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Saturday, December 8, 2012

NFL Predictions 2012 Week 14: Rams vs Bills

St Louis Rams vs Buffalo Bills: STL +3 (5Dimes)


The standard consensus regarding home field advantage lies somewhere around 2.5/3 points on the point spread.  Of course not all home fields are equal, but is Vegas trying to tell us these teams are even on a neutral field?  If so, I'm more than happy to grab a full field goal with the Rams.

In fact, nothing that happened on the weekend seemed to change bookmakers minds either.  The look ahead line also had the Bills -3.  If I had to set this line I'd make Buffalo -1 to -1.5 point favorites.  There were signs early in the season where it looked like the Rams were going to have a home/road dichotomy this year, but they've bucked the trend and currently sit at 4-1 ATS on the road.  I'll take it.

Who Are the Bills?

At the start of the year I was guilty of buying into the Buffalo Bills hype.  On paper they seemed to make all the right moves on defense by adding impact players on the D-line and in the secondary.  Dave Wannstedt's scheme was supposed to be an easy transition thanks to his simplified approach.  CJ Spiller was primed for a breakout season, and Ryan Fitzpatrick was expected to start where he left off last year.

So much for all that.

Now early bets are coming in on them this week against the Rams.  Someone please explain that to me?  The only rational reasoning I can think of is that they are expecting a letdown from St Louis after their big win over the 49ers.

Other than that, I see no reason to get excited about Buffalo.  Two of their wins in recent weeks have been more due to circumstance than anything else.  They caught a slumping Miami offense and put up an inspired effort on prime-time.  Last week weather dictated the play-calling which allowed them to steamroll the Jaguars with the running game.

Rams: Most Improved Team?

Ok so the most improved team award would probably go to the Colts, but that's thanks in large part to Andrew Luck.  Personally, I would give it to St Louis for what they've done this season.

Jeff Fisher is front and center of the turnaround and he clearly has this team believing in themselves.  Pushing the 49ers to overtime twice in one month is nothing to scoff at.

When Amendola went out I got a little concerned about this team, but Givens stepped in and stepped up of late.  Even though their offense didn't put up great numbers, they targeted Givens 14 times and came up with big plays when they needed them most.

Head to head, I'm willing to put much more faith in the Rams defense over the Bills unit. They've been above average against the run and the pass all season long and they've been one of the most consistent defenses in the entire NFL this year.  They've improved in all the key areas such as pass rush, third down, red zone, and drive success rate.  Do people remember how atrocious they were last season?  I don't think people are giving them near enough credit for this. 

Granted some of this is due to better health and some key additions in the offseason, but they had to get it together with a scotch-taped defensive coaching staff.

Bottom Line

The Bills sustained some key injuries on both sides of the ball last Sunday and it's too early to know whether or not they'll all be back this week.  That's not good news for a team searching for consistency.  If Buffalo is going to win and cover this game, they'll have to prove that their recent wins were due to their play and not the situation.  Sorry, but I'm not buying in just yet. I'll roll with the team that's well on their way to establishing a coherent identity.

NFL Pick: STL +3. 
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