Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota Vikings: 2017 Week 11 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (7-2) at Minnesota Vikings (7-2)

Case Keenum and Jared Goff were the two starting quarterbacks for the Rams last season, on a team that went 4-12. Now Keenum and Goff face off against each other as quarterbacks of 7-2 teams in the middle of a race for a first round bye in the NFC. The #1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Goff lost all 7 of his starts for the Rams last season after taking over for the veteran Keenum mid-season, but he’s taken a huge step forward in his 2nd season in the league and he has a lot more talent around him on an overall much better coached team.

They’ve won with convincing margins of victory and rank 4th in first down rate differential. Their easy schedule has been a big part of their success though, 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 Vikings are arguably the toughest team they’ve faced this season, surprisingly led by Case Keenum. When the veteran journeyman Keenum signed with the Vikings this off-season, he looked bound for a backup job at best. Sam Bradford was coming off of a solid, healthy season as the starting quarterback, while Teddy Bridgewater looked like he could be ready to return as a reserve at some point in the season. However, Bradford hasn’t played much since week 1 due to a knee injury and Keenum is playing so well in his absence that the Vikings are keeping Bridgewater on the bench even though he is now healthy enough to play. Like Goff, Keenum isn’t doing this by himself, as he has a strong supporting cast, but this is the best football he’s played in his career and it’s tough to bench him at this point.

That being said, in the long run benching Keenum is probably the best decision. This team has the supporting cast to compete for a Super Bowl if they have strong quarterback play in the post-season. Keenum is hot right now, but he’s probably not the quarterback who can take them where they want to be. Bridgewater is more of a question mark, but he has the upside to take this team on a run and they should try to get him back into the lineup as quickly as they can so he can have a few starts under his belt by the post-season.

If Bridgewater was starting this game, I’d pick the Vikings, but, with Keenum, I calculated this line exactly where it is, at -2.5, so we’re not getting any line value with Minnesota. Given that, I’m taking the Rams because, unlike the Vikings, they have a normal week of rest on deck. The Vikings, meanwhile, go to Detroit on a short week for a Thanksgiving game. Favorites are just 61-95 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football, as it’s understandably tough to be focused for an inferior opponent with another game right around the corner. This is a no confidence pick, but the Rams are the choice for pick ‘em purposes.

Minnesota Vikings 17 Los Angeles Rams 16

Pick against the spread: LA Rams +2.5

Confidence: None

Houston Texans at Los Angeles Rams: 2017 Week 10 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (3-5) at Los Angeles Rams (6-2)

The Rams are 6-2, but I am not quite sold on them as a top-10 team. Four of their six wins have come against the 49ers, Cardinals, Giants, and Colts, who are among the 6 or 7 worst teams in the league. They have also beaten the Jaguars and the Cowboys, but the Cowboys were without Sean Lee and the Jaguars allowed two special teams touchdowns in a 10-point loss. The Rams have won big in the past two weeks, but that was against an Arizona team that lost Carson Palmer midgame and a Giants team that quit when they got down big.

The Rams’ two losses came against the Redskins and the Seahawks, both at home. In fact, they are just 1-2 at home this year, as opposed to 5-0 away from Los Angeles (including a neutral site game in London). Their one home win came against the Colts, who were led by Scott Tolzien, arguably the worst quarterback in the NFL. The Rams don’t have quite the same trouble getting home fans as the Chargers, but Los Angeles has not proven to be much of a homefield advantage for them since they’ve moved, as they are 2-7-1 ATS in Los Angeles over the past two seasons.

This week they are at home for the Texans, favored by 12 points in what could easily be a trap game for the Texans, who head to Minnesota next week to face a Vikings team that is also 6-2. Favorites of 10+ points are just 57-78 ATS since 2002 before being underdogs. The Texans, meanwhile, should be completely focused with only a home game against the lowly Cardinals on deck. If I trusted the Texans at all, I’d make a bet on them here, but they are arguably a bottom-3 team without JJ Watt, Whitney Mercilus, and Deshaun Watson. I have this line at -10.5, so we aren’t getting much line value with the Texans, who could easily lose by two touchdowns if the Rams are focused.

Los Angeles Rams 20 Houston Texans 10

Pick against the spread: Houston +12

Confidence: Low

Los Angeles Rams at New York Giants: 2017 Week 9 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (5-2) at New York Giants (1-6)

The Rams are one of the surprise teams in the league this season, as they come out of their bye week at 5-2. They’ll face a different kind of surprise team this week, as the New York Giants, who went 11-5 last season, have started this season 1-6, thanks in large part to injuries. The Giants enter this game missing 8 starters from week 1, including some above average starters like defensive end Olivier Vernon, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, wide receiver Odell Beckham, center Weston Richburg, and guard/tackle Justin Pugh. The Rams, meanwhile, are about as close to 100% healthy as any team in the league, after getting talented safety LaMarcus Joyner back from injury before the bye.

As a result, the Rams are favored by 4.5 points here in New York. Big road favorites tend to cover after a bye, as road favorites of 3.5+ are 50-26 ATS since 1989, but there are two problems. For one, the Giants are also coming out of a bye and that trend drops to 10-10 ATS when the opponent is also coming out of a bye. The second problem is I don’t know if the Rams quite deserve to be favored by this many. Even with all of the Giants’ injuries, I still have this line calculated at -2, as the Rams are still a middling team that has been helped by an easy schedule. With that in mind, I’m actually taking the Giants here, though for a no confidence pick.

