Man, it’s been at least 48 hours since our last NFL game, let’s get back on that horse.
Thursday Night Football will be a Super Bowl LIII rematch between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams. As always, let’s take a look at the teams, some matchups to exploit for player props and some thoughts on the spread.
I’ll be using rankings from PFF for much of my analysis.
New England Patriots at Los Angeles Rams
8:20 PM EST, FOX
Line: Rams -5
Forecast: 47 degrees, no wind or rain to worry about
New England (6-6) overall, (6-6) ATS
The Patriots are coming off an absolute beatdown win against the Chargers, 45-0. The Pats have now won two straight and four out of five.
Damien Harris has emerged as the workhorse back for this team, averaging 15.5 carries/game in his last six.
This is a running team through and through. Cam Newton has struggled passing the ball this year, throwing just five touchdowns. But, he’s run for a remarkable 11 scores!
The defense, on paper, is a liability, but seems to be steadying the last few weeks. They held the Cardinals to 17 and of course shutout the Chargers entirely.
A tough team to get a read on, they get a big test this Thursday night.
Los Angeles (8-4) overall, (7-5) ATS
The Rams have emerged as one of the best in the NFC off the backs of some big wins and a strong team throughout.
PFF ranks LA as the third-strongest defense in the NFL, with the offense ranked a favorable eighth.
The defense is more than just Aaron Donald, though his potential to wreck games remains (#4 pass rushing team).
Their secondary is littered with talent, with 12 interceptions on the year and ranked as the third-best coverage unit.
Sparknotes: the Rams defense is very good.
As you’re about to see, their offensive strengths lie in running the ball. Rookie running back Cam Akers is emerging as a playmaker in this offense and someone I have my eye on tonight.
Player Props to Target
Breaking out a new format this week for all games. I’ve broken down PFF grades for every offensive matchup to find discrepancies to target.
They emerged in this breakdown, without further ado:
New England on Offense
Running grade (3) vs. Rams Rush Defense grade (11) +8
Receiving grade (20) vs. Rams Pass Coverage grade (3) -17
Los Angeles on Offense
Running grade (6) vs. Patriots Rush defense grade (23) +17
Receiving grade (14) vs. Patriots Pass coverage grade (16) +2
The biggest disparities are for the Rams running game and against the Patriots receivers. To me, the analysis is clearly telling me to target an over for a Rams running back and to take Newton’s under.
Damien Harris is probably a safe bet too, with an over/under set at 50.5 yards. I’m focused elsewhere, though.
- Cam Akers OVER 48.5 rushing yards
Akers has seemingly become “the guy” for Los Angeles. He’s taken 30 carries the last two weeks for an average of 5.2 yards per rush. Last week, he significantly out-snapped the other running backs on the team. Akers played 63% of the snaps while the next closest, Darrell Henderson, played just 22%.
Could the Rams move back to more of a time-share? Perhaps. The 21-carry performance by Akers a week ago suggests the Rams are looking to ramp up their rookie in advance of the playoffs, and this line is relatively low considering the Patriots poor run defense. I’m riding it.
- Cam Newton UNDER 174.5 passing yards
It appears Patriots receivers are going to struggle against this strong Rams secondary, which wouldn’t be anything new. We already mentioned how the Patriots are a running-team, and there’s no reason to think they won’t continue that strategy.
Cam has thrown for under 85 yards in back-to-back weeks, a pretty remarkable feat in today’s NFL. Taking this under tonight.
Thoughts on the Spread
I’ve said before on Twitter, I’m not touching a Patriots game for the rest of the season. I bet on them, they lose, I bet against them, they win. I can’t get a read on this team, and when that feeling emerges, it’s best to stay away.
If I had to pick, it would be Rams -5 with the superior rankings on both sides of the ball. I bet the over in Super Bowl LIII, yeah right if you think I’m touching that again.
So, a bailout from me on the spread – oh well! Feeling good about my two Cams above, +13 units the last two weeks and looking to keep it going.
Again, you can find me on Twitter @griffybets. Thanks for reading and good luck tonight.