Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams: 2019 Week 14 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (10-2) at Los Angeles Rams (7-5)

When these two teams met in Seattle week 5, the Seahawks were victorious, but the game easily could have gone either way, as it came down to a 44-yard missed field goal by Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein at the end of regulation. That’s far from the only close game the Seahawks have played this season. Their win over the 49ers also came down to a missed field goal, as 49ers kicker Chase McLaughlin missed a 47-yard game winner in overtime, and overall 9 of their 10 wins have come by a touchdown or less. 

A win is a win for standings purposes, but blowout wins tend to be more predictive of future success than close wins and the Seahawks’ +36 point differential is the worst ever for a 10-2 team. They barely hold the edge in point differential over the 7-5 Rams (+33) and if a few things had gone a little differently the Seahawks could be 7-5 right alongside the Rams. In first down rate differential, the Rams actually hold the edge, ranking 12th at +1.90%, while the Seahawks rank 14th at +0.96%. 

With these two teams about even statistically, ordinarily I would calculate this line at -3 favoring the home team, but the Rams don’t have a typical homefield advantage in Los Angeles, as they tend to draw a lot of visiting fans, especially in big matchups like this. Since moving in 2016, they are 10-16-3 ATS at home and 17-13-1 ATS on the road. I have this line calculated at Rams -2, so while we’re getting some line value with this line being even, it’s not enough to bet on them.

Los Angeles Rams 33 Seattle Seahawks 31

Pick against the spread: Los Angeles PK

Confidence: Low

Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals: 2019 Week 13 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (6-5) at Arizona Cardinals (3-7-1)

This is one of the tougher games of the week to predict against the spread. On one hand, the Rams were embarrassed last week against the Ravens in a 45-6 loss and teams typically bounce back from bad losses. Since 2002, teams are 60-38 ATS after a loss by 35 points or more and favorites, like the Rams are this week, have won 20 of 24 games straight up after a loss by 35 or more over that time period. On the other hand, this could be a look ahead spot for the Rams with a much harder divisional game on deck against the Seahawks. The Rams will almost definitely be home underdogs in that game and road favorites are just 26-55 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs. 

We’re also not getting any line value in either direction. The Cardinals’ only 3 wins have come by a combined 10 points against teams that are a combined 5-29, while 4 of their 7 losses have come by double digits, with an average margin of defeat of 11.3 points per game. Their point differential of -69 ranks just 28th in the NFL and they rank 29th in first down rate differential at -5.73%. However, the Rams have been a pretty middle of the pack team this season, so they shouldn’t be favored by more than a field goal in this game. I have this line calculated at Rams -3, which is exactly where the line is.

Ultimately, what I think this game will come down to is the Rams’ mindset about their playoff chances. Last week’s loss wasn’t a death sentence for their playoff chances, but they’re 2 games behind the 8-3 Vikings for the last NFC wild card spot right now with 5 games to go and probably need to win out and finish 11-5 to give themselves a shot. If the Rams believe their season is over, they probably won’t give their best effort against the Cardinals, especially with a much bigger game on deck. If they believe they still have a shot to make the post-season, we could see a very different level of focus and motivation from them this week after being humbled last week. I think the latter is more likely than the former, but I definitely wouldn’t bet on it. A push might be the most likely result.

Los Angeles Rams 23 Arizona Cardinals 20

Pick against the spread: LA Rams -3

Confidence: None

Baltimore Ravens at Los Angeles Rams: 2019 Week 12 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (8-2) at Los Angeles Rams (6-4)

The Ravens are the hottest team in the NFL right now, having won four straight games by 14+ points, making them the 24th team to do so in the past 30 years. The common thinking is that makes them a great bet, but in reality it’s much more likely to be the opposite. Of the previous 23 teams to do so, just 7 of them covered in their next game and 11 of them lost straight up, including 8 upset losses. Favorites are just 3-14 ATS in this spot in the past 30 years. Ironically, the last team to win four straight games by 14+ were the Patriots, who lost in this spot to the Ravens a few weeks ago. 

The problem is when a team is as hot as the Ravens are right now, oddsmakers know they can boost their spread significantly and casual bettors will still want to bet on them.That’s definitely the case here, as the Ravens are 3.5 point favorites on the road against the Rams. A week ago on the early line, this line was even, a drastic shift considering about 1 in 4 games are decided by 3 points or fewer, and 2-3 weeks ago the Rams likely would have been favored by a field goal here at home. 

