Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams: 2016 Week 17 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (6-8-1) at Los Angeles Rams (4-11)

The Cardinals pulled the upset victory in Seattle last week, a shock to many people, considering they were 8 point underdogs. However, it shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise, given that the Cardinals have played significantly better than their record this season. They’ve had 5 close losses (or ties) that would have been wins if not for special teams screw ups. They missed a game winning field goal against New England. They allowed a long punt return to set up the winning score against the Rams. They had a blocked punt and a number of missed field goals in the tie against the Seahawks. They allowed a kickoff return touchdown in a 6-point loss to the Vikings. And against Miami, in a 3-point loss, special teams cost them 7 points on 3 plays with a missed field goal, a missed extra point, and a blocked extra point that was returned for 2 points.

They’ve actually won the first down rate battle in 13 of 15 games and rank 3rd in first down rate differential on the season. On the flip side, the lowly Rams rank 31st in first down rate differential. They pulled the upset in Arizona against the Cardinals earlier this year, but that was because the Cardinals lost the turnover battle by 4, which tends to be very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. Even then, it took a late long punt return touchdown to set up the winning score for the Rams. The Cardinals actually won the first down battle by a wide margin, 26 to 12. Since then, the Rams have lost 10 of 11 games and have benched veteran starting quarterback Case Keenum for rookie Jared Goff, who has looked lost in limited action. Prior to last week’s close home loss to the lowly 49ers, the Rams had lost 4 straight games by 16 points or more. The Cardinals should be able to hand them another big loss this week. As long as this line is less than a touchdown, Arizona is worth a bet.

Arizona Cardinals 24 Los Angeles Rams 13

Pick against the spread: Arizona -6.5

Confidence: Medium

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams: 2016 Week 16 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (1-13) at Los Angeles Rams (4-10)

These two teams met back in week 1 in what ended up being an absolute rout by the hometown San Francisco 49ers. Not only did the 49ers shutout the Rams, but they won the first down battle 28 to 10 and moved the chains at a 41.56% rate, as opposed to 16.67% for the Rams, a differential of 24.89% that is still one of the biggest single game first down rate differentials of the season. Since then though, the 49ers have lost 13 straight by an average of 15.23 points. The Rams haven’t been much better, entering this game at 4-10, with their 4 victories coming by a combined 18 points and their 10 losses coming by a combined 149 points, giving them a -131 point differential on the season, which is only ahead of the Browns and 49ers.

The 49ers actually still rank higher than the Rams in first down rate, though they’ve been ravaged by injuries this season and are missing, among others, cornerback Jimmie Ward, defensive end Arik Armstead, middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman, and safety Eric Reid for the season. All 4 of those players played in the week 1 matchup and those were arguably their best defensive players before going down. Now they’re working with a skeleton crew on defense and things are not much better on offense, where left tackle Joe Staley, easily their best player on either side of the ball, will miss his 3rd straight game with a hamstring injury. The Rams have had some injuries this season, most notably to defensive end Robert Quinn, their top pass rusher who is out for the season, but they definitely have an advantage in terms of injury situations.

Despite that, we’re still getting line value with the 49ers as 5 point underdogs in Los Angeles. The Rams are probably a little bit better of a team, but this line should be much closer to 3 in favor of the host, as these two teams are more or less even. That being said, there’s not enough here for me to be confident in the 49ers, especially since both teams are in a pretty good spot. The Rams have lost back-to-back games by 21+ and teams are 44-29 ATS in that spot since 2002, as teams tend to be overlooked, embarrassed, and undervalued in that spot. However, they are not undervalued as 5 point home favorites. They probably won’t be overlooked by a team that has lost 13 straight. And, they probably aren’t entering this game any more embarrassed than the 49ers are. On the flip side, for the 49ers, road underdogs on a 7+ game losing streak are 56-32 ATS since 1989, as teams also tend to be overlooked, embarrassed, and undervalued in that spot.

It also helps the 49ers that they’re in their 2nd of two road games. Teams are 142-108 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 113-74 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 239-254 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.94 points per game, as opposed to 341-476 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 2.96 points per game. However, with a tough home game against the Seahawks on deck, the 49ers are in a tough spot, as teams tend to struggle before tough home games, going 18-40 ATS since 2012 before being 7+ point home underdogs, which the 49ers almost definitely will be next week. I’m taking the 49ers because I’m expecting a field goal game, but I couldn’t be confident betting any money on them.

