Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams: 2017 NFL Wild Card Round

Atlanta Falcons (10-6) at Los Angeles Rams (11-5)

This would be a tough game to pick against the spread in the regular season. This line has the Rams favored by 6 points and I have this line calculated at 5.5, so we aren’t getting much line value with the Falcons at all. However, in the post-season, the Falcons make more sense for pick ‘em purposes because of how much more experienced they are than the Rams. The Rams not only have one of the youngest rosters in the post-season, but their quarterback Jared Goff has never started a post-season game, while head coach Sean McVay has coached in just 2 post-season games, first as a tight ends coach and then as an offensive coordinator with the Washington Redskins in 2012 and 2015.

The Falcons, meanwhile, have a quarterback with 8 post-season games under his belt in Matt Ryan and a head coach in Dan Quinn that has been on the sidelines for 14 post-season games, including 3 as the Falcons’ head coach in 2016 and 6 as the defensive coordinator of the Seahawks in 2013 and 2014. That alone isn’t enough to bet on the Falcons, but, between that and the minimal line value we are getting with them, they should be the right choice for in pick ‘em pools. This should be a close game.

Los Angeles Rams 24 Atlanta Falcons 20

Pick against the spread: Atlanta +6

Confidence: Low

San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams: 2017 Week 17 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (5-10) at Los Angeles Rams (11-4)

The Rams are another team that will be resting key players this week, including quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley, offensive linemen John Sullivan and Andrew Whitworth, and wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. They haven’t confirmed any defensive players they will be resting, but it stands to reason that they will be sitting at least some key players on that side of the ball, including possibly Defensive Player of the Year candidate (favorite?) Aaron Donald. They won’t be able to rest everyone, as they’ll need 46 players active on game day, but the Rams are locked into either the 3rd or the 4th seed, so this isn’t a particularly meaningful game for them.

As a result, this line has shifted to San Francisco -4 in Los Angeles. That seems about right and I have no interest in betting this game either way because it’s tough to evaluate backups playing in a meaningless game. For pick ‘em purposes, I would take the 49ers, who have obviously been playing much better football in recent weeks, thanks to the emergence of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and rookies Reuben Foster and Ahkello Witherspoon on defense, but this is a no confidence pick.

San Francisco 49ers 24 Los Angeles Rams 19

Pick against the spread: San Francisco -4

Confidence: None

Los Angeles Rams at Tennessee Titans: 2017 Week 16 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (10-4) at Tennessee Titans (8-6)

Before the season, I had the Titans as a top-10 team and a candidate to get a first round bye in the AFC, after finishing last season just outside of the playoffs at 9-7 and adding talent at positions of need this off-season. The Titans have a solid 8-6 record, but they are definitely not in the running for a first round bye and they have not even been as good as that record suggests. They have just 3 wins by more than a touchdown all season (as opposed to 4 losses by more than a touchdown) and two of those wins were single score games until long, meaningless garbage time touchdowns by Derrick Henry late in the game. In terms of first down rate differential, they rank just 16th at -0.25%, despite having the easiest schedule in the NFL.

Their schedule gets tougher over the next two games, with the Rams and Jaguars coming to town and they probably need to win at least one of those games to have a shot at the post-season. The tougher schedule might not be terrible news for them though. They are relatively healthy for this point in the season and, on paper, this is still a top-10 team talentwise, but they are poorly coached under Mike Mularkey and his staff and have played down to the level of their competition. The good news is they’ve also played up to their level of competition, as they are 3-1 against playoff teams, with convincing wins over the Jaguars, Seahawks, and Ravens, and their one loss coming on the road in Pittsburgh on a short week.

The Titans might not win straight up here against the Rams, but the Rams’ blowout victory in Seattle last week shifted this line from Rams -3.5 to Rams -7, so we have a good cushion to work with. I still have this line calculated at -3, as the Rams’ strong performance last week was largely the result of Seattle being incredibly banged up at linebacker. The Rams probably would have still won if the Seahawks were healthy in the linebacking corps, but I think we’re getting too much line value with the Titans this week to pass on. I like this line less at 6.5, but this is a high confidence pick if you can get the full touchdown.

Los Angeles Rams 23 Tennessee Titans 20

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +7

Confidence: High

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks: 2017 Week 15 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (9-4) at Seattle Seahawks (8-5)

The Seahawks have perennially had one of the top defenses in the league over the past several seasons, but they’ve had a season from hell injury wise on that side of the ball. They lost top edge rusher Cliff Avril for the season early in the year with a neck injury. Then both #1 cornerback Richard Sherman and Pro-Bowl safety Kam Chancellor had their season cut short by injuries to their achilles and neck respectively. And then last week, in a huge game on the road in Jacksonville, they lost two their stud linebackers, Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright, with a hamstring injury and a concussion respectively.

