Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-10) at St. Louis Rams (6-8)
Since 1989, there have been 25 instances of a team winning by 17 or more despite losing the first down battle by 9 or more. The Rams have done that 3 times this season alone. Teams are 6-19 ATS off of that type of win as that’s clearly an unsustainable way to win games and it leads to artificially inflated lines and artificially overconfident teams. The Rams didn’t win in that manner last week, but only because of some garbage time touchdowns. The Rams led 27-3 going into the 4th quarter in what was eventually a 27-16 game.
The Rams still won by 11 despite losing the first down battle by 13. Teams that lose the first down battle by 11 or more and still win by 11 or more are 13-24 ATS the following week. I realize those are very artificial boundaries, but so is the original 6-19 ATS trend. The point I’m trying to prove is that winning a game by a large margin despite losing the first down battle by a large margin is an unsustainable way to win and it leads to teams that are overconfident and lines that are overinflated. For example, this line was at 3 a week ago and now it’s at 5.5. That’s a huge line movement, crossing over the key numbers of 3 and 4, and it’s the result of a fluky St. Louis victory.
Because 4 of their 6 wins have come in games in which they won by large margins despite losing the first down battle by large margins, the Rams are not nearly as good as their record. Despite their 6-8 record, they rank 25th in rate of moving the chains differential. They move the chains at a 69.98% rate, as opposed to 74.02% for their opponents, a differential of -4.04%. The Buccaneers aren’t in good shape either, as they rank 29th in rate of moving the chains, moving the chains at a 66.33% rate, as opposed to 72.21% rate for their opponents, a differential of -5.88%. They’ve been buoyed by an unsustainable +11 margins. However, this line is still a little too big, as I have it calculated at 5, using rate of moving the chains differential. This line is currently at 5.5. It’s not a lot, but it’s something.
That being said, I can’t be confident in either side at all considering both have much more important games next week. The Buccaneers travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints, while the Rams travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks. Teams are 37-74 ATS since 2010 before being double digit underdogs, which both teams almost certainly will be next week. I’m going to take the points to fade the public and because the way the Rams have been blowing teams out is unsustainable, but I’m not confident at all.
St. Louis Rams 17 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13
Pick against spread: Tampa Bay +5.5