Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Rams: 2018 Week 3 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (1-1-1) at Los Angeles Rams (3-0)

Teams typically struggle before these Thursday night games, especially favorites, who are 48-68 ATS before Thursday Night Football since 2012. The Rams and Vikings were both favorites last week, but had opposite results. The Vikings were shockingly blown out 27-6 at home by the lowly Bills, while the Rams dominated a good Chargers team 35-23, picking up 33 first downs to the Chargers’ 16.

While the Rams win was definitely legitimate, the Vikings loss was not nearly as bad as the final score showed, as the Vikings had 21 first downs to 16 for the Bills. The Vikings lost because of a -3 turnover margin, including two early turnovers in their own territory that got them down big early and forced them to completely abandon their game plan, but turnover margins tend to be unpredictable on a week-to-week basis. For example, teams with a turnover margin of -3, on average, have a turnover margin of -0.1 the following week. Just because the Vikings turned the ball over against the Bills doesn’t mean they will against the Rams. The Vikings will also be much more focused this week after getting caught looking ahead last week.

The Rams will be focused too though, and they don’t need to win the turnover battle to win this game, as they have a league best +16.92% first down rate differential. That’s more than double the Ravens who are in 2nd at +8.01 (most of which comes over their week 1 blowout game over the Bills). Behind the Ravens are the Redskins at +6.67% and both the Ravens and Redskins lost the first down rate battle in week 2 losses. The Rams have won all 3 of their games by at least 12 points and have won the first down rate battle by at least 8.85% in all 3 games. It’s early and they haven’t had the toughest schedule, but they’ve been the undisputed best team in the league through 3 games and they have the talent to suggest they can continue playing at a high level all season long.

We got some line movement as a result of the Vikings’ loss, as the line moved from 4 on the early line last week to 6.5 this week, but we’re still not really getting any line value with the Vikings. The Rams have lost their top two cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib with injury, but the Vikings are at less than 100% as well, with top edge rusher Everson Griffen out for the second week in a row and feature back Dalvin Cook looking 50/50 at best on a short week, as he deals with a lingering hamstring pull. The Vikings really missed both of those players against the Bills.

The Rams are also in a good spot at home on a short week. Excluding games between familiar divisional opponents and games where the road team is favored, home teams are 31-15 ATS on Thursday Night Football. Playing on a short week is tough enough, but when you have to travel as well, it puts you at a disadvantage. There’s not enough here to take the Rams confidently and I might even switch my pick to the Vikings at 7, but Rams are my pick at 6.5.

Los Angeles Rams 30 Minnesota Vikings 23

Pick against the spread: LA Rams -6.5

Confidence: None

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