Sean McVay is coming under fire for a suspected-to-be underachieving Los Angeles Rams club this season.
But could it be argued that McVay simply pushed the Mountain Goats to greater heights than could have been expected in 2018-19, and that the current campaign is closer to where the Rams’ actual talent would place them in the NFC?
Not that the talent is anything to sniff at. Los Angeles has a decent shot at reaching a postseason berth, and will make a difficult out for any team in the conference.
The Rams are facing the Arizona Cardinals this Sunday, however – and the Cardinals have an excellent record ATS if not straight-up in 2019. Gamblers are wary of taking L.A. to cover a tight spread, moving the lines in Las Vegas slightly toward Arizona prior to kickoff.
Who: Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals
When: Sunday, December 1st, 4:05 PM EST
Where: State Farm Stadium, Glendale, AZ
Lines: Rams (-3) at Cardinals (+3) / O/U Total: (48)
The 6-5 Rams are trying to keep playoff hopes alive. McVay’s team has lost 2-of-3 heading into Sunday, and struggled to contain Lamar Jackson and the Ravens last week in a 45-6 loss on Monday Night Football. Handicappers seem convinced that while Arizona and L.A. carry disparate W/L records, the clubs are much more tightly-matched when analyzed statistically.
I don’t go-in for a lot of points-per-game averages – they’re contingent on game-situations and schedules and used as filler in a lot of pregame touts. But take a look at some of the Rams and Cardinals’ overall stats and the similarities are striking. The Rams have a slight edge with 22.6 PPG as opposed to the Big Red’s 22.5 PPG, but even more incredible is that Los Angeles and Arizona are within 1 yard of each other of total offense, as the Rams average 365.1 YPG and the Cards are at 365.8 YPG.
It doesn’t quite stop there as just 3 sacks separate these clubs defensively.
8-year veteran pass-rusher Chandler Jones is still getting it done for Arizona, as his 12.5 take-downs are good for 2nd in the NFL behind only Cameron Jordan of the Saints. The former Super Bowl champ has tallied 4 sacks in the last 3 weeks.
Arizona has lost 4 straight and will not make the postseason this year, but QB Kyler Murray has played his tail off trying to make-up for a flaky defense. Every week, it seems, Murray is getting more comfortable in the passing game, and the wunderkind could finish the year with well over 500 yards rushing and a handful of rush TDs.
Bettors love underdogs when the QB could potentially out-play the favorites’ signal-caller. Jared Goff of the Rams was intercepted twice last week by Baltimore, bringing his season total to 12 to go along with just 11 TDs – a hideous ratio in modern NFL or FBS football.
Los Angeles Times recounts Goff’s struggles in late autumn:
Goff will finish the month of November with no touchdown passes. In the last three games, he has had five passes intercepted, including two in Monday’s 45-6 rout by the Baltimore Ravens. He also has fumbled four times, losing one. Coach Sean McVay said this week that Goff’s quarterback ratings were “not always a reflection of him.” But Goff has not performed as he did in 2018 when he led the Rams to a 13-3 record and a Super Bowl run. The touchdown-pass drought resulted in part from playing against strong defenses and a lack of execution by the Rams — mainly himself, Goff said. “Need to be better at everything,” he said. “I know I said this the last couple weeks, but I will be.”
Goff and the Rams have no margin for error as the attempt to remain in playoff contention. They are 6-5 and almost certainly need to win their five remaining games — against the Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and the Cardinals — to earn a third consecutive postseason berth. The Rams are averaging 22.6 points per game, which ranks 14th in the NFL. Their average fell after losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 17-12, defeating the Chicago Bears, 17-7, and then producing only two field goals against the Ravens. “Our offense has not been where it needs to be the last few weeks, and I need to bring up the standard a little bit,” Goff said.
Goff and his teammates said they have put the embarrassing loss to the Ravens behind. “It was definitely something that made you sick and something that you never want to relive or have to go through,” Goff said. “But we’re beyond that now — push through it.
Typical patter from a team on a cold streak. There’s not much hope that L.A. can blossom into another Super Bowl-contending team right away, but I do think the Rams’ coaching staff will find ways to take advantage of a bad opposing defense on Sunday.
Gamblers are overlooking that the L.A. offense as a whole presents more problems for the Arizona defense than Murray and Larry Fitzgerald can combine to cause for the visiting D.
Take the Rams to cover (-3).