Los Angeles Rams 16 San Francisco 49ers 13

Pick against the spread: San Francisco +5

Confidence: Low

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks: 2016 Week 15 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (4-9) at Seattle Seahawks (8-4-1)

The Rams finally parted ways with head coach Jeff Fisher after last week’s embarrassing 42-14 home loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Fisher did absolutely nothing to improve the team in his almost 5 years on the job, so it was a long overdue move, but the timing could not be worse as now interim head coach John Fassel has to prepare a gameplan on a short week for the Seattle Seahawks, who host them on Thursday Night Football this week. The Rams have had success against the Seahawks in recent years, but Seattle is still one of the toughest places in the NFL to play, so Fassel’s first game couldn’t be tougher. Making matters worse, the Seahawks are actually in a great spot this week for a couple of reasons.

For one, they were embarrassed last week in Green Bay, more so than the Rams actually. The Rams were 6.5 point home underdogs against an Atlanta team that’s one of the best in the NFL. They were supposed to lose and lose big. The Seahawks, however, lost by 28 in Green Bay as 3 point road favorites, their first loss by more than 10 points in the Russell Wilson era. Teams are 94-54 ATS since 2002 off of an against the spread loss of 28 or more, as teams tend to bounce back from embarrassing losses. The Seahawks have a great chance to bounce back in a big way this week, especially since Russell Wilson is 14-6-1 ATS in his career off a loss and the Seahawks are 33-11-1 ATS in games 9-16 of the regular season in the Pete Carroll era (since 2011).

The second reason is because the Seahawks figure to be big home favorites again next week against the Cardinals and teams tend to take care of business as big favorites before being big favorites again. Since 2012, favorites of 6 or more are 94-52 ATS before being favorites of 6 or more again the following week. It’s tough to stomach putting money on the Seahawks with this line jumping to 15 in the wake of the Rams’ loss and Jeff Fisher being fired, but the Seahawks should win pretty easily and they are definitely the right side in pick ‘em leagues.

Seattle Seahawks 27 Los Angeles Rams 6

Pick against the spread: Seattle -15

Confidence: Low

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams: 2016 Week 14 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (7-5) at Los Angeles Rams (4-8)

The Rams have been beaten badly in back-to-back games. First they couldn’t stop anything against the Saints, who scored 7 offensive touchdowns in a 49-21 victory. Then last week they couldn’t move the ball, not breaking 100 yards until a garbage time touchdown drive and totalling just 7 first downs in a 26-10 loss in New England. Their offense has been the problem all year as they rank dead last (by almost 2%) in first down rate. Overall, they rank 31st in first down rate differential on the season, despite a solid defense. Unfortunately for them, things do not get any easier the next couple of weeks, as they host the Falcons this week and then go to Seattle to face the Seahawks next week.

The Rams are 6.5 point underdogs here at home, but that’s not enough points to scare me off of Atlanta, who ranks 4th in first down rate differential. Next week, the Rams figure to be at least double digit underdogs in Seattle, which puts them in a very tough spot. Not only are teams 41-63 ATS since 2012 before being double digit underdogs, underdogs of 6 or more are 48-81 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 6 or more again, as it’s very tough for an inferior team to keep it close against a superior team with another tough game next on the schedule. Next week’s game is going to be the Rams’ Super Bowl, so they could easily look past the Falcons this week, especially since the game is on Thursday Night.

The Falcons, meanwhile, host the lowly 49ers next week. Favorites of 6 or more are 93-52 ATS since 2012 before being favorites of 6 or more again, including 33-7 ATS when their opponent will be underdogs of 6 or more again in their next game. With no real distractions on the horizon, the Falcons should be able to steamroll an inferior Rams team. The only thing preventing this from being a bigger play is Julio Jones’ uncertain status with injury. The Falcons have said they expect him to play despite a toe injury, but he hasn’t practiced all week so nothing is certain. Even if he plays, he could be nothing more than a decoy. I think it’s still worth a bet on the Falcons as long as the line is under a touchdown though.

Atlanta Falcons 24 Los Angeles Rams 13

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -6.5

Confidence: Medium

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Los Angeles Rams at New England Patriots: 2016 Week 13 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (4-7) at New England Patriots (9-2)

The Patriots enter this game 2nd in first down rate differential, despite the fact that they were missing starting quarterback Tom Brady for the first 4 games of the season, but there’s still plenty of reason to be concerned with them. Their defense hasn’t been the same since they controversially traded away linebacker Jamie Collins mid-season and now their offense will likely be without Rob Gronkowski with a back injury for the rest of the season. On top of that, their schedule has been remarkably easy since Brady’s return, with their only tough opponent being the Seahawks, who beat them in New England back in week 10.

