Washington Redskins (0-1) at Los Angeles Rams (1-0)
The Rams had an impressive week 1 performance, dismantling the Indianapolis Colts in a 46-9 victory. They had a first down rate differential of +13.97%, 2nd best in the NFL last week, and scored 16 points just with their defense (two pick sixes and a safety). Now they get defensive tackle Aaron Donald back from his holdout, which should be a big boost to this defense, even if he’s rusty and on a pitch count in his first game back. As a result, some people are talking about the Rams as a surprise team this season and this line has moved to compensate, going from a pick ‘em on the early line last week to now -3 in favor of the Rams, the 2nd biggest line movement of the week.
I typically like to fade big line movements because they tend to be overreactions to a single game and this is no exception. As good as the Rams looked last week, they were facing an Indianapolis team that is arguably the worst in the NFL without all of the players they are missing, including quarterback Andrew Luck. On paper, they Rams still have one of the least talented teams in the league. That could change if Jared Goff continues to develop, Sammy Watkins continues to stay healthy, and this defense continues to significantly outperform their talented level under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. That’s certainly a possibility, but I am not sold on this team yet.
Even if I didn’t think the line movement was an overreaction, I would still disagree with this line, which suggests that these two teams are more or less even. When I looked at week 2’s early lines last week, Washington PK in Los Angeles was one that stood out to me even then. Now we’re getting a full field goal with the visitors. That doesn’t just give us line value with the Redskins, but it also puts the Rams in a tough spot, as favorites are 58-86 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football. Coming off of a huge win, with another game in 4 games, the Rams could get caught by surprise a little here, which would really hurt them against a superior opponent.
Not only are the Rams a little overrated right now, but I think the Redskins are underrated too. The common assessment of the Redskins seems to be that they’re not as good as last season because they lost a pair of 1000+ yard receivers in free agency (DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon), but they also added a 1000+ yard receiver (Terrelle Pryor), they have Jordan Reed and Josh Doctson healthy for now, and they could get a breakout year from slot receiver Jamison Crowder, so I don’t think this receiving corps is much worse than it was last season.
On the defensive side of the ball, they’re arguably better, with DJ Swearinger, Zach Brown, and Jonathan Allen added this off-season. They might not make the playoffs, but I don’t think they’re much worse than last season and they should be right in the mix for a playoff spot again. They lost week 1 by double digits at home, but they were playing an underrated Philadelphia team that could end up being one of the better teams in the league, so I don’t hold that against them as much as the general public might. The Redskins are a smart bet both against the spread and on the money line.
Washington Redskins 23 Los Angeles Rams 20 Upset Pick +120
Pick against the spread: Washington +3