Despite that, the Seahawks actually won the first down battle in a close road loss in Jacksonville, against a legitimately good Jaguars team. The Rams won in Jacksonville this year, but needed two return touchdowns in a game in which they lost the first down battle badly. The Seahawks also beat the Eagles at home in Seattle when Carson Wentz was healthy, something only one other team has done this season. The Rams, meanwhile, lost to the Eagles at home last week, despite Wentz going down for the season with a torn ACL late in the 3rd quarter.

The Seahawks’ offense has gotten better with Mike Davis at running back and Duane Brown at left tackle and their defense has continued to play well thanks to strong play from newcomers like Bradley McDougald, Shaq Griffin, and Byron Maxwell. I wish the Seahawks were getting KJ Wright back this week, but Bobby Wagner could return from his hamstring injury, as he’s been called a gametime decision. Even with their injury situation, I still feel like the Seahawks are a little bit better than the Rams and should be at least 3 point favorites here at home. There’s not enough here for me to bet Seattle -2 with confidence, given that Wright will be out and Wagner will be uncertain, but the Seahawks are the smarter choice for pick ‘em purposes.

Seattle Seahawks 24 Los Angeles Rams 20

Pick against the spread: Seattle -2

Confidence: Low

Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Rams: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (10-2) at Los Angeles Rams (9-3)

Last week, the Eagles were 5.5 point favorites in Seattle. It seemed like too many points to me, especially given Seattle’s track record in night games against teams from the Eastern Time Zone. I kept that pick as a low confidence pick though, because I was hesitant to bet against the Eagles, who had been covering the spread all season (9-2 ATS before last week). In hindsight that was definitely a mistake, as the Eagles were a little overvalued last week, while the Seahawks were definitely undervalued, as they continue to play well despite injuries.

The good news is the Eagles’ loss last week is giving us significant line value with them as they are now 1.5 point underdogs in Los Angeles against the Rams, after being 2.5 point favorites on the early line last week. Despite the Eagles’ loss in Seattle, I still have this line calculated at Philadelphia -3. The Eagles lost that game by 14, but that game was closer than the final score, as the Eagles finished with 25 first downs to 20 for the Seahawks. If they had played that game 100 times, I feel like it would have gone 50/50. This week, the Eagles don’t have to play at night, which is tough for teams from the Eastern Time Zone to do, and they get a slightly easier opponent.

The Rams are obviously a good team, but I don’t totally buy them as a top level team like the Seahawks yet and I definitely don’t buy them as a top level team like the Eagles, who rank #1 in both my roster rankings and in first down rate differential. The Rams rank 8th in first down rate differential and 9th in my roster rankings without top receiver Robert Woods. The Rams also lost at home to the Seahawks earlier this year (and the Redskins) and could easily lose at home here to the Eagles.

Speaking of the Rams’ home loss to the Seahawks, the Rams have that rematch next week, a game that could easily decide the division. The Eagles, meanwhile, go to New York to face the 2-10 Giants. I’m not saying the Rams are going to look past the Eagles, but the Eagles are a safer bet to be completely focused for this game. Underdogs are 67-41 ATS since 2014 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. On top of that, teams are 42-24 ATS since 2012 before being 7+ point road favorites, which the Eagles will be in New York next week. The Eagles should win this by at least a field goal. They are my Pick of the Week.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 Los Angeles Rams 20 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +1.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals: 2017 Week 13 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (8-3) at Arizona Cardinals (5-6)

The Rams are coming off their biggest win of the season, as they snapped the Saints’ 8-game losing streak last week, but they are in a terrible spot this week in Arizona. This seems like an obvious trap game, given that the Rams have to host the NFC leading Eagles next week, a game in which they will definitely be home underdogs (+3 on the early line). Road favorites are just 36-57 ATS since 2008 before being home underdogs and the Rams could easily slip up with a tough game on deck.

That being said, I wouldn’t recommend a bet on the Cardinals at +7, as we just aren’t getting that much line value with them. I have this line calculated at Rams -6.5, as the Cardinals are missing a ton of expected starters with injury. The Cardinals pulled off the upset as 5 point home underdogs last week against the Jaguars, but that actually puts them in a bad spot this week, as teams only cover at a 45% rate after a win as home underdogs. It could be tough for the Cardinals to put up that kind of effort two weeks in a row, especially with Adrian Peterson being questionable with a neck injury. I’m taking the Cardinals for pick ‘em purposes, but would need at least 7.5 to consider making a bet on them.

Los Angeles Rams 24 Arizona Cardinals 20

Pick against the spread: Arizona +7

Confidence: Low

New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Rams: 2017 Week 12 NFL Pick

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

Confidence: Low