As we enter Week 14 of the season, we are are at the stage now where things start to really heat up in the race for the playoffs and this week we could see our first teams confirm their places in the post season. If the Vikings win or tie in Detroit (in a game where the Lions are favourites) they secure the NFC North, the Chiefs can seal the AFC West with a win over the Broncos and a Chargers loss to the Dolphins, and the Eagles can secure a spot in the NFC playoffs with a win or tie against the Giants.
Tonight’s Thursday Night Football features a Rams team that would officially be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss, hosting the Raiders who can get themselves firmly back into the mix with a win.
Las Vegas Raiders -6.5 @ Los Angeles Rams: 43.5
When the NFL scheduled this game for Thursday Night Football I don’t think they could have imagined that these teams would be going into the game with just eight wins between them. The Rams are obviously on course to put up the worst defence of a Super Bowl title in history and the Raiders have already lost as many games as they did in a turbulent 2021 season. But the momentum is only going in one direction heading into this game with the home side having lost six in a row and missing key parts of last season’s championship winning team.
After a 2-7 start to the season, the Raiders have come to life a bit after overtime wins in Denver and Seattle followed by a win over the Chargers at home last week. They are now only a game behind the Chargers in the AFC West and two games off the final playoff spot in the AFC. Their odds to make the playoffs are 7/1 now after being around three times that before the three game winning streak. A win in tonight’s game sets them up for a key matchup against fellow hopefuls the Patriots in Vegas next Sunday.
A big part in this mini turnaround for the Raiders is running back Josh Jacobs, who has had at least 143 rushing yards in four of their five wins this season and had 109 plus 51 receiving yards in the other (Week 11 against the Broncos). This hot streak has Jacobs leading the league in yards on the ground with 1303, almost 200 more than second place Nick Chubb. Despite their 3-9 record, the Rams have been good against the run this year and rank in the top five in yards allowed at just 96.7. But I still think it’s hard to take anything other than the over on Jacobs’ line of 87.5 tonight (Josh Jacobs o87.5 rushing yards). The Raiders are 6.5 point favourites and Jacobs is averaging over 150 yards when they win. The only thing to watch out for is his questionable designation for this game, he is still expected to play through the quad/calf injuries and they haven’t seemed to limit his production recently.
As dominant as Jacobs has been on the ground, Davante Adams is not far behind through the air. Last week against the Chargers he had 177 yards and caught both of Derek Carr’s touchdown passes, taking him to a tie for the league lead in touchdown receptions of 12. Carr has only thrown eight touchdowns to the rest of the roster which is not a surprise given over 32% of his passes are thrown in Adams direction. Adams will likely draw a lot of attention from Jalen Ramsey tonight and while that probably won’t matter too much, it’s enough to put me off his line of 90.5 yards. Outside of Adams, Carr’s options are only really Mack Hollins and Foster Moreau. Both are probably good for 3-5 targets and 30-40 yards.
Fortunately the Rams gave us something to talk about by signing Baker Mayfield earlier in the week. With Matthew Stafford likely to miss the rest of the season and backup John Wolford questionable, it looks as though Mayfield may be in line to start tonight and probably for the rest of the season. With their season already over it makes a bit of sense for the Rams, they get to see if there is anything remotely close to an NFL player inside Mayfield still. If there is, they could at least be in line for a compensatory pick if he signs elsewhere, and we all know the Rams could do with more of those.
With Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson on IR, whoever is starting at QB for the Rams has limited options and the remaining names on the roster probably aren’t even worth talking about. I think Tyler Higbee’s lines of 27.5 yards and 3.5 receptions are too high but with a different quarterback it might be worth steering clear.
The Rams backfield has been just as messy as the rest of the offense but seems to essentially be down to a committee between Cam Akers and Kyren Williams now. Akers, who had two touchdowns last week, will get most of the carries and Williams will be the receiving back. While the Raiders aren’t exactly a formidable run defense, they are a lot worse against the pass and you have to assume the Rams will be chasing this game, so it should be a Williams game. I like him to hit the over on 14.5 receiving yards (Kyren Williams o14.5 receiving yards).
It feels strange to be confident of a Raiders win given how badly they started the season but the Rams have all but given up on their season and just don’t have enough of their star players healthy for this game. The Raiders have a tendency for allowing their opposition back into games but I think they should win this one comfortably enough to cover the -6.5 spread. I don’t think the Rams can score enough points to get us over the 43.5 total so will lean the under on that.
An interesting featured bet with Paddy Power is the Raiders to win, to have the most rushing yards & to have the most receiving yards at 5/2. With Jacobs and Adams around it’s hard to see the Rams having more in either category.
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