St. Louis Rams (2-2) at Green Bay Packers (4-0)
The Packers’ home dominance in recent years is well documented. As long as Aaron Rodgers starts (minus any games he’s been knocked out very early with injuries), the Packers are 29-11-1 ATS at home since 2010 and 37-4 straight up, with an absurd +589 point differential, meaning they outscore opponents, on average, by 14.37 points per game. Even though this is well documented, I still don’t think this line fully takes their home dominance into account, as they are mere 9 point favorites here over a vastly inferior Rams team. It’s either that or the odds makers are overrating the Rams.
I think it could be a little bit of both. The Rams’ won as 6.5 point underdogs in Arizona last week, but they didn’t play as well as that would suggest, as they lost the first down battle 26 to 13. The Rams moved the chains at a mere 66.67% rate, while the Cardinals, though they ended up losing by 2, moved them at a 71.05% rate. The only reason the Rams were able to win is because they won the turnover battle by 3 and it’s very tough to do that every week. Over the past 25 or so years, teams that win the turnover battle by 3, on average, have a +0.1 turnover margin the following week.
The Rams will have to find another way to keep this one close, especially since Rodgers hasn’t thrown an interceptions at home in 580 attempts, and I don’t think they’ll be able to. On the season, they rank just 27th in rate of moving the chains differential, while the Packers rank 6th. I know it’s only been 4 games, but that’s definitely consistent with what we saw out of these two teams last season, when the Rams finished the season 22nd and the Packers finished 6th. If the Packers are beating the average team by two touchdowns at home, they should have no problem winning by that amount, if not more here against the Rams.
The Packers are also getting a key player back from injury for this one, as right tackle Bryan Bulaga is set to return from a knee injury that’s kept him out since week 1. Safety Morgan Burnett, who has only played once this season (week 2), and wide receiver Davante Adams, who also missed last week, will remain out, but getting Bulaga back is more important. The Packers have been able to replace Adams and Burnett pretty well with Micah Hyde and James Jones respectively, but replacement right tackle Don Barclay was horrendous in place of Bulaga, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd worst ranked offensive tackle thus far this season. Bulaga, an above average right tackle, will be a significant upgrade and a big boost for an offensive line that has been the Packers’ only offensive problem area this season.
On the other side, the Rams have managed to suffer very few injuries during the season, but will be without linebacker Alec Ogletree for an extended period of time after he got hurt against Arizona. Todd Gurley being healthy definitely cancels that out and he ran well last week in his first game as the feature back, totaling 161 yards on 21 touches. However, it’s important to remember that Gurley, while he has tremendous upside, is a rookie coming off of a serious injury and to not get too far ahead of ourselves with him.
In addition to being the vastly superior team and having an amazing homefield advantage, the Packers are also in a great spot, with only a home game against San Diego on deck. They are expected to be 9 point favorites in that one as well and teams are 107-65 ATS since 2010 as favorites of 6 or more before being favorites of 6 or more again. The Rams don’t have any upcoming distractions either, going into a bye, but usually not having an upcoming distraction benefits the better team more than the underdog. Typically, I hate making huge wagers on huge favorites, but, even at 9, this line is way too low. The Packers should win this with ease and they are my Pick of the Week (and Survivor Pick).
Green Bay Packers 31 St. Louis Rams 13
Pick against the spread: Green Bay -9
Confidence: Pick of the Week