one or two big plays to help Arizona win? Only time will tell whether this is true. In any case, his return to the lineup bodes well for the Cardinals’ prospects of pulling off an upset this weekend.

Pro Football Reference provided all stats.

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