Los Angeles Rams (7-2) at Minnesota Vikings (7-2)
Case Keenum and Jared Goff were the two starting quarterbacks for the Rams last season, on a team that went 4-12. Now Keenum and Goff face off against each other as quarterbacks of 7-2 teams in the middle of a race for a first round bye in the NFC. The #1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Goff lost all 7 of his starts for the Rams last season after taking over for the veteran Keenum mid-season, but he’s taken a huge step forward in his 2nd season in the league and he has a lot more talent around him on an overall much better coached team.
They’ve won with convincing margins of victory and rank 4th in first down rate differential. Their easy schedule has been a big part of their success though, as 5 of their 7 wins have come against the Cardinals, Colts, 49ers, Texans, and Giants. Beating the Cowboys and Jaguars is impressive, but the Cowboys were without top linebacker Sean Lee in that game and the Rams scored two special teams touchdowns against the Jaguars. In addition to that, they’ve also lost at home to the Seahawks and Redskins.
The Vikings are arguably the toughest team they’ve faced this season, surprisingly led by Case Keenum. When the veteran journeyman Keenum signed with the Vikings this off-season, he looked bound for a backup job at best. Sam Bradford was coming off of a solid, healthy season as the starting quarterback, while Teddy Bridgewater looked like he could be ready to return as a reserve at some point in the season. However, Bradford hasn’t played much since week 1 due to a knee injury and Keenum is playing so well in his absence that the Vikings are keeping Bridgewater on the bench even though he is now healthy enough to play. Like Goff, Keenum isn’t doing this by himself, as he has a strong supporting cast, but this is the best football he’s played in his career and it’s tough to bench him at this point.
That being said, in the long run benching Keenum is probably the best decision. This team has the supporting cast to compete for a Super Bowl if they have strong quarterback play in the post-season. Keenum is hot right now, but he’s probably not the quarterback who can take them where they want to be. Bridgewater is more of a question mark, but he has the upside to take this team on a run and they should try to get him back into the lineup as quickly as they can so he can have a few starts under his belt by the post-season.
If Bridgewater was starting this game, I’d pick the Vikings, but, with Keenum, I calculated this line exactly where it is, at -2.5, so we’re not getting any line value with Minnesota. Given that, I’m taking the Rams because, unlike the Vikings, they have a normal week of rest on deck. The Vikings, meanwhile, go to Detroit on a short week for a Thanksgiving game. Favorites are just 61-95 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football, as it’s understandably tough to be focused for an inferior opponent with another game right around the corner. This is a no confidence pick, but the Rams are the choice for pick ‘em purposes.
Minnesota Vikings 17 Los Angeles Rams 16
Pick against the spread: LA Rams +2.5