St. Louis Rams (5-6-1) at Buffalo Bills (5-7)
This is a matchup of two teams that are below .500, but actually playing good football over the last few weeks. Since the bye, the Bills have played the Texans and Patriots close on the road, beaten Miami, lost in Indianapolis by only a special teams touchdown, and blew out the Jaguars. The Rams, meanwhile, are 2-1-1 since the bye, with a win and tie against the 49ers, a blowout win over the Cardinals, and only a home loss to the Jets, in which the Jets had the huge trends edge, as a blemish. Why are these teams playing better football? Well, let’s take a look.
Starting with the Bills, Mario Williams had a wrist procedure during the bye and has been playing much better football of late. After recording 4 sacks, 5 quarterback hits, and 13 quarterback hurries in his first 7 games, he has 5 sacks, 1 quarterback hit, and 11 quarterback hurries in last 5 games. Left tackle Cordy Glenn also returned from a 3 game absence for that first game after the bye, which has stabilized their offensive line, important because Ryan Fitzpatrick is a much noticeably better quarterback when he’s not pressured, more than most.
Also, cornerback Aaron Williams left with an injury in that Houston game and hasn’t played since. Williams was one of the worst defensive backs in the league before getting hurt, so his absence has really been addition by subtraction. As for the Rams, they’ve also gotten healthier. Rodger Saffold returned at left tackle 4 weeks ago, not so coincidentally when their play improved, and Scott Wells returned at center 2 weeks ago, which also helped things.
I think the Rams are more likely to continue playing well than the Bills for several reasons. For one, center Eric Wood is out for the Bills, which really hurts their offensive line. Given Fitzpatrick’s reliance on his offensive line, it’s not surprise this offense went in the tank last season when Wood got hurt. Aaron Williams is also expected to return for the Bills, which probably isn’t a good thing. As for the Rams, Danny Amendola is expected to see the most action he’s seen in 2 weeks this week, which gives Sam Bradford by far his favorite target back. Chris Givens stepped up in his absence as well and if he can continue that, that would give Bradford two weapons to work with downfield, which is sadly a new record for him.
The trends also favor the Rams. Teams are 102-57 ATS as dogs before being favorites since 2011, including 114-57 ATS since 2008 when the opponent will next be dogs and 34-14 ATS when all 3 games will be non-divisional (current game, next game, opponent’s next game). The Rams host the Vikings next week and will be favored and the Bills host the Seahawks and will be dogs; all 3 of those games are obviously non-divisional. Going off that, non-conference favorites are 19-36 before being non-conference dogs since 2002. We’re not really get any line value (real line is Buffalo -3.5, according to net points per play, but the Rams hold a slight edge in DVOA) or chance to fade the public (equal action), but I like the Rams for a small play.
Public lean: Buffalo (50% range)
Sharps lean: STL 12 BUF 8
Final thoughts: Amendola is out for the Rams, but there is no change.
St. Louis Rams 17 Buffalo Bills 16 Upset Pick +140
Pick against spread: St. Louis +3 (-110) 2 units