This week’s Thursday Night Football game would have been easy to ignore if not for a 4-1 stretch by the Los Angeles Rams and a two-game winning streak for the New Orleans Saints. Now, with both teams among five at 7-7 in a muddled NFC, it’s among the most meaningful games on the Week 16 NFL slate.
The Rams, who are four-point favourites at home, rank seventh in the NFC playoff picture, one spot above the Saints, who also are tied with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the NFC South lead. In retrospect, the NFL made a sound decision when it opted not to flex this game back to Sunday when neither team looked particularly impressive.
According to The New York Times playoff simulator, the Rams have a 52% chance to reach the playoffs and it would jump to 74% with a win. A loss, on the other hand, gives them just a 12% shot, so motivation shouldn’t be an issue.
Playing in a far weaker division helps the Saints’ chances. Their current playoff odds are 45% and would jump to 79% with a win. A loss would drop their odds to 26%.
Then again, the betting markets don’t seem to be taking either team all that seriously as championship contenders. At bet365, the Saints are the No. 21 choice at 100-1 to win the Super Bowl while the Rams are 80-1.
Saints vs. Rams odds
|Saints Moneyline Odds
|Rams Moneyline Odds
|46 points (over -110, under -110)
|Dec. 21, 8:15 p.m. ET
About the Saints (7-7 SU, 4-9-1 ATS, 4-10 o/u)
New Orleans is coming off an impressive 24-6 win over the New York Giants in which the defence allowed fewer than 200 total yards. Playing at SoFi stadium isn’t generally considered a difficult task for road teams, but the Saints haven’t beaten the Rams on the road since 2009.
Given their record and underdog status in this one, the Saints can’t be caught looking ahead but that might be something of a temptation with a battle for first place vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looming in Week 17.
The Saints have injury concerns, particularly the questionable status of receiver Chris Olave, going into the short week of practice and have turned Tuesday and Wednesday practices into walkthroughs ahead of the long flight to the West Coast. This game also represents a major step up in class considering this modest win streak came against the 2-12 Carolina Panthers and the also-ran Giants.
New Orleans looked good against Tommy DeVito and the Giants, but ranks just 24th in the NFL in defensive DVOA against the run. That could spell trouble with Rams running back Kyren Williams on a tear, having rushed for at least 100 yards in five of his last seven games.
About the Rams (6-7 SU, 8-5-1 ATS, 6-8 o/u)
This may be the best coaching job yet by former NFL Coach of the Year Sean McVay, who has guided a team that was picked in the bottom five of the NFL by many outlets — with a win total set at 6.5 — into serious contention. Then again, that would all but come to a halt with a poor home performance in this one.
The Rams should offer more of a challenge to the Saints defence with Williams having rushed for at least 143 yards in three of his last five and Matthew Stafford has been hot in recent weeks. He has his choice of strong receivers Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua against a questionable Saints secondary.
The Rams defence has been mediocre, but its strength – run defence – matches up with what New Orleans likes to do. If Carr is forced to pass more than he usually would, he could be susceptible to interceptions and, if Olave can’t go, he doesn’t have a vast array of targets.
The Rams are 21-9 ATS in December games under McVay. This is the time of year when his teams normally get home. He also has shown a knack for getting his teams ready after quick turnarounds, going 5-2 straight-up and 4-2-1 ATS on Thursdays.
Now that both Stafford and Kupp are getting healthy, they are becoming a problem for opposing defences. Since Week 12, Kupp has had a 21.5% target share and a 25% first-read share, becoming once again the team’s leading receiver.
Stafford hasn’t thrown an interception in three straight games and he has had a completion percentage of 75% or better in two of his last four games.
Kupp figures to run the majority of his routes in this one against a good cornerback, Alontae Taylor, and the Saints generally have had a solid pass defence. Their opponents have averaged 185.4 yards per game, giving New Orleans the sixth-best pass defence in the league. It will be hardpressed to replicate last week’s performance, however. Stafford has a much more accurate arm than DeVito, not to mention better weapons.
Cooper Kupp anytime TD
There may be a few lingering rain showers in Los Angeles, but it won’t matter under the roof at SoFi Stadium.
- Rams games have exceeded the total in three of the last four.
- When it comes to the total, both of these teams are in the bottom half of the NFL at exceeding it. Combined, their games have hit the under in 18 of 28 games, a solid 64.2% rate of return on under.
- The Rams covered the spread in both games this season in which they were at least a four-point favourite.
- Los Angeles is 6-1 as the moneyline favourite this season.
- Due to their soft division and schedule, the Saints haven’t been bigger moneyline underdogs this season than the +175 odds they are getting in this game.
Player prop trends
- Carr has thrown for at least 210 yards in three of his last four games and he’ll be facing the No. 21 pass defence in this one. However, he has eclipsed his passing yards total in this one (229.5 at -110) just once in his last six games.
- Carr has not thrown an interception in four of his last seven games. He is -125 to throw at least one in this game while the under-0.5 is -105, so there may be some value there.
- Given Williams’ recent tear, the total for his rushing yards (88.5) is set rather high, but he has eclipsed that number in five straight games.
Wagers to consider
- The Rams reached their .500 record a lot more honestly than the Saints did given a far tougher schedule and a better division. The Saints looked impressive the past two weeks playing bad teams, but the Indianapolis Colts are the only team they’ve beaten that now has a winning record. The Rams should take care of business at home and the four-point spread seems reasonable here.
- If the Rams are able to get a lead, the Saints won’t be able to stick with their run-first mentality and that could force Carr to put the ball in the air more than New Orleans typically likes to do. That means the over on both his passing yards and interceptions could be worth a look.