Los Angeles Rams (3-1) at Seattle Seahawks (3-1)
It’s not unusual for favored teams to struggle the week before Thursday Night Football, as favorites cover the spread only at about a 43.6% rate all-time in that situation. The Seahawks took care of business last week in Arizona, winning by 17 as 5-point favorites, by far their biggest win of the season after their first two came by a combined 3 points. However, the Rams fell flat, losing at home to the Buccaneers by 15 as 9-point favorites.
It’s not entirely surprising the Rams lost that game though, even aside from it being before a short week. The Buccaneers have shown signs of being a much improved football team under Bruce Arians and the new coaching staff, while the Rams had not been terribly impressive during their 3-0 start, winning week 1 by 3 against a banged up Cam Newton in a game in which the Rams recovered all 4 fumbles, winning by week 2 against a Saints team that lost Drew Brees to injury in the first quarter, and then winning by a touchdown in Cleveland in a game the Browns had a chance to tie at the end.
What is surprising is how the Rams lost. Their offense was the concerning unit through the first 3 weeks of the season for the Rams, slowed by an offensive line that did not look nearly the same without the two starters they lost this off-season, while their defense actually ranked 5th in first down rate allowed through 3 games at 31.52%, led by Aaron Donald and a now healthy cornerback duo of Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. The Buccaneers, meanwhile, ranked 4th in first down rate allowed through 3 weeks at 30.73%, with an upstart young defense coordinated by Todd Bowles and led by breakout star Vita Bea, but got inconsistent play from quarterback Jameis Winston and the offense. Somehow, despite both teams playing strong defense through the first 3 weeks of the season and having shaky offenses, the Rams and Buccaneers combined for 95 points in a 55-40 Rams loss.
It’s hard to know what to make of that game, especially since the Rams were likely not playing their best game before the short week. It’s also tough to predict how teams will respond on a short week. On top of that, I have this calculated line at Seattle -1, which means we’re not getting any real line value either way with this line being at Seattle -1.5. For those three reasons, this is going to be one of my lowest confidence picks of the week, but I’d take the Rams if I had to, for the half point of “line value.” Both teams have been shaky in their 3-1 starts, but the Rams still have the more complete roster.
Seattle Seahawks 24 Los Angeles Rams 23
Pick against the spread: LA Rams +1.5