With the Rams, a lot of attention has been given to their underwhelming offense, which has fallen from 3rd in first down rate at 43.02% in 2018 to 18th in 2019 at 35.09%, due primarily to major issues on the offensive line, but their defense has quietly been one of the better stop units in the league this season, allowing a first down rate of 32.34% that is 4th best in the NFL. They’re not as good overall as last season, but they still rank 7th in first down rate differential at +2.75%, just a few spots behind the Ravens, who rank 3rd at +6.23%. I have this line calculated at Baltimore -1.5 and, while two points of line value might not seem like much, about 20% of games are decided by 2 or 3 points, so that’s a pretty significant two points. 

The Rams are also in a couple good betting spots this week. For one, they’re a west coast team in a night game against an east coast team, a spot that covers about 66% of the time due to differences in internal clocks. On top of that, the Rams only have a trip to Arizona on deck, while the Ravens have another tough game on deck against the 49ers. The Ravens are expected to be favored in that game, but there could still be a little bit of split focus for them this week with the league’s best team by record on deck next week. Meanwhile, home underdogs like the Rams are 25-53 ATS since 2012 before being road favorites, which they almost definitely will be in Arizona. I like the Rams’ chances of not just covering this spread, but winning this game straight up, so they’re one of my top picks of the week at +3.5 (and still betable at +3).

Los Angeles Rams 26 Baltimore Ravens 24 Upset Pick +145

Pick against the spread: LA Rams +3.5

Confidence: High

Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams: 2019 Week 11 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (4-5) at Los Angeles Rams (5-4)

A year ago, this was a marquee matchup in the NFC, with both teams going on to win 12+ games. This season, however, both teams are having disappointing seasons. The Bears actually led the NFL in first down rate differential in 2018 at +6.64%, but they faced one of the easiest schedules in the league and this season, against a much tougher schedule, they’re without several key contributors on defense, including free agent losses Bryce Callahan and Adrian Amos, departed defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, and in season injuries Akiem Hicks and Danny Trevathan, the latter of whom just went down last week. As a result of that and some regression on offense in the second year of the Matt Nagy/Mitch Trubisky era, the Bears have fallen all the way down to 21st in first down rate differential at -2.42% and already have more losses at 4-5 than they did all last season when they went 12-4.

The Rams have also exceeded their loss total from last season, starting 5-4 after going 13-3 a year ago. By far the biggest reason why is their offensive line. After starting the same five offensive linemen in every game in 2018, the Rams lost a pair of starters this off-season (left guard Rodger Saffold and center John Sullivan) and have since lost their replacements (Joe Noteboom and Brian Allen) to injury, as well as right tackle Rob Havenstein. Allen and Havenstein just went down last week, but both were struggling even before going down. Their only two remaining offensive linemen from 2018 are left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right guard Austin Blythe, both of whom are having down years compared to a year ago. Their offensive line issues have hurt their offense as a whole, dropping them from 3rd in first down rate at 43.02% in 2018 to 18th at 35.63% in 2019. In terms of first down rate differential, they’ve fallen from 3rd at +5.00% to 9th to +2.30%, despite an improved defense.

The Rams are the better team and I have this line calculated at Rams -7, so we’re getting a little bit of line value with them as 6-point favorites, but that’s barely any line value and the Bears are also in a much better spot. While the Rams have a tough matchup against the Ravens on deck, the Bears get one of the easiest games of their season, hosting the Giants in Chicago. Underdogs of 6+ are 49-37 ATS since 2008 before being favorites of 6+ and the Bears are currently favored by 7 points on the early line next week. There’s not enough to take either side confidently, but the Bears should be the pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Los Angeles Rams 22 Chicago Bears 17

Pick against the spread: Chicago +6

Confidence: None

Los Angeles Rams at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2019 Week 10 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (5-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-4)

The Steelers are 4-4, despite losing franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the season week 2. Even in their losses, they have been competitive, losing 3 of the 4 games by a combined 9 points, despite all 4 losses coming against teams that are 6-2 or better. However, they’ve been very dependant on the turnover margin, coming into the week with a +11 margin that is second in the NFL behind the Patriots, which is in large part due to a 65.52% fumble recovery rate that ranks 3rd in the NFL. 

Both turnover margin and fumble recovery rate tend to be very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so the Steelers won’t necessarily be able to count on that going forward. In terms of first down rate differential, the Steelers rank 22nd at -2.71%, which lines up with where they are in my roster rankings (20th), as not only are they missing Roethlisberger, but also dominant defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who is also out for the season. Also out this week are running back James Conner, left guard Ramon Foster, and possibly top wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.

