NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Rams
Another Thursday night split last week as we recommended the Browns at -2.5 to beat the Jets and end their 19-game winless streak. Thanks to Baker Mayfield, that's exactly what happened in a 21-17 comeback victory. Alas, the total didn't get over a small number of 39, and I can't even blame the kickers this time because they didn't miss any PATs or field goals.
While that Jets-Browns game was entertaining, especially the crowd afterward and all those post-game shots of the free Bud Light flowing in Cleveland, that was basically a junior varsity game compared to our Thursday matchup this week: Vikings-Rams. The NFL has had these TNF games since 2006, and we have really been subjected to some crap matchups. In order for the networks bidding to pony up even more money this time around, the league promised to improve the schedule on Thursday, and it has delivered this week. It worked out, too, because this would normally be a Fox Sunday game, but Fox has the Thursday network TV rights now (it will also be on the NFL Network).
Before last week's action, I thought this would be an NFC title game preview. I still probably do even though the Vikings laid the egg of all eggs in a major home trap game vs. the Buffalo Bills. At 5Dimes, the Rams are +225 favorites to win the NFC and +450 leaders for Super Bowl LIII. They should be as good as they have looked. The Chiefs have been their equal offensively but not on defense. The Vikings' odds changed a bit following that Bills stunner as they are now +800 for the NFC and +1550 to win the Super Bowl.
The winner Thursday will hold a potentially important head-to-head tiebreaker. If Minnesota loses to drop to 1-2-1, it's not catching the Rams, who would then be 4-0. L.A. also has the benefit of playing in a much easier division - the Seahawks are mediocre at best, the Cardinals suck and now the 49ers probably will too with Jimmy Garoppolo's season-ending injury. L.A. barring injury should finish with the NFC's best record.
Vikings at Rams Betting Story Lines
As I'm sure you know by now, the Vikings were 17-point favorites on Sunday against the visiting Bills, who looked like the NFL's worst team the first two weeks. I did take all those points simply because I always do, but I never thought the Bills could win. They did, 27-6. Not sure I can remember one team taking another one so much for granted.
Buffalo was the biggest underdog to win straight up since the Redskins were plus-17.5 and knocked off Dallas 24-17 on Dec. 3, 1995. Buffalo was the 15 th underdog of at least 17 points to win a game in the Super Bowl era. Minnesota was without top running back Dalvin Cook and Pro Bowl defensive end Everson Griffen, but that's no excuse. Minnesota totally abandoned the run without Cook and finished with a franchise-record low six carries for 14 yards - two of those carries were by QB Kirk Cousins.
Cousins threw the ball a whopping 55 times, and that's just not Mike Zimmer football. And 38 of Cousins' 55 attempts traveled 5 yards or fewer downfield. Cook says he expects to play Thursday. Not really clear what's going on with Griffen as he was out for personal reasons. I'm not worried about the Vikings … yet.
The Rams have added one point to their total each time out: 33 in a 20-point win at Oakland, 34 in a shutout romp over the Cardinals and then 35 on Sunday in a 12-point win over the Chargers. It must be said that the schedule-markers have been really kind to the Rams thus far as they haven't even left California - and Oakland and Arizona are horrible. The Chargers are defensively. Still. Sean McVay's offense is humming.
Jared Goff threw for 354 yards and three scores vs. the Bolts, Todd Gurley had 156 yards from scrimmage and a score, and Robert Woods had 10 catches for 104 yards and two scores. Pick your poison - and don't forget Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp, either. There was some bad news on Sunday as the Rams' two top cornerbacks, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, left with injuries. Peters has reportedly been ruled out 2-4 weeks (or is simply questionable for Thursday depending on your source), and Tailb might miss a month. Remember, too, the team is without maybe the league's best kicker in Greg Zuerlein.
Vikings at Rams Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Los Angeles is a 7-point favorite (+100) with a total of 49. On the moneyline, the Rams are -280 and Vikings +240. On the alternate lines, the Rams are -7.5 (+120), -6.5 (-120) and -6 (-128). Minnesota is 1-2 against the spread (0-1 on road) and 1-2 "over/under" (1-0 on road). The Rams are 3-0 ATS (2-0 at home) and 1-2 O/U (1-1 at home).
The Vikings are 2-6 ATS in their past eight road games vs. teams with a winning home record. They are 1-4 ATS in their previous five against the NFC. The Rams are 6-2 ATS in their past eight September games. They are 1-4 ATS in their past five on Thursday. The over is 5-1 in the Rams' past six after a win. The over is 5-2 in the Vikings' past seven after a loss.
Vikings at Rams Betting Prediction
L.A. had the NFL's best offense last year but it was shut down in a 24-7 Week 11 loss at Minnesota. The Rams had just 245 yards offense compared to 451 for the Vikings, who held the ball for nearly 38 minutes. I'll eat my shoe if this ends 24-7 in either direction.
I am torn here - I think the Rams would win by double digits if they were fully healthy. Now I'm thinking a touchdown. So you could convince me to take L.A. -6.5 and Minnesota +7.5. The former is a better price (-120) so that's what we'll do. Go over the total (I would have liked under if the Rams were healthy in the secondary).
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