NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota Vikings
Yes, Sunday night's Eagles at Cowboys game is going to do mega-ratings and betting handle at the various sportsbooks. But Philadelphia has other huge games coming up with trips to Seattle, the LA Rams and a Week 17 matchup against Dallas that probably will become that week's Sunday night game too unless the Cowboys collapse. So, we will have plenty of time to address the Eagles the rest of the way (I do like them to cover the 3 points this week).
Instead, we will look at a potential playoff preview between the Rams and Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium, the home of Super Bowl LII. It's quite possible one of these teams is back there on the first Sunday of February.
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Los Angeles is the NFL's biggest surprise at 7-2 and with a one-game lead over Seattle in the NFC West. The Rams are -150 at BetOnline to win their first division title since 2003. The Rams have a very challenging schedule remaining, with a home matchup vs. New Orleans next week, a home game vs. the Eagles in Week 14 and trips to Seattle and Tennessee. All those teams, plus the Vikings, would be in the playoffs currently.
Minnesota (7-2) looks to win the NFC North for the second time in three years after slipping to 8-8 in 2016. The Vikings are -280 favorites to win the North and probably will considering the injury to Aaron Rodgers. I only give the Lions (+300) a chance to catch the Vikings, who play four of their final six on the road.
Needless to say, the winner of this game would have a huge potential postseason tiebreaker for home-field advantage. As things stand now, Minnesota would be the No. 2 seed in the conference and the Rams No. 4 with a crazy-tough home game on wild-card weekend vs. Carolina.
Rams at Vikings Betting Story Lines
The clear NFL Coach of the Year favorite is the Rams' 31-year-old Sean McVay, the former Redskins offensive coordinator. Many mocked the Rams for making him the youngest coach in modern NFL history, but now it looks like a genius move as he has transformed this moribund franchise into the next Greatest Show on Turf (well, grass, I suppose). In fact, McVay has been so good that you can expect many GMs to copycat the Rams this offseason - i.e. looking for the next great young offensive mind.
After finishing last in 2016 in the NFL in scoring at a scant 14.0 points per game, the Rams are first at 32.9 ppg and already have easily blown past their entire total for a season ago. If not for the Eagles' Carson Wentz and perhaps Tom Brady, the Rams' Jared Goff would be a legitimate NFL MVP candidate, and he has to win Most Improved Player. Goff was winless and overwhelmed in seven games as a rookie. He's currently seventh in QB rating at 101.5 with just four interceptions - one fewer than Wentz. In last Sunday's 33-7 blowout of the Texans, L.A's fourth straight win (all by double digits), Goff threw for a career-high 355 yards along with three scores. He is the first player in franchise history to pass for at least 300 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in consecutive games.
The Rams' big trade this offseason was landing Bills WR Sammy Watkins, but it has been another former Buffalo wideout, Robert Woods, who has been the star. He has 30 catches for 622 yards and four scores. He had a 94-yard TD last week, the longest play in team history since 1964. Running back Todd Gurley also is having a huge bounce-back season with 754 yards rushing and seven scores along with 35 catches for 406 yards and three TDs. Pick your poison!
The Rams will be facing a very good Vikings defense that ranks fifth overall in yards allowed per game (294.6) and is tied for fifth in points allowed per game (18.3). Everson Griffen is tied for third in the league with 10 sacks. Minnesota has allowed an opponent to top 20 points just twice in 2017, although one was last week's 38-30 win at the Redskins.
Minnesota, which has won five straight, has perhaps the NFL Comeback Player of the Year favorite in journeyman QB Case Keenum. He has performed well above expectations in place of the injured Sam Bradford, who is now done for the season. Last week Keenum was 21 of 29 for 304 yards and four scores vs. the Redskins, although he was picked off twice. The Vikings now have former franchise QB Teddy Bridgewater active and healthy off that devastating knee injury that wiped out his 2016 season. Keenum will start here, but he has to keep playing well to hold off Bridgewater. Keenum spent the previous two seasons largely as a reserve with the Rams.
Rams at Vikings Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Minnesota is a 1-point favorite (-125) with a total of 46. On the moneyline, the Vikings are -135 and Rams +115. On the alternate lines, Minnesota is -2 (-115) and -2.5 (-110). The Rams are 6-3 against the spread (3-1 on road) and 6-3 "over/under" (4-0 on road). The Vikings are 6-3 ATS (4-1 at home) and 5-4 O/U (3-2 at home).
The Rams are 3-10-1 ATS in their past 14 vs. the NFC. The Vikings are 10-1 ATS in their past 11 at home vs. teams with a winning road record. The under is 9-3 in L.A.'s past 12 vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 19-7 in Minnesota's past 26 vs. clubs above .500. The Rams are 0-4 ATS in the past four meetings.
Rams at Vikings Betting Prediction
Minnesota has won the past four against the Rams, most recently in 2015, 21-18 in overtime. Blair Walsh, now with Seattle, hit a 40-yard field goal in OT. Bridgewater was knocked out of that game injured. Adrian Peterson, now with Arizona, had 125 yards and a score on 25 carries. The Rams' QB was Nick Foles, who was not good. Gurley rushed 24 times for 89 yards and a score.
I do believe in the Rams, but they already struggled offensively earlier against a good Seattle defense. The L.A. defense is average. Plus, it's the dreaded 10 a.m. Pacific kickoff. Give the points and go under the total.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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