NFL Odds, Picks & Predictions: How To Bet Rams vs. Patriots On Thursday Night Football
Jamie Squire/Getty Images. Pictured: Sean McVay, Bill Belichick
The Los Angeles Rams host the New England Patriots on Thursday Night Football — the first meeting between these teams since Bill Belichick’s Patriots beat Sean McVay’s Rams 13-3 in Super Bowl 53.
The Rams went on to miss in the 2019 playoffs while the Patriots were upset by the Titans in the wild card round. Tom Brady has since left New England, where Cam Newton has take over at quarterback to lead the Patriots to a 6-6 record while the Rams find themselves atop the competitive NFC West at 8-4.
So where’s the betting value on this primetime matchup? Our staff details how they’re betting the spread and total below.
NFL Odds, Picks & Predictions
Rams -4.5 vs. Patriots
Brandon Anderson: My first instinct looking at this game was: Oh no, Jared Goff. Not again.
Goff and the Rams were all that and a bag of chips in 2018, flying high all season, all the way into the Super Bowl — right up until Mr. Goff met Mr. Bill Belichick. The Rams won 15-of-18 games that season, and Sean McVay’s offense averaged more than 32 points per game along the way. Then the Super Bowl kicked off, and the Rams scored a measly three points and put all the viewers to sleep, along with much of the McVay hype.
The easy narrative is that the Rams never really recovered, falling out of the playoffs entirely in 2019, and that Goff has been forever unclean. But the reality is that many of L.A.’s problems last season came from injuries and poor play along the offensive line stymieing the offense, and the Rams have evolved and added new motion and counter motion.
It’s easy to look at this game and see Belichick as an underdog against Goff and get flashbacks to the Super Bowl. But that was then, and this is now.
These Rams are the league’s No. 1 rushing offense by Football Outsiders’ DVOA, and the Patriots rank sixth to last in rush defense. They’ve won four of five games but are still a mostly average team. They’ll have a huge special teams edge against the Rams, and perhaps a coaching one if you believe that Belichick has the edge on McVay, but you know McVay has been waiting for this chance at revenge.
Don’t get too overexcited about the Pats shutting the Chargers out last week — this is a very different L.A. opponent. New England’s November included eking out a win over the Jets, plus narrow wins over Ravens and Cardinals teams we know are fading down the stretch. The Rams are just better. They have been gifted the division lead and they have the defense to shut a meager Pats attack down.
I expect a low-scoring game with limited possessions, with both teams running the ball and Belichick trying to shorten the game. At -6 earlier this week, I’d have been tempted to tease the Rams down here with the under. Now that the line has moved the Patriots’ way, I’ll just grab the Rams at -4.5 and look for McVay and Co. to take care of business as the far more talented team.
Raheem Palmer: The Patriots are 8-4 to the under this season, tied for second among NFL teams. Their four overs have come against the Seahawks, Raiders, Bills and Jets, who rank 22nd, 24th, 16th and 21st in defensive DVOA. And in terms of defensive points per game, none of those teams rank lower than 18th.
The Rams are a much more stingy defense and have managed to limit prolific offenses like the Russell Wilson-led Seahawks to 16 points and the Dak Prescott-led Cowboys to 17 points, both of which were averaging more than 30 points per game. Ironically, the Rams tied for second as they’re also 8-4 to the under this season.
Games featuring the Patriots simply have a slower pace than the rest of the league: They have the highest run vs. pass ratio, but they also play at the 22nd-ranked pace at 28.21 seconds snap-to-snap. In the first half of games, the Patriots are playing at the third-slowest pace at 29.39 seconds snap-to-snap. And without a high flying offense, it’s no coincidence that the Patriots have scored more than 23 points just four times this season.
Interestingly enough, the Patriots face the third-highest run vs. pass ratio in the league (46% vs. 54%) and allow a 55% success rate on rushing plays. It’s no surprise that with teams running so efficiently against the Patriots, they have the slowest defensive pace in the league at 28.85 seconds snap-to-snap.
With the Rams’ top-five defense against a Patriots offense that’s ranked only 19th in explosive pass play rate — and with Belichick’s history of outclassing McVay and Goff — this feels like a low-scoring game.
My projections make this total 42.5 points, so I’ll play the under down to 44.
Mike Randle: One of the best performances of 2020 was the Patriots defense in Week 13. Bill Belichick’s unit pitched a shutout against the Chargers in a big 45-0 road win.
Thursday night’s matchup between Sean McVay and Belichick is worth the price of admission, but historically, Belichick has the advantage.
New England will follow a ball-control model behind Cam Newton. The Patriots rank just 21st in pace with an average of 28.1 seconds per play. That number drops to 30.8 in game-neutral situations and to a snail-paced 34.6 when leading by seven or more points or more (per Football Outsiders).
The Patriots defense struggled for much of the season, but has been much improved over the past month. Prior to the shutout of Chargers, the Patriots held the Cardinals to just 17 points while limiting Kyler Murray to just 170 passing yards and 31 rushing yards.
While most think of the efficiency of the Rams offense, it’s their defense that has made the difference in this season’s success: They rank fifth overall in defensive efficiency, including fifth-best against the pass.
Both teams excel at limiting quarterback production, with the Rams (second) and Patriots (fifth) both among the league leaders at fewest fantasy points allowed to signal callers. The Rams are fourth in the NFL with three sacks per game, and the Patriots have tallied five sacks in their past two games against Murray and Justin Herbert.
New England stayed on the West Coast this week, staying at UCLA’s campus instead of flying home. I expect a close game between two strong teams with great coaches, and will back this under.
I would not bet this below 43.5 points.