Los Angeles Rams vs. Arizona Cardinals Pick
Los Angeles Rams (11-3 SU, 5-8-1 ATS) vs. Arizona Cardinals (3-11 SU, 6-7-1 ATS)
NFL Week 16
Date/Time: Sunday, December 23, 2018 at 4:05PM EST
Where: State Farm Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
By Loot Levinson, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: LAR -13.5/ARI +13.5
Over/Under Total: 47.5
The Los Angeles Rams come to Glendale for a week 16 NFC West matchup with the Arizona Cardinals. It feels strange to say this with how the season has gone, but both teams are coming off back-to-back losses. For the Cardinals, that’s more old-hat. They are 3-11 and coming off a rough 40-14 loss to an Atlanta team that entered that game at 4-9, scoring 14 points against a defense that has been bad as of late. The Rams, however, find themselves in some new territory, having just suffered their first back-to-back defeats in the Sean McVay era. In a big upset on Sunday night, they fell to the Eagles, 30-23. They now face at least a mini-crisis as they try to recapture their peak form in time for the postseason. I like the Rams to cover the spread this week.
Will the Sequel be Different?
At this point in the season, who cares what happened in week two? At the same time, a 34-0 Rams wipeout over the Cardinals does stand out. And with the Rams looking to get the ship righted, this very well could be the ideal spot. Arizona managed just five first downs in that game and if not for some defensive playmaking, that score could have been even uglier. Todd Gurley ran for three touchdowns, Jared Goff threw for 354 yards, and the Cardinals couldn’t manage much of anything. And not that urgency always reflects in the bottom line, but the Rams are chomping at the bit this week.
Normally when divisional rivals face each other late in the season where one team is in a lot better spot and wiped out the lesser team the first time around, some overlooking-mojo could be at play. If the Rams had just continued winning the past few weeks, the Cardinals could be seen as a nicer pick, more prone to squeak out enough to get the cover. With a crisis right in the Rams’ face, this is no week for complacency. They want to clear this recent stink out of the room and standing in their way are the poor Cardinals. This looks like a spot where things like willpower can resonate more thoroughly for the Rams. The Cardinals have enough problems just normally without needing superior teams to have a real axe to grind the exact week they play them.
The Rams: What Gives?
I’m not sure it’s time to go into panic-mode with the Rams, but they need to get this corrected after scoring a total of 29 points in their last two games. Todd Gurley has just 77 yards on the ground in the last two games. In that same span, Goff has thrown no touchdowns and six interceptions. That qualifies as more than a little blip. Again, what can the Cardinals do about it? And I’m not even saying that smashing the Cardinals means a ton at this point, as the Rams do have some real problems. Their offense has become less automatic in recent weeks and the shortcomings of their defense have been repeatedly seen this season. Still, the last few weeks, the defense has done well enough for the old LA offense, which was on-fire. They look to get back there and this might be the right week to see it.
A Get-Well Spot for the Rams
The Cardinals have one of the worst defenses against the run this season. I look for Gurley to be a major factor in this matchup. Last week, the Cardinals gave up 215 yards on the ground to the Falcons, the last-ranked rushing offense in the NFL. And it’s not like they’re automatic against the pass, either, though they aren’t bad. Granted, with how mistake-prone Goff has been of late; the Cardinals could make some plays. But their good stats on pass-defense are related to how easy it is for teams to run against them. The best part of the Cardinals is probably their pass-rush, led by Chandler Jones’ 12 sacks. But when their overall team spirit was better, they still had few answers for the Rams’ offense. After looking so uninspired on Sunday, what will they come up this week?
The Cardinals’ offense is up there on the list of the most-inept offenses in recent seasons. The highlights from this group have been minimal all season. They have no stars and the patience in wearing with QB Josh Rosen and his 10/14 TD-to-INT ratio. David Johnson hasn’t been the same guy. Christian Kirk, a major contributor, is now on IR. And he still makes plays, but when Larry Fitzgerald is your go-to receiver at this point, it doesn’t bode well. The line is trash and the rookie Rosen has little with which to work. They are ranked 32nd in a league of 32 teams nearly across the entire board. In the last two weeks combined, they’ve come up with 17 total points of scoring. On the season, they average less than 14 points a game. And when the QB is throwing pick-sixes with an offense that can barely score, it’s deadly.
The Rams’ defense is two-faced. On the season, they’ve held Oakland, Arizona, San Fran, Detroit, and Chicago to a total of 54 points. That’s not even 11 points a game. Sure, against the better offenses they play, there have been issues. And this side of the ball has been a liability in spots, but Luke Donald is still a monster and should be hard to confltain from a dilapidated Cardinals’ offensive line. Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters could be making an imprint on this game, as well. We can look at the Rams’ defense at their lowest or how they translate at this level, which has been pretty good this season. After all, they did shut the Cardinals out last time.
From an ATS Standpoint
The common perception is that the Rams have had a great season, with the Cardinals underachieving and devastated by a litany of setbacks. And from an overall sense, that’s true. In the quest to cover spreads, however, a different lens is required. The Cardinals actually have been better at the betting windows than the Rams. In recent weeks, the Cardinals suffered even in an ATS sense, covering just once in their last five games. At the end of the day, you have to score points and the Cardinals can’t for the most part. Still, the Rams covering just five spreads this season so far is alarming. I see things lining up better this week, though.
Lay the Points on the Road Favorite
It seems like a square pick in many respects, even a little too easy to really be juicy. The Cardinals are the type of team that just when the morale is low enough to bet against them, they show signs of life. The temptation here, however, is to side with the Rams’ character and the notion that they have what it takes to shake off the last few weeks to make a statement in this road divisional game. I see the Rams getting the separation to get out of Arizona with the win and cover this week.
Loot’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Los Angeles Rams minus 13.5 points.