Fortunately for them, their schedule doesn’t get any tougher this week, with the Rams coming to town. The Rams have managed to win 4 games, but rank 31st in first down rate differential and 27th in point differential (-66). Their 4 wins have come by a combined 18 points, while their 7 losses have come by a combined 84 points. While the Patriots will obviously miss Gronkowski this week, the Rams could miss defensive end Robert Quinn almost as much, as he is their top pass rusher and will miss this game with a concussion.

On top of that, the Patriots are in a better spot than the Rams. While the Rams have to turn around and host a good Atlanta team, the Patriots host the Ravens next week, a game in which they are expected to be double digit favorites once again (the early line has them at 10). Favorites of 6 or more are 93-52 ATS since 2012 before being favorites of 6 or more again, as good teams tend to take care of business when they don’t have any upcoming distractions. On the other side, teams are 41-91 ATS since 2012 before being road underdogs of 4.5 or more, which the Rams figure to be next week, as upcoming big home games tend to be a distraction for teams.

That being said, this line is too high at 13 for me to bet anything on the Patriots with confidence. They are a different team without Gronkowski and Collins. The Rams are also in a good spot, in their 2nd of two road games. Teams are 140-105 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 111-72 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 234-248 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.83 points per game, as opposed to 331-464 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.01 points per game. New England is the pick, but it’s a low confidence pick.

New England Patriots 27 Los Angeles Rams 10

Pick against the spread: New England -13

Confidence: Low

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (4-6) at New Orleans Saints (4-6)

The Saints are just 4-6, but rank 4th in first down rate differential. They have 29 more first downs than their opponents on the season and 7 more offensive touchdowns, but are just 4-6 because of a -4 margin in return touchdowns and 5 losses by 6 points or fewer (including 4 losses by 3 points or fewer). They could easily be 6-4 or 7-3 right now if a few things had gone their way. They’re also as healthy as they’ve been all season and are subsequently playing easily their best football of the season right now. Key players like Delvin Breaux, Sheldon Rankins, and Terron Armstead have all missed time so far for the Saints, but all 3 are expected to be back on the field this week.

The Rams are as healthy as they’ve been all season right now too, but they’re not nearly as good as the Saints are when both teams are healthy. The Rams have hardly had any injuries on offense this season, but still enter this game a distant dead last in first down rate. Their defense is solid when everyone is healthy, but the Rams are still not nearly as good of a team as the Saints, despite their identical records. They enter this game 31st in first down rate differential, thanks to an offense that is nearly a full percentage point behind the nearest team in first down rate. As a result, they haven’t scored more than 10 points in any of their last 4 games, which is remarkable in the modern era of offense. The Saints’ defense has gotten a lot better as the season has gone on, so the Rams could easily have trouble scoring points again this week.

Making matters worse for the Rams, they have to turn around and play an even tougher game next week when they go to New England. The early line has them as 14 point underdogs. Underdogs of 6 or more, like the Rams this week, are 49-78 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 6 or more again, as it’s very tough for inferior teams to play well enough to keep it close against superior teams when they have another tough game on deck. Going off of that, teams are just 41-62 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 10 or more. Big upcoming games tend to serve as a distraction for teams. This line is pretty high at 7, but the Rams are going to have a lot of trouble hanging with the Saints this week, so I have no problem laying the points.

New Orleans Saints 27 Los Angeles Rams 13

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -7

Confidence: High

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Rams: 2016 Week 11 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (5-4) at Los Angeles Rams (4-5)

Despite a few wins, the Rams are one of the worst teams in the league. Their 4 wins have come by a combined 18 points, with none coming by more than 6 points, while their 5 losses have come by 52 points, giving them a -34 point differential that ranks just 27th in the NFL. In terms of first down rate differential, they’re even worse, entering this game 30th in the NFL in that metric. The Dolphins are a much better team, entering this game 17th in that metric, but the Rams luck out because the Dolphins are very banged up right now. They will be without starting outside linebacker Jelani Jenkins, starting left tackle Branden Albert, and starting center Mike Pouncey this week, while starting cornerback Xavien Howard remains out with injury. As long as this line is still less than 3, the Dolphins are the pick, but I can’t be confident in them as banged up as they are.

Miami Dolphins 16 Los Angeles Rams 13

Pick against the spread: Miami -2

Confidence: None

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]