New Orleans Saints (8-2) at Los Angeles Rams (7-3)
I didn’t have confidence in either side of the Rams/Vikings game last week in Minnesota, but I was rooting for the Rams so I could get a better line with the Saints in this matchup this week. The Saints were -2.5 on the early line and I thought we could get -3 if the Rams could pull out the upset in Minnesota against a Vikings team that had to play again in 4 days on Thanksgiving. Instead, the Rams lost by 17 and this line remains at 2.5. About 15% of games are decided by exactly a field goal, so not getting protection against a Rams field goal win really hurts the Saints’ chances of covering.
The Rams’ loss in Minnesota against a team in a bad spot reinforced my belief that the Rams’ strong start was largely the result of a weak early schedule, but the Saints are not nearly at 100% in this game. They lost talented starting defensive end Alex Okafor for the season with a torn achilles, while their top-2 cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley will miss at least this week with injury. Those three players have been key to this team’s defensive turnaround this season, so the Saints could struggle defensively this week. The Rams have some injury problems too, with top receiver Robert Woods and slot cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman out with injury, but they aren’t missing nearly as much as the Saints.
Even without those three, the Saints are still probably the best team the Rams have faced this season though, as they are a legitimate top-3 roster when healthy. The Rams have gotten to 7-3 on an easy schedule, 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 Saints could easily make that 3 home losses, as they are better than both Seattle and Washington. The Rams haven’t had much homefield advantage since moving to Los Angeles anyway, going 3-8 ATS there since moving before the 2016 season. The Rams don’t have quite the same trouble getting home fans in Los Angeles as the Chargers, but they do attract a lot of road fans and I’d expect that to be the case this week for this big game. I have this line calculated at New Orleans -2, so we are getting some line value with the Saints at +2, but I’d need the full field goal to be confident in the Saints. I will make a small bet on the money line at +110 though, as I do expect the Saints to win.
New Orleans Saints 23 Los Angeles Rams 20 Upset Pick +110
Pick against the spread: New Orleans +2