When handicapping the NFL, it pays to have a good memory to help you put matchups into context. In the case of the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams, you only have to remember as far back as Oct. 4, 2020.
The Giants were 13.5-point underdogs at SoFi Stadium, entering the game 0-3 in what was a disastrous start to the season. Saquon Barkley injured his knee in Week 2 in Chicago, then the Giants were embarrassed, 36-9, at home by a decimated San Francisco 49ers squad. The Rams entered at 2-1 off a tough 35-32 loss at Buffalo, and the betting world was certain they would rebound and crush the Giants.
Not only didn’t they crush the Giants, they barely beat them. It was just 10-9 Rams midway through the fourth quarter, and even after Cooper Kupp’s 55-yard touchdown catch, their victory wasn’t secured until Darious Williams intercepted Daniel Jones at the 5-yard line with 52 seconds to go.
The situations are similar in some ways for Sunday’s clash at MetLife Stadium. The Giants come in off a blowout loss in Dallas and have many injury concerns. Jones went wobbly after suffering a concussion but was still a possibility to start as of Thursday. Many of his top weapons are in various states of disrepair. The Rams are 4-1, this time entering off a big win at Seattle. Though the line is just 9.5 points, it’s actually a bigger expected margin of dominance than last year when you switch the three points for home-field advantage.
So, what do you make of what you remember? For some, the answer will be that the Giants will keep it close again. I see it the other way. A healthy Jones couldn’t get the Giants into the end zone last year, and now, even if he’s 100 percent, he’ll be playing just days after a traumatic incident. Last year’s Giants defense was good. This year, terrible so far, and now they have to defend against Matthew Stafford rather than Jared Goff.
The Rams also have a few extra days’ rest after their Thursday night game, and Sean McVay, who also has a long memory, will have his players on alert here.
The pick: Rams, -9.5.
Miami Dolphins (-3) over Jacksonville Jaguars
Not a fan of laying points with a team that has lost 35-0 and 45-17 this season. But with Tua Tagovailoa at least back practicing, this could be somewhat of a reset point for the Dolphins.
Green Bay Packers (-5) over CHICAGO BEARS
The Packers have averaged 29 ppg in their current four-game winning streak, while the Bears have yet to top 24 in any game and have scored more than 20 only once. Looks like Green Bay outright, and I’m not looking to try to thread the needle for an underdog cover.
Houston Texans (+10) over INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Monday night’s collapse in Baltimore could leave a lasting mark on the Colts in addition to giving a battered team a short week here. Davis Mills became a factor with his 21-for-29, 312-yard and three-touchdown effort in the narrow loss to the Patriots, and this feels like a lot of points to give with a shell-shocked favorite.
Kansas City Chiefs (-7) over WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM
Very much aware the Chiefs are on a 3-13 run ATS and that many of those spread losses came in games with spreads like this one. But the WFT’s defense is proving fraudulent, and Sunday’s loss to the Bills looked like rock-bottom for the Chiefs, and they could be ready to go off here.
Minnesota Vikings (-1) over CAROLINA PANTHERS
Despite public support for the Panthers, sharp action flipped the line and made the Vikings the short road favorite. So that’s the roadmap I’m following as the football world tries to figure out whether Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey will return from injury.
Los Angeles Chargers (+2.5) over BALTIMORE RAVENS
Here’s a hot trend that applies here and in several other games below: short road underdogs of +6 or less are 22-8 ATS this season, per VSiN’s Josh Appelbaum. Lamar Jackson needed a miracle on Monday night, but Justin Herbert does that all game, every game it seems.
Cincinnati Bengals (-3.5) over DETROIT LIONS
This is a dicey proposition either way you choose to go. Would love to back the winless Lions, who never quit in any game, but the line seems a bit short, and the Bengals were impressive in playing the almost-elite Packers on even terms last week.
CLEVELAND BROWNS (-3) over Arizona Cardinals
Two things at play here. One is the Cardinals’ 5-0 mark. No other team even made it to 4-0, so their perfection is on borrowed time. The other is that Arizona ranks 31st in yards per carry allowed, and the Browns have a steamroller rushing attack. Bad matchup for the Cardinals, despite the short road ’dog angle.
Las Vegas Raiders (+3.5) over DENVER BRONCOS
Battle of divisional foes who both have seen 3-0 starts turn into 3-2. The Broncos have suffered a cluster of injuries at the wide receiver position, while Raiders players get a breath of fresh air with well-liked Rich Bisaccia replacing the departed Jon Gruden. Last two meetings in Denver were one-point games, so the small spread could still matter.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (+3.5) over Dallas Cowboys
I get it. The Cowboys should crush the Patriots. Bill Belchick is great at befuddling rookie quarterbacks (which Dak Prescott isn’t) and taking away one top weapon (the Cowboys have many). But know this: Many veteran quarterbacks with hot teams have felt Belichick’s wrath, as well, and there’s some wiggle room in this number to cash on a close loss.
Seattle Seahawks (+5) over PITTSBURGH STEELERS
The Steelers had their “enough is enough” uprising last week (even though what looked to be a handy win over Denver came down to the final play), but I don’t think there’s much evidence to suggest it’s a good idea to lay this many points with them. Seattle (2-3) is fighting for its season, and Geno Smith put up some points after he replaced the injured Russell Wilson vs. the Rams.
TENNESSEE TITANS (+5.5) over Buffalo Bills
The Bills were my preseason pick to win the Super Bowl, and that prediction feels pretty good right now. But Sunday night was their mini-Super Bowl, the night they put the Chiefs in the rearview mirror and declared themselves the team to beat in the AFC. So this is a bit of a letdown spot in a second consecutive road game against crafty coach Mike Vrabel and meat-grinding RB Derrick Henry.
Best bets: Seahawks, Texans, Chargers
Lock of the week: Seahawks (Locks 2-2 in 2021)
Last week: 6-9-1 overall, 2-1 Best Bets
Thursday: Eagles (W)