Tag Archives: Los Angeles Rams

NFL Week 7 Primetime Moneymakers: Mack/Donalds

Don’t look now, but we are on course to have all our regularly scheduled games played at the time they were initially scheduled! It’s the small victories people. We even get the luxury of Thursday Night Football. Hopefully, you read the sarcasm dripping from the word “luxury” because the matchup is another letdown; the New York Giants (1-5) take on the Philadelphia Eagles (1-4-1). Despite their putrid records, this game will have first-place implications for the NFC East.

Another 1-2 week brings us to 2-4 on the season. No, it’s not ideal, but that’s the process and we have notched a win each week. As usual, there is still more money to be made. If anyone is going to win it, it might as well be us, right?

**Just when we thought we were safe from games being rescheduled, for at least a week anyway, the NFL has flexed the Seattle Seahawks visiting the Arizona Cardinals to Sunday night in place of Bucs-Raiders due to Las Vegas having its entire starting offensive line and safety Johnathan Abram on COVID watch**

Primetime Moneymakers Week 7

New York Giants (1-5) @ Philadelphia Eagles (1-4-1)

Spread: Eagles -4.5

O/U: 45

This would typically be one to avoid. With so many injuries for both teams, it’s challenging getting a bead on how this one will go. New York is 3-3 ATS, but all three of their wins have come on the road and two have come in the last three weeks. The Giants offense is putrid, ranking 32nd in DVOA, per Football Outsiders, and 27th or worse in passing yards per game, rushing yards per game, in points per game. But their defense is…better. They rank 17th in DVOA (23rd in pass defense, 15th in rush defense).

Philadelphia (2-4) can’t catch a break. Okay, bad choice of words. But just as the Iggles look to get DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery back they lose Zach Ertz and Miles Sanders for multiple weeks. How healthy will Jackson and Jeffery (a longshot) be in their respective returns? Already without Dallas Goedert, will Richard Rodgers be able to step up? Or will it be the Travis Fulgham show for another week?

Both of these teams are bad and injured and are only on in primetime because everyone must get a shot. Philly’s defense is porous, but the Giants offense is inept. So the question is can the Giants defense keep this one close. They managed to hold the Rams offense to 17 points on the road a couple of weeks ago before struggling against the Cowboys and Football Team. Leave the spread alone and take the Eagles straight up and the under (44.5) in what could be a very ugly watch. They should win handily and hopefully (and mercifully) will get this one over quickly.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-2)  @ Las Vegas Raiders (3-2)

Spread: Raiders +3.5

O/U: 52

Last we saw of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers they were putting the screws to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to the tune of 38-straight points and a 28-point lead. It was Tampa’s (3-3 ATS) largest margin of victory of the season and came against what was supposed to be their stiffest challenge. Tampa is first in overall and defensive DVOA and is seventh in offensive DVOA. Not an easy task, though both of their losses came on the road.

If there’s one team with reason not to fear the Bucs it’s Las Vegas (3-2 ATS). After all, they have already taken out the Saints and beat the Chiefs in Arrowhead before their bye. Those are two impressive notches for a team no one is talking about. Derek Carr is having a career year. He commands the sixth-ranked offense in DVOA, is leading the league with a career-best 73.1 completion percentage, and is throwing more touchdowns to fewer interceptions than he ever has. His defense is among the worst in the league so he will have to keep it up to keep up the Raiders winning ways.

The spread (-4) wants you to remember and believe the Raiders two big wins instead of the Bucs thrashing of Green Bay. But Tampa’s defense is better than the Saints or Chiefs and does a good job of limiting big plays over the top; a key in Vegas’ win over KC. Only two of the Bucs opponents have matched the Raiders implied total of 24 points. And against the Patriots and Broncos, two defense close to the Bucs, the most Vegas could muster was 23 points. Take the Bucs, minus the points, and the under as they match up perfectly with what the Raiders want to do.

Seattle Seahawks (5-0) @ Arizona Cardinals (4-2)

Spread: Cardinals +3.5

O/U: 56

The Seahawks (4-1 ATS) are the sole remaining undefeated team in the NFL. Russell Wilson is the odds-on favorite to win MVP, the first of his career. Following the #LetRussCook motto, Seattle’s gunslinger leads the NFL in touchdown passes, yards per attempt, and passer rating. The Seahawks are fifth in total DVOA. That’s due to their offense ranking first because their defense is 26th. Letting Russ cook has seemingly been more out of necessity than choice.

Two weeks in a row in primetime for the Cardinals (4-2 ATS)? That’s what the first 4-2 start since 2015 gets you. Obviously this has everything to do with the Raiders COVID issues, but don’t sleep on Kyler Murray’s Cardinals. What we saw from this offense (12th in DVOA) against the Cowboys last Monday could happen again against the porous Seattle secondary. Murray, a preseason favorite for MVP, has had an uneven 2020, throwing six interceptions. But he threw three of those in one (awful) game but he has also thrown 10 touchdown passes and has run for another.