The Rams are a little overrated as well, as some of their wins could have gone the other way and they are not as good offensively as they have been in recent years because they don’t have the same offensive line. They rank 10th in first down rate differential at +2.68% and 10th in my roster rankings, so we’re not getting any real line value with them as 4-point road favorites in Pittsburgh. They are in a great spot though, coming out of a bye, as teams are 40-11 ATS since 2002 as favorites of 3.5+ after a bye. There’s not enough here for the Rams to be worth a bet, but they should be the right side.

Los Angeles Rams 23 Pittsburgh Steelers 17

Pick against the spread: LA Rams -4

Confidence: Low

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Los Angeles Rams: 2019 Week 8 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (0-7) vs. Los Angeles Rams (4-3) in London

Typically the rule of thumb in these international games is to pick the favorite, as they are 24-11 ATS all-time and it makes that sense better teams would be better prepared for playing under unusual circumstances. In this matchup, the Rams are clearly the better team, facing off against the winless Bengals, but unfortunately we’ve lost a lot of line value with the Rams in the past week. They were favored by 9.5 on the early line last week, but are now 12.5-point favorites and it’s not really clear why. 

The Bengals lost at home to the Jaguars last week, but that game was close throughout and they get their top cornerback William Jackson and top defensive end Carlos Dunlap back from injury this week. Meanwhile, the Rams won in Atlanta convincingly last week, but they still rank just 12th in first down rate differential on the season at +2.00%, as their offense has not nearly been the same this season with a rebuilt offensive line. 

The Rams obviously have the talent edge, but this line is the equivalent of Los Angeles -15.5 if this game were played in Los Angeles and -9.5 if it were played in Cincinnati, which I think is too high. I still have this line calculated at Rams -9, so I’m taking the Bengals for pick ‘em purposes, though this is a no confidence pick because they could easily get blown out or quit in the second half in a bad spot. 

Los Angeles Rams 24 Cincinnati Bengals 13

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +12.5

Confidence: None

Los Angeles Rams at Atlanta Falcons: 2019 Week 7 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (3-3) at Atlanta Falcons (1-5)

The Rams made a splash move this week to acquire cornerback Jalen Ramsey from the Jaguars for a pair of first round picks, but they still have significant problems on this team. One problem is edge defender, where Clay Matthews remains out with a broken jaw, but the biggest problem area is the offensive line, where they are getting worse play at all five spots across the line as compared to last year. 

They lost their starting left guard and starting center this off-season and have gotten terrible play from their replacements, while left tackle Andrew Whitworth is showing his age in his age 38 season, right guard Austin Blythe has played through injuries and has regressed after a breakout 2018 season, and right tackle Rob Havenstein has relatively been a disappointment as well. Quarterback Jared Goff, who has always struggled under pressure, has had an underwhelming season as a result of their suddenly poor offensive line play. 

On top of their concerns at edge rusher and on the offensive line, acquiring Ramsey really just allows them to tread water at the cornerback position, as the Rams started the season with a solid outside cornerback duo of Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, but lost Talib with an injury and then traded Peters to Baltimore prior to acquiring Ramsey. Even if Ramsey can lock down one receiver by himself, opposing passers can just pick on fellow starting cornerback Troy Hill, a career backup and special teamer. 

Ramsey, who will have had little practice time with the Rams prior to this game in Atlanta, does not make this is a good secondary by himself, especially with safety John Johnson also going down with injury. Obviously having Ramsey is better than not, but anyone expecting him to turn this team around by himself is going to be disappointed. Some of their games could have gone either way, but the Rams’ 3-3 record is about right for how they’ve played, as they rank just 14th in first down rate differential at +1.47%. Even with Ramsey, they might not be much better than that going forward. 

This game in Atlanta seems like an easy way for the Rams to get back on track at first glance, as the Falcons are just 1-5, but they’ve played better than that suggests. They’ve struggled with turnovers, ranking 5th worst in fumble recovery rate at 31.25% and tied for 4th worst in turnover margin at -5, but turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. In terms of first down rate differential, they rank 19th at -0.98%. 

Their defense has been horrendous, allowing opponents to move the chains at a 43.50% rate, only behind the Dolphins for worst in the league, but their offense has moved the ball well, ranking 3rd in first down rate at 42.53%. The Rams are favored here by a field goal, but I have this line calculated at even, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Falcons pull the upset at home. I don’t want to make a huge bet on the Falcons because their defense has been so awful, especially without top cornerback Desmond Trufant, but this offense has the firepower to keep a shootout close, so they’re worth a bet if you can get the full field goal.

Atlanta Falcons 31 Los Angeles Rams 30 Upset Pick +140

Pick against the spread: Falcons +3

Confidence: Medium