As humans, familiarity is often sought for comfort.
We like routine, and the more we understand something, the more willing we are to accept it.
However, in the world of professional football, fame isn’t always comfortable, especially when it comes to divisional opponents.
The Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams will meet for the third time Monday night. The two teams split their first two encounters with the road team coming out victorious each time.
This time, the winner advances to the next round of the postseason, while the loser packs his bags until next season.
Arizona and Los Angeles have played each other twice each season since the Cardinals rejoined the division of the NFC East following the realignment of the league in 2002, but this will be the first playoff meeting between the two since 1975.
Aside from the fact that the Rams and Cardinals see each other twice a year, their respective head coaches (and play-callers) consider each other good friends.
“He’s been great,” Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said of Rams head coach Sean McVay on Monday.
“We have a great relationship. It would probably be even closer if we weren’t in the same division, but it’s kind of hard to share some trade secrets when you play against each other a few times a year.
“But I think about Sean’s world. The work he’s done there. The consistency they’ve had since he’s been there, so it’s been nice to see him have that kind of success and I always pull for him except when they play us.”
Since taking over Los Angeles, McVay has a strong 9-1 record against the Cardinals. Only two of those games were within one possession.
Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris is still in his first season with the Rams, but he understands how much chess the Cardinals and Rams present to each other.
“It’s almost scary,” Morris said Friday.
“You go to those guys and you lose. And then I remember the first game we played against them when we lost and I went to those guys and I said, ‘Hey man, great game plan. That was great.’ And then I remember the second time we beat those guys and the head coach came up to me and said, ‘Man, it was a great plan, Rah.’ And those are the scariest moments, because he’s just trying to rock you to sleep during that chess match, right?
“So let me go back to the drawing board, not trying to pretend you can recycle information. And you have to go through the whole process over and over and make sure you’re doing it right. And I think that’s the best thing about the chess game where “You’re talking about. It’s like, what do you want to change? What changes too much? And what do you want to repeat to see if you can get the same results.”
Offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell also hinted at Monday night as a chess match.
“It’s a great question because you could talk yourself out of a lot by knowing some of the things you taped not only against this opponent but also some other people who might be playing the same styles or similar matchups throughout the week. and week out of process of the NFL season,” said O’Connell.
“But at the same time, that’s why we learn a lot from the things we do from a fundamental grassroots stand of our system. Because everything is built from the marriage of the run and the pass. It’s built on equality and similarity and, really, the defense on a smart way of attacking, with the ultimate respect for this opponent because they have played really, really good defense all year round.
“They’ve got skill players. They’ve got defensive skills on all three levels. It’s really challenging for us. So what you’re really doing is really measuring the things that you’ve been able to be successful at, maybe things where they’re successful.” And then where does it all come together somewhere in the middle where we actively try to take advantage of every area that we see and I’m sure they’re the same there.
“So the chess game just goes on. Of course it goes on until kick-off, but then that could be a separator during that three-and-a-half hour window on Monday night.”
On the other side of the chessboard is Kingsbury, who is an avid viewer of shows on various streaming services but has not publicly stated whether he is the popular chess centralized The Queen’s Gambit series.
However, Kingsbury will have another chance to put his pieces in the right place on Monday evening. We’ll see who plays better when the stakes are higher than before.