Los Angeles Rams 20 New York Giants 16

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +4.5

Confidence: None

Arizona Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Rams: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (3-3) vs. Los Angeles Rams (4-2) in London

The Rams are 4-2, but their 4 wins have come against the Colts, 49ers, Jaguars, and the Cowboys without Sean Lee, so I’m not as sold on them as the general public seems to be. The Cardinals have their own issues, but they ran the ball much better last week in Adrian Peterson’s first game with the team and I only have the Rams about 1.5 points better than them, so we’re getting some line value with the Cardinals at +3 on this neutral field in London. It’s not enough for me to bet them confidently, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

Los Angeles Rams 19 Arizona Cardinals 17

Pick against the spread: Arizona +3

Confidence: Low

Los Angeles Rams at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2017 Week 6 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (3-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (3-2)

Both of these teams are off to surprising 3-2 starts, but I think the Jaguars are a little bit more for real than the Rams. Two of the Rams’ three wins came against the Colts and 49ers, two of the worst teams in the league, and they barely beat the latter. They also beat the Cowboys in Dallas, but the Cowboys were without Sean Lee and are not the same team as last year, so that’s not that impressive. Meanwhile, the Jaguars’ 3 wins have come against the Texans, Ravens, and Steelers, by a combined 80 points. Their +56 point differential is significantly better than the Rams’ +31 point differential, despite a tougher schedule.

The Rams are definitely improved offensively this season, but they still have problems on both sides of the ball. The Jaguars, meanwhile, have obvious problems in the passing game and on the offensive line, but they play incredible defense and can execute a conservative offense effectively if their defense plays like it can. I have these two teams about 2 points apart in my rankings, so we’re getting significant value with the Jaguars as mere 2.5 point favorites at home. The Jaguars should be able to win this game by a field goal or more, so the home team should be a smart bet in this one.

Jacksonville Jaguars 19 Los Angeles Rams 14

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville -2.5

Confidence: Medium

Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams: 2017 Week 5 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (2-2) at Los Angeles Rams (3-1)

The Seahawks were favored by 3 points on the early line last week, but this line has since shifted a full 4.5 points to favor the Rams by 1.5 points. Typically I love fading significant week to week line movements like that because they tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play. This game is no different. The line moved because the Rams pulled an upset victory in Dallas, despite the fact that the Seahawks had their best game of the season, beating the Colts in blowout fashion 46-18. However, the Cowboys are an overrated team that is not as good as last season and that was missing its best defensive player, linebacker Sean Lee.

Even without Lee, the Cowboys are still arguably the toughest opponent the Rams have faced this season, so their 3-1 record doesn’t tell the whole story. Their other two wins came against two of the worst teams in the league, the 49ers and Colts, and they lost at home to the Redskins. The Seahawks haven’t beaten a good team yet this year, but their two losses came on the road against the Packers and Titans, who are better than anyone the Rams have played, and they have much more of a proven history than the Rams.

I don’t deny the Rams are significantly improved offensively this season, with Jared Goff showing improvement, improved talent around him, and improved coaching but this line suggests they’re only 1.5 points worse than the Seahawks, which I think is very premature for a team that was one of the worst in the league a year ago. I have this line calculated at -3.5 in favor of the Seahawks and that doesn’t even take into account that this game could have a very Seahawks heavy crowd. The Rams don’t have quite the same problem attracting fans in Los Angeles as the Chargers do, but they’ve struggled to sell their stadium out so far and the Seahawks have a big national following. The Rams are just 2-6-1 ATS in LA since moving there before the 2016 season. The Seahawks are a smart pick as long as we’re getting points.

Seattle Seahawks 17 Los Angeles Rams 13 Upset Pick +105

Pick against the spread: Seattle +1.5

Confidence: High

Los Angeles Rams at Dallas Cowboys: 2017 Week 4 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (2-1) at Dallas Cowboys (2-1)

The Rams are a little bit of an overrated team. They’re definitely better than they were last season, with an improved offensive talent around an improved Jared Goff, but I think the general public overestimates how much better. In my roster rankings, I have them 26th, so they’re not awful like last season, but they’re still one of the weaker teams in the league. They still have issues on offense, including Goff, who remains untrustworthy, and their defense has issues outside of the defensive line, even with Wade Phillips taking over as defensive coordinator.

They’re 2-1, but those two wins came against two of the worst teams in the league, the Colts and the 49ers, and they struggled to put away the latter last week in what ended up only being a 2-point win. Their loss came at home to the Redskins in a game in which they were thoroughly outplayed and lost the first down battle 21-14. The Cowboys are not the same team as they were last season, losing two starters on the offensive line this off-season (Ronald Leary and Doug Free) and losing top interior pass rusher David Irving for the first 4 games of the season with a suspension, but I still think they’re about 5 points better than the Rams right now.

However, I’m actually taking the Rams this week for two reasons. One is that the Cowboys’ homefield advantage is barely noticeable, as they tend to attract fans wherever they go. They are just 30-29 straight up at home since 2010, with an average differential of 1.80 points per game. Contrast that with their road record of 31-27 over that time period, with an average differential of -0.48 points per game. Their homefield advantage is really only worth about a point. Despite that, the oddsmakers usually don’t correct for that and the Cowboys are 21-37 ATS at home since 2010, including 13-29 ATS as a favorite and 6-16 ATS as a favorite of 6 or more.

The second reason is that outside linebacker Sean Lee could miss this game after not practicing all week with a hamstring injury, which would be a huge blow to a Cowboys defense that has a lot of problems even with Lee healthy. With Lee’s uncertainty and the Cowboys’ lack of homefield advantage, I have this line calculated at -5.5, so we’re getting slight line value with the Rams, although it’s not nearly enough for me to be confident in them. If Lee is ruled out and this line doesn’t move, I might move this up to a low confidence pick, but I wouldn’t bet on either of these teams this week.

Dallas Cowboys 30 Los Angeles Rams 24

Pick against the spread: LA Rams +6.5

Confidence: None