Arizona won the last matchup between these two teams back in December last season. Before that though, Seattle won three straight. Wilson is absolutely dealing right now and, while Murray’s Cardinals had big plays against the Cowboys, he was just 9/24 passing on the night. The Seahawks only win by fewer than five points came last week against a desperate Minnesota Vikings squad. Arizona’s losses both came against the best offenses they’ve faced. Take Seattle minus the points and the over as this could be a fun watch on Sunday night.

Chicago Bears (5-1) @ Los Angeles Rams (4-2)

Spread: Rams -6

O/U: 45

These two teams are meeting in primetime for the third time in as many seasons. The Chicago Bears (4-2 ATS) are riding high on a two-game win streak and sitting in first place in the NFC North. Very much on-brand, it has been the defense (fifth in DVOA) doing the heavy lifting. Khalil Mack and Akiem Hick are dominant as ever and Kyle Fuller has locked down the perimeter along with Jaylon Johnson. Can Nick Foles survive a Rams defense that features the NFL sack-leader, Aaron Donald?

Jared Goff has enjoyed a bounceback season and has the Rams (3-3) looking like a contender once again. They’re fifth in offensive DVOA and the offensive line has only allowed seven sacks, tied for second in the league. Goff has his full-compliment of weapons with Cooper Kupp back after tearing his ACL last season. And he has the luxury of three talented running backs to hand the ball off to. He has one of the highest yards per attempt averages which could be problematic against Mack and Co.

Neither of the previous two matchups between Sean McVay’s Rams and Matt Nagy’s Bears have topped 24 points. So the 45-point total might be a little optimistic. The Bears offense isn’t reliable and their defense should be able to limit the Rams. The spread (Rams -6) says Vegas thinks that won’t be the case. After what we saw against the bruised and beaten 49ers, you have to understand our skepticism. Even if this is in-line with the margin of victory from before. The Bears don’t look scary offensively. But the Rams, outside of Donald, don’t either. Take Chicago plus the points and ride the under.

All lines and other betting information courtesy of Covers.com

Free Agency Best and Worst: NFC West

All good things must come to an end and, thus, we have reached that point with our Best and Worst series. Our final installment takes on the NFC West. There hasn’t been too much change at the top, but a cellar-dweller seems poised to make some noise in 2021 and a former contender suddenly has a need to retool.

AFC: North | South | East | West

NFC: North | South | East

Best and Worst of Free Agency: NFC West

Arizona Cardinals

Best Move: Nuking the Competition

The best trade of the offseason may be up for debate. Rob Gronkowski to Tampa has made it interesting. But the Arizona Cardinals trade (see: fleecing) with the Houston Texans for stud wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins might take the cake. Not only did they get arguably the best receiver in the game today, but they also moved the massive contract of running back David Johnson.

Murray, the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, got through last season with the ageless Larry Fitzgerald as his top option. Fitz is a Hall of Famer without a doubt, but at this point, Hopkins is undoubtedly the better receiver. At least one writer thought Kyler Murray would be the MVP next season. That number is sure to rise now.

Worst Move: Not Protecting the Franchise

It just wouldn’t be a Best and Worst installment without lamenting an organization’s failure to address a porous offensive line. Murray tied with Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson for the league-lead with 48 sacks taken. Sure, some of that could be attributed to rookie struggles. But the Cards line was just as much of an issue in 2018 with Josh Rosen.

Murray mobile to say the least so it’s also not a stretch to say he covered up some of the deficiencies of the line. Arizona re-signed Marcus Gilbert, who didn’t see the field in 2019, and has starting center A.Q. Shipley sitting in limbo. He’s started every game for the last three years. With four picks in the first four rounds (but no second-rounder) watch for a couple of linemen to land in the desert.

Next Move: Stop…Anybody

Arizona’s offense should be very formidable next season. Murray, Fitz, Nuk, and the re-signed Kenyan Drake can be as good as any other group in the division. But the defense needs a LOT of work. They finished 2019 ranked 24th in rushing yards allowed and 31st in passing yards allowed.

They were in the top-10 in ESPN’s Pass Rush Win-Rate metric and had Chandler Jones’ 19.5 sacks (2nd) so the issue isn’t the pass rush, though Jones could use a running mate. Rookie cornerback Byron Murphy had a rough season opposite Patrick Peterson who was involved in trade rumors last season. The biggest issue is a lack of playmakers; Arizona ranked 27th in takeaways.

