NFL 2018 Season - Week 14
 

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Right Reasons
by Dennis Ranahan

With the New Orleans Saints losing last night to the Dallas Cowboys, the Los Angeles Rams have an opportunity to take over the best record in the National Football Conference with a win this Sunday in Detroit. Both the Saints and Rams came into Week 13 with one loss, but the Saints owned the tiebreaker with a straight-up win over the Rams.

Now, with the Saints suffering their second loss of the season, Los Angeles can gain the edge for the top seed in the NFC playoffs with a win over the Lions. Does that help or hurt the chances for a Los Angeles win this week?

There is one school of thought that when a team has a chance to move up in the standings based on a loss by their division or conference competition, that they seize that opportunity. History doesn’t support this theory.

In fact, when a team has a chance to improve their division or conference standing based on a loss by their main competitor, they just as often fail when handed that opportunity as succeed. Which brings us back to the basics, what a team is going to do is much more tied to the factors governing a particular matchup. In other words, what the Rams do Sunday in Detroit is exactly what they were going to do whether the Saints won or lost last night in Dallas.

So, what are the Rams going to do in Detroit this week?

Most figure they are going to win. After all, the Lions are buried in the NFC North Division cellar and Los Angeles has lost just one game this year. That is why they are double-digit favorites on the road.

A no brainer … right?

Not necessarily.

The Lions Thanksgiving Day loss to the first place team in their division, the Chicago Bears, eliminated any serious playoff aspirations for Detroit and their first-year head coach, Matt Patricia. This relegates the Lions to a role they are very familiar with … a spoiler.

Without the pressure of winning to earn a playoff spot, Detroit becomes one of the dangerous opponents to teams looking to earn a postseason slot or the top seed in their conference, like the Rams.

Los Angeles came out of the gate this season with three straight wins both straight-up and against the point spread. Since those three wins, the Rams have continued their winning ways with only a loss to the Saints blemishing an otherwise perfect record.

Unless you count in the point spread.

Saddled with bloated lines since their quick start, the Rams have only one point spread win since their trio of victories and covers to open the season. The reason for this is threefold. First, their offense is very special with both Jared Goff and Todd Gurley enjoying career years, and the public loves betting on offense. Second, their defense, despite sprinkled with some of the big names in the game, has allowed more points than their personnel would seem to dictate. Over the past three weeks, Los Angeles opponents have tallied 107 points. Finally, the books have leveled the public advantage for betting on the Rams with point spreads that have made their record against the line over their past eight games, 1-5-2.

This week, they are ten point favorites over a Lions team playing their third straight home game and coming off 10 days rest, last playing on Thanksgiving. The Rams come in off even more rest, having served their bye week last Sunday. The difference, is that the Lions went into their extended time off following the sting of a home setback to the Bears, while the Rams spent their past two weeks celebrating their amazing 54-51 Monday Night Football victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Which leaves us with this. The Rams are not going to win or lose because the Saints lost last night, they are going to get tripped up here for all the right reasons.

Qoxhi Picks: Detroit Lions (+10) over Los Angeles Rams