This week’s “Thursday Night Football” game (8:20 p.m., Fox) gives us two playoff contenders with the Patriots visiting the Rams.
A month ago, this matchup didn’t look as appealing — as the Patriots struggled to start off the post-Brady era at 2-5 and well out of the AFC playoff race. But they’ve rebounded by winning four of their past five games to get back to .500 at 6-6 and on the cusp of a wild-card berth after routing the Chargers, 45-0, this past Sunday.
That last result certainly helped the Patriots improve their scoring average to 22.8 points per game — the Cam Newton RPO-style offense is still a far cry from the efficient passing game of Tom Brady — and reduce their scoring defense to 21.2 points per game.
The Rams have a more balanced team with Jared Goff spreading the ball around to a strong supporting cast of receivers and a complementary running game, though they’re averaging just 93 yards per game. The Rams are averaging 25.1 points per game while allowing just 20.2 with a defense led by defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
The Rams are the better overall team, but that isn’t always the best way to bet. The point spread has been as high as Rams -6 and has been bet down to 5. We believe the early money has been on the right side, as the line shouldn’t be this high between these two teams.
If we take the scoring averages, this comes to about Rams 23, Patriots 21.5, or Rams -1.5. And it’s not like we should be assigning anything for home-field advantage in this season with little or no fans in the stands — NFL road teams actually lead 99-90-2 against the spread on the season while home teams are only ahead 96-94-1 straight-up through 13 weeks.
Besides, the Rams lost at home to the 49ers two weeks ago and also failed to cover in a 17-9 home win vs. the Giants earlier this season, so it’s not like they’re always dominant on their new home turf.
The Patriots look like the play at anything more than a field goal. Both teams are 8-4 with the Under this season, but the total has already been shaded a little low by today’s NFL standards at 45 points, so that looks like a coin-flip.
The play: Patriots +5.5.