Los Angeles Rams

Best Move: Ummm…

This offseason has been…interesting for the Los Angeles Rams with not much of it being in a good way. They’ve had to cut their high-priced running back due to injury concerns. Cap issues have forced them to watch pass rusher Dante Fowler (who had 11.5 sacks) head to Atlanta. They also managed to retain Michael Brockers after his deal with Baltimore fell through.

Los Angeles did add A’Shawn Robinson from Detroit and Leonard Floyd from Chicago. So maybe that’s the best thing for the Rams this offseason. That they were able to add anyone (they’re currently $6 million over the cap) is remarkable. They even took advantage of the halt in physicals to keep Brockers and Floyd on hold while deciding who to keep or how to keep both.

Worst Move: Lack of Foresight

This might be the most obvious of all the sections so far. The Rams were a sub-.500 team just four years ago and deserve credit for their quick turnaround from that to appearing in Super Bowl LIII. But the cost has been immense and the bill has finally come due. Now they will have to navigate the next couple seasons with financial constrictions and no first-round picks.

Bears fans will tell you how much that lack of picks in the first round hurts. You can’t readily remedy a poor selection from the year before. And if you do, you have to hamstring yourself in future drafts; if you survive, that is. Luckily for L.A. they still have talent on the roster and who they believe is the franchise in Jared Goff under center.

Next Move: Practice Patience

Patience might as well be a four-letter word in the sports world. Almost no one is in favor of slow, drawn-out processes and the Rams were no different. Their mortgaging of the future paid off with that Super Bowl berth. Now, though, they might need to shift their focus. They were able to take advantage of Goff’s rookie deal and his extension has tightened the purse strings.

That isn’t a bad thing, or at least it doesn’t have to be. They should use this time, and the lowered expectations, to figure out who they really are. Most teams will look good when stacked like the Rams were. But when the onus has to be on the quarterback (second contract status), you get to see the truth. Goff is flawed and benefitted heavily from his head coach. They have to see if he can be more.

San Francisco 49ers

Best Move: Adding Another 1st

Trading away a key member from a unit that was your biggest strength is rarely a good idea but that’s where the San Francisco 49ers find themselves after flipping defensive lineman DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round pick. Buckner and linemate Arik Armstead were reminiscent of John Henderson and Marcus Stroud in their heyday.

Buckner’s trade aided the Niners in retaining Armstead, who just re-signed for five years and $85 million with $48.5 million guaranteed. But more important, San Francisco didn’t get jobbed like many of the deals we saw go down; Arizona’s robbing of Houston comes to mind. Not only did they get a good deal, getting a first-rounder back moves this deal to ‘great’ territory.

Worst Move: Not Getting WR2

The not-so-subtle implication here is that the 49ers already have a top option at the wide receiver position. That option would be Deebo Samuel who, as a rookie, caught 57 balls for 802 yards. He showed versatility, too, toting the rock 14 times for 159 yards. He had 6 total touchdowns. But after him, the 49ers are banking on a lot of unrealized potential.

Emmanuel Sanders (36 receptions, 502 yards) is now in New Orleans. Kendrick Bourne had just six fewer catches than Sanders and only had 358 yards. They all fall in behind tight end George Kittle, but that doesn’t mean ignore the position altogether. Teams will be better prepared for the run game in 2020 and Jimmy Garoppolo will be forced to answer the challenge. Make it easier for him, San Francisco.

Next Move: Plan for the Future

Aside from another receiving threat and offensive line depth, the 49ers offense is largely set. And despite their defensive dominance, that side of the ball could be worth a look. They will likely replace Buckner with an incumbent and/or draft pick, but they might need to look at EDGE too with rumors they were looking to move pass rusher Dee Ford and linebacker Kwon Alexander.

But their biggest need might be cornerback. Richard Sherman is a three-time All-Pro, five-time Pro Bowler, and Super Bowl Champ. He’s also on the wrong side of 30 and had a poor game in Super Bowl LIV, reminding everyone of his struggles with speedy receivers. Well, receivers won’t be getting slower and Sherm isn’t getting any younger. The 49ers should be proactive in finding his successor.

Seattle Seahawks

Best Move: Letting the Market Play Out

It wouldn’t have shocked anyone if the Seattle Seahawks ponied up and paid Jadeveon Clowney. They didn’t give up much for him, but the three-time Pro Bowler was thought to be one of the premier pass-rushing threats in free agency, if not the entire NFL. Seattle, not exactly flush with cap space, didn’t move too quickly and might benefit from that.

We are less than two days away from the NFL Draft and Clowney is still a free agent. This despite being linked to multiple teams in rumors. Perhaps his extensive medical history played a role as teams are wary of paying big money for an injury risk without the ability to conduct a physical. But Clowney only had three sacks last season. That wee production could be to Seattle’s benefit.

