I often recommend moneyline plays on games with very tight spreads, since it’s such a pain to watch scenarios unfold in which coaches are at cross-purposes with the gambler (incidentally, the same can be true of very-wide spreads).
But as Los Angeles prepares to host Baltimore for Week 12’s installment of Monday Night Football, subtle line-movement on the Rams has created an opportunity for bettors ATS even as the point spread stands at a puny-small number.
The Rams were a field-goal underdog and are now a (+3.5) underdog at home in prime-time, and suddenly the calculus becomes simple math. Not hard to imagine Baltimore squeaking-out a tie-breaking field goal drive to cap-off a road win on Monday night.
Who: Baltimore Ravens at L.A. Rams
When: Monday, November 25th, 8:15 PM EST
Where: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA
Lines: BAL (-3.5) at LAR (+3.5) / O/U Total: (46.5)
Lamar Jackson dazzled once again last week as Baltimore pounded the Texans 41-7. The Ravens have now won 6 straight games and have scored 30 or more points in 4 straight. contests. John Harbaugh’s squad has the NFL’s top-ranked scoring offense, and as a team the Ravens average 203.1 YPG on the ground.
Jackson added 74 more rushing yards last week, bringing his season total to 781. The wunderkind showed off his cannon arm with 4 touchdown tosses to bring his season total to 19, but don’t overlook his half-dozen rushing TDs either. Win or lose in the postseason, the Baltimore Ravens should be credited as the 1st NFL team (heck, the 1st professional team, period) to consistently use a dual-threat QB properly in the modern era.
The Ravens have a terrific analytics department that has handed the team winning tactics on the field such as the “hold for gold” play against Cincinnati in which Bengal punt-rushers were illegally grabbed on-purpose as a successful ploy to run out the clock. It was only a matter of time before the Baltimore franchise took on the age-old myth “if you run the QB on purpose, he’ll get hurt.” It’s important to carefully manage the amount of fierce contact a QB suffers on the gridiron, but is Daniel Jones avoiding fierce contact this year? If you get an entire offense to buy-into a dual-threat attack and various “FBS” elements in the ground game, you can show them that the passing game will flourish along with the team’s overall stock, and inspire confidence to make plays on 3rd down after 3rd down.
And oh, brother, is the former ACC phenom making plays. Jackson is completing 66% of his passes and his QBR of 106.3 is good for 4th best in the NFL, behind only Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins, and Patrick Mahomes.
Quarterbacks soak-up headlines when clubs are winning games, but the defense is vying for its share of attention in Baltimore. The Ravens held Texan QB Deshaun Watson to just 169 passing yards last week, and have defeated Super Bowl champions Russell Wilson and Tom Brady during an impressive win streak.
The Rams are coming off of a 17-7 win against the Bears, made notable mostly by the ominous (for NFC rivals) presence of Todd Gurley. Sean McVay handed the veteran RB a bundle of touches, and Gurley was able to grind out 97 yards on 25 carries,and add 36 through the air. Chicago had been solid against the pass, but susceptible to the run a little bit, so a Gurley-heavy game plan proved to be a good move.
In the larger picture the Mountain Goats may benefit a ton from having a dynamic, durable ground game featuring more than 1 above-average tailback once again. That’s an ingredient the club enjoyed during its NFC Championship run, and the running yards will be like vitamins for the OL and QB Jared Goff.
On defense, the addition of Jalen Ramsey has shored-up the secondary. Ramsey has all over the field making plays over the last couple weeks, and his blanketing coverage is helping the Rams’ pass rush.
I’m liking the Rams ATS for a few reasons. Baltimore has to travel 3 time zones to play, and McVay will understand how to use his newfound depth in the offensive backfield. Goff’s only chance to hang with Jackson’s efficiency for 4 quarters is to hand-off early and land body punches.
Does that mean I’m touting the Under? Bettors already seem skeptical of the Over. Take it as a recommendation on the low side if you like, but if it’s a tight defensive struggle on MNF, remember a low-scoring game helps the underdog on the spread.
Secondly, that Baltimore Ravens analytics team is probably making a few more cautious and conservative suggestions to the coaching staff right about now. There is likely a belief that Jackson doesn’t have to go hurdling (and hurtling) up the field for the Ravens to qualify for a cozy playoff seed. What works for Baltimore over the long haul could lead to a brief penalty in SoCal as the Rams fight hard to produce a nail-biter.
Take L.A. and (+3.5) points on Monday.