The worst thing ever is to be 100% correct in predicting something, and lose on the moneyline anyway.
I took the L.A. Rams to win the Super Bowl, thinking that an NFL defense had finally come along that would stop Tom Brady. I was right! Except that New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick is a magician, and sprang an anachronistic “Jet” defense of his own that made a mockery of the Mountain Goats.
Now, early in the 2019 season, are the Los Angeles Rams getting de-valued by Las Vegas bookmakers due to the fluky – or at least somewhat freaky – Super Bowl loss?
Consider that the Rams opened as an extremely-narrow favorite to beat the Cleveland Browns on this weekend’s edition of Sunday Night Football. Since then bettors have swarmed to the Goats, driving the moneyline all the way to a 1-to-2 number in favor of the 2-0 defending NFC champions.
Yet the point spread hasn’t really taken off in the same way – only expanding from a safety to just over a field-goal margin in 6 days of gambling action.
Who: Los Angeles Rams at Cleveland Browns
When: Sunday, September 22nd, 8:20 PM EST
Where: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, OH
Lines: LA (-3.5) at CLE (+3.5) / O/U Total: (47)
NFL fans like to scoff at Jared Goff, but the Rams QB has worked-out some preseason and Week 1 nerves to have a splendid performance against the rival New Orleans Saints in Week 2.
The Saints, of course, are the team whose fans tried to sue the NFL following L.A.’s controversial win in the 2018-19 NFC Championship Game. It’s kind of amusing – trash-talkers whose teams win on contested official’s rulings like to make little snappy remarks like “sue us.” Well, New Orleans did sue..and of course it went nowhere in the end.
We could say that Goff out-played Drew Brees with around 300 yards passing and 0 picks, but Brees didn’t play much of the game and may not play a whole lot of pigskin for a while, tearing a ligament in his throwing hand during the contest.
Like the old-timers always warn us – those stand-still pocket passers are sure susceptible to injury.
But as usual it’s the performance of the Rams as a complete unit that impresses the most. Sean McVay’s club is getting Todd Gurley on the tracks again following a derailed campaign in the 2018-19 postseason while RB Malcolm Brown is also becoming a handy option. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp is also en route to demolishing his 2018 totals:
As of right now through two games, Kupp has 12 receptions for 166 yards and while that is a small sample size, he has really made every opportunity count and has maximized it. Going back to the 66-yard reception from Kupp, according to NFL Next Gen stats, Kupp was only expected to rack up 21 yards after the catch on that play. He finished with 38 more yards after the catch than the incredible YAC formula calculated. Kupp on that same play according to Next Gen stats ran a total of 85.4 yards to get that 66 yard gain for the Rams.
The growth of Kupp isn’t necessarily even all about him. Jared Goff clearly has that chemistry with him as mentioned above and it shows. According to Pro Football Focus, Goff’s grade goes over 93 when targeting Kupp and that has been the case since 2017! Furthermore, Goff and Kupp’s catchable pass percentage according to PFF leads all QB/WR duos in the NFL.
Meanwhile the L.A. defense hasn’t really been tested or overwhelmed a fine offensive team with its starting QB on the field yet – that’s the only reason to be skeptical of any blow-out prediction for SNF.
Aaron Donald is questionable, but the Goats have other effective linemen despite Ndamukong Suh leaving town almost as fast as he got there.
As for the Browns it’s been a tale of 2 games so far this season. Baker Mayfield had a hideous 2019 debut with 3 interceptions in a 4-touchdown Week 1 loss to the Tennessee Titans. But in Week 2 the Oklahoma product was better against the New York Jets as pass-rushers like Myles Garrett kept the J-E-T-S offense at bay.
Speaking of an untested defense, though, the Cleveland Browns remain a Paper Lion. The Jets almost certainly aren’t going anywhere and the overall Cleveland narrative still involves losing to quality teams despite all hype and anticipation.
It’s not easy for an NFL franchise to play its way out of a long dark era. Psychology plays a role as the squad is expected to continue to lose and doesn’t know what it’s like to win. Playing an opponent like the conference champs in a prime-time contest is not the ideal scenario for making the leap to a confident 4-quarter mentality.
The Rams won’t have a perfect season, but the team specializes in out-lasting inconsistent opponents and finding ways to get into a positive frame of mind by halftime even if the scoreboard is sour.
I’m expecting L.A. to win the 2nd half (and the game) by 1-3 touchdowns and would even recommend a live-bet ATS if the Browns happen to go up in the 1st or 2nd quarter.