Worst Move: Living DangeRuss

Is it possible the Seahawks offensive line got worse? A group that is far better executing the run game than the passing attack. Seattle also lost Germain Ifedi (16 starts) and George Fant (seven starts) to free agency. They did retain Mike Iupati and added Cedric Ogbuehi and B.J. Finney. Ifedi and Fant weren’t setting the world on fire, but Ogbuehi and Finney had all of four starts in 2019, all by Finney.

Wilson is a wizard at the quarterback position. His ability to extend plays and improvise when the play breaks down is unmatched. But Seattle has never protected him commensurate to his value. That has to change and the draft is a great place to do so. They have tackle Duane Brown but he, along with Iupati, is on the older side. By any measure, the Seahawks need to address this.

Next Move: Find the Pass Rush

The Seahawks tied for 31st in sacks in 2019 with 28. That is the lowest ranking and total in the Pete Caroll era. Their top sack artist, Rasheem Green, had a grand total of four. This is part of the reason why letting Clowney (and Ezekiel Ansah for that matter) sit in limbo while they weigh their options. There isn’t a ton of production on the line.

That isn’t to say they wouldn’t welcome either back, just at the right price. But there is also the avenue of the draft. Some mocks have them targeting Yetur Gross-Matos of Penn State in the first round. That would be a good start but don’t be surprised to see them double down on the position. They need all the help they can get with or without Clowney and Ansah.

New Year, Who Diss?

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New Year, (Bad) Old Takes

No picks this week. Not to avoid being wrong, just because there are way too many variables to make decisions confidently in many of this week’s contests. Instead, this will be a different exercise. One where I own up to things I was wrong about prior to the start of the season. A ‘mea culpa’ of sorts to go into the new year with a fresh slate.

Playoff Bound

My expectations for this week are:

Now to own it…

Patrick Mahomes is good…like really good: Before the season I was not of the mindset that the second-year pro would be an MVP candidate leading the Chiefs’ explosive attack. Taking over for Alex Smith, Mahomes has seemingly taken Kansas City to another level; though postseason victories are needed for certainty.

The Bears would be 7-9, 8-8 at best: This one hurts to admit as a Bears’ fan. I sold the team short, underestimating the impact of Head Coach Matt Nagy would have. Now the team is 11-4, NFC North champs, and still vying for a first-round bye. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is far from a guarantee to be a star, but he and the team are in great hands.

Jacksonville Jaguars will repeat as AFC South champs: This had nothing to do with the disaster that is a Blake Bortles-led offense. It had everything to do with the Jaguars supposedly having the best defense in the division and the other teams’ quarterbacks all having their own issues. Instead cornerback Jalen Ramsey‘s off-season jawing was aimed in the wrong direction.

Le’Veon Bell will lead the league in scrimmage yards: Talk about failure to launch. With Bell not reporting due to a contract dispute, the Steelers had to move on. His replacement, James Conner is currently in the top-12 in scrimmage yards even after missing the past three contests.

2018 will be Pete Carroll’s last with Seattle Seahawks: Fueled by the departures of many key pieces from the franchises most successful era, the thought was that the Seahawks would be closer to rebuilding than contending. Credit Carroll for keeping things together; rededicating the team to the run and getting the defense to be respectable.

Carolina Panthers will win the NFC South: Cam Newton began the season playing his most complete ball under new offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Unfortunately, Newton’s surgically repaired shoulder became an issue once again. The team lost six straight, resulting in the Panthers shutting the QB down once eliminated from contention.

The Cleveland Browns blew both first-round picks: When Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward were selected first and fourth, respectively, the thought was, “typical”. Shaped largely by the previous doings of the organization, the opinion was based on past performance; usually a good indicator of future success. The Browns nailed both picks, especially Mayfield.

Andrew Luck would not be the same: Another quarterback with shoulder worries, Luck missed a season and a half trying to make it back. In fairness – to me – it took a few games for the Colts QB to look all the way like himself, and he may never have the same arm strength, but Luck’s return along with a ground game and improved protection have Indy thinking playoffs.

The New York Giants will win the NFC East: While I thought the G-Men should have taken a quarterback second-overall, they appeared poised to make noise with running back Saquon Barkley. That was before Eli Manning was more inconsistent than ever to start the year. Typically a slow-starter and postseason maven, Manning took too long to find his groove in 2018.

Josh Rosen will be the most successful rookie QB: Supporting cast and coaching had a ton to do with this, but wrong is wrong. Rosen’s lack of mobility was on full display as the Arizona Cardinals failed to protect him. A lack of weapons – aside from the oft-forgotten David Johnson and aging Larry Fitzgerald – and competent coaching kept optimism in check this season.

Those are my confessions if poor prognosticating in 2018. I would love to hear your worst preseason takes, sound off here or tweet it @JoshLWOS.