Los Angeles Rams (4-6) at New Orleans Saints (4-6)
The Saints are just 4-6, but rank 4th in first down rate differential. They have 29 more first downs than their opponents on the season and 7 more offensive touchdowns, but are just 4-6 because of a -4 margin in return touchdowns and 5 losses by 6 points or fewer (including 4 losses by 3 points or fewer). They could easily be 6-4 or 7-3 right now if a few things had gone their way. They’re also as healthy as they’ve been all season and are subsequently playing easily their best football of the season right now. Key players like Delvin Breaux, Sheldon Rankins, and Terron Armstead have all missed time so far for the Saints, but all 3 are expected to be back on the field this week.
The Rams are as healthy as they’ve been all season right now too, but they’re not nearly as good as the Saints are when both teams are healthy. The Rams have hardly had any injuries on offense this season, but still enter this game a distant dead last in first down rate. Their defense is solid when everyone is healthy, but the Rams are still not nearly as good of a team as the Saints, despite their identical records. They enter this game 31st in first down rate differential, thanks to an offense that is nearly a full percentage point behind the nearest team in first down rate. As a result, they haven’t scored more than 10 points in any of their last 4 games, which is remarkable in the modern era of offense. The Saints’ defense has gotten a lot better as the season has gone on, so the Rams could easily have trouble scoring points again this week.
Making matters worse for the Rams, they have to turn around and play an even tougher game next week when they go to New England. The early line has them as 14 point underdogs. Underdogs of 6 or more, like the Rams this week, are 49-78 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 6 or more again, as it’s very tough for inferior teams to play well enough to keep it close against superior teams when they have another tough game on deck. Going off of that, teams are just 41-62 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 10 or more. Big upcoming games tend to serve as a distraction for teams. This line is pretty high at 7, but the Rams are going to have a lot of trouble hanging with the Saints this week, so I have no problem laying the points.
New Orleans Saints 27 Los Angeles Rams 13
Pick against the spread: New Orleans -7