NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (7-7) at LOS ANGELES RAMS (7-7)
LINE: Los Angeles by 4
CHEWABLE: Trends that should cinch this pick will be at the bottom of this brief breakdown, but first … to think it was just 22 months ago that Sean McVay directed the Rams to a 23-20 win over the Bengals in Super Bowl LVI — and 13 months ago that the Rams were doing an about-face by putting the finishing touches on a dismal 5-12 season.
Now, after a 3-6 start to 2023, they appear to be turning things around again. I’m not staying they’re going to contend for another championship, but I’m not saying it’s impossible, either.
It’s all going to depend on an Aaron Donald-led defence that has improved significantly as the season has gone on.
— The Rams offence is more than good enough. With its numerous weapons, it is humming along as smoothly as any in the league, guiding Los Angeles to four wins in its past five games and possession of the final playoff spot in the NFC.
The Rams have scored an average of 33 points in the past four games, with Matthew Stafford tossing 12 TD passes and getting picked off just once.
— Along with the return to health of WR Cooper Kupp, what’s pushing the Rams is their ground attack. Since coming back from an ankle injury four games ago, Kyren Williams has rushed for 497 yards, which is an average of 124 yards pe game, while the team has churned up 672 yards of dirt, or 168 yards per game.
— Against the Saints, they will continue to ground and pound. New Orleans has trouble stopping the run, ranking 24th while giving up 126.4 yards per game.
— The Saints do still have a top-6 pass defence, but they’re going to have a difficult time minimizing the effectiveness of both Kupp and Puka Nacua with Marshon Lattimore still on the shelf.
— The Saints are certainly no pushovers. They have not allowed a touchdown in two games and that’s huge, even if the quarterbacks they did face were Bryce Young and Tommy DeVito. After all, they did hold the often-great Saquon Barkley to just 14 yards on nine carries.
But do they have enough firepower for this gunfight? I don’t think so. Alvin Kamara is a going concern, but the Panthers, Vikings, Bears, Patriots and Buccaneers have all kept him to fewer than 100 scrimmage yards.
They are hopeful WR Chris Olave — by far their best receiver — can return from a one-game absence with his own ankle injury, even though they managed fine without him last week when Derek Carr broke his string of three straight games with an interception in a 24-6 win over the Giants.
Oh yes, Carr also tossed three three TD passes, giving him six in the past three games, so that’s a plus for backers of this dog.
— The Rams are 5-2-0 ATS at home, but (here come the clinchers) standing out more is that the Saints are 4-9-1 ATS as well as 1-5 SU against teams with a .500 record or better.
And then there’s this: Teams flying at least two time zones to the west for a Thursday night game are 4-15 SU and 4-13-2 ATS since 2006, the year the NFL implemented TNF games.
To play a surging opponent that is at .500, the Saints will be one of those teams.
— These two have only met twice before in Los Angeles and Rams won both by a combined score of 53-29. That trend will continue in what should be a pretty good Thursday nighter.
TAKING: LOS ANGELES -4
SCORE (O/U 46): Rams 27, Saints 21
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