The New Orleans Saints travel to the Los Angeles Rams in the highlight game this Thanksgiving weekend. Both teams remain in contention for the playoffs and will want the win. What should bettors consider when analysing the Saints vs. Rams odds? Read on for some expert Saints vs. Rams betting insight.
Live Saints vs. Rams odds
A closer look at the playoff picture
Week 12 of the 2017 NFL season kicks off with the three traditional Thanksgiving games. The bye weeks are all finished and it’s a six-game run in to decide which twelve of the 32 teams will take part in the postseason.
The Rams were unable to overcome divisional rivals Seattle in LA and Minnesota on the road but did overturn Jacksonville.
The AFC Conference has the most familiar feel, where recent 2016 divisional winners, New England, Pittsburgh and Kansas City each currently top their respective divisions. The exception in the AFC is the Jacksonville Jaguars who top the South having finished bottom last year.
Jacksonville’s change of fortunes is repeated in the NFC, where none of the current divisional leaders managed a winning record in the previous season.
Philadelphia has made a similar jump to the Jaguars moving from bottom to top of the NFC East.
However, as pointed out in my NFL season preview, there were good reasons to think that the Eagles would compete this year. The most impressive and unexpected transformation must be the LA Rams’ move from 14th out of 16 in the NFC to their current one-game lead in the West and an overall 4th seeding.
What’s changed for the Rams?
The previous season held little promise for this year for the Rams, particularly after overall number one draft pick, quarterback Jared Goff took over in Week 11 at home to Miami.
Goff had Completion rates barely above 50%, more interceptions than touchdowns and an average yardage per attempt of just over five compared to the nearly seven that the defences he faced on average conceded. To put this into perspective, it was near historically low numbers for a top draft pick.
The Rams lost all seven games that Goff started, scoring an average of just 12 points per game against defences that allowed 23.5. The added strain on a slightly above par defence resulted in 30 points conceded per game in that winless home stretch.
The Rams present an offensive problem that the Saints has struggled to overcome in the regular season so far.
With so much invested to trade up to take Goff in the draft, the Rams installed a new head coach, in Washington’s offensive coordinator Sean McVay, renowned for quarterback friendly passing schemes, a better offensive line and upgraded targets, both veteran and draftees - the turnaround since then is unprecedented.
Goff’s completion rate is above 60% and he’s throwing for over a yard per attempt greater than the defences faced habitually allow. Touchdowns are outstripping interceptions by 16 to 4 and sack rates have more than halved compared to 2016.
The Rams’ running game was similarly poor in 2016, gaining one yard per attempt less than the average allowed by their opponents, but this aspect has also risen to the challenge in 2017 - the Rams are now around league average in the ground game.
Saints vs. Rams odds: It’s not all about offence
Amid the offensive reboot, the defence has quietly improved on a solid, if unspectacular 2016 for the Rams. They are better against the pass than against the run and have also turned around the rate at which they concede points.
They allowed more points per game than their opponents usually scored in 2016, but are restricting offences that average 21.5 points per game to just 18.5 in 2017.
The Rams have engineered a genuine turnaround, underpinned by an improvement in core metrics and their seven wins are also justified by a strong Pythagorean win expectation.
Looking towards the possibility of a postseason, they are around 60/40 to take part in knockout football and around a coin toss to win their division from Seattle, who are a game behind and host them in Week 15.
Is Brees taking New Orleans to the playoffs again?
The New Orleans Saints come into LA as the 4th legitimate playoff contender to have faced the Rams this season. The Rams were unable to overcome divisional rivals Seattle in LA and Minnesota on the road but did overturn Jacksonville.
Unlike previous Saints sides, this year they have managed to deliver a good defence.
The story in New Orleans has been one of consistent excellence from quarterback, Drew Brees, often without continuity within his receivers and always without a decent defence to complement his outstanding output.
Since Brees arrived from San Diego in 2006, the Saints have never been outside of the best half-dozen passing teams for any season, often occupying one of the spots in the top three.
This season is Brees’ 17th season in the NFL, but his passing figures through the first ten games still sit comfortably with any season since he claimed a regular starting position.
Offensively, the Saints are just shading the Rams.
Brees’ efficiency matches that of Goff, but they’ve run the ball more efficiently (helped in part by the Bills’ capitulation in Week 10) and they are outscoring opponent defences by eight more points than is par for those defences.
An improved defence for New Orleans
Unlike previous Saints sides, this year they have managed to deliver a good defence. They are better against the pass than the run and have done well in restricting points allowed.
Brees has invariably operated with a defence that lay in the bottom third of all NFL sides, but the season’s version is comfortably the best defensive side of the ball he has been given in his time in New Orleans (albeit one that still has questions to answer).
New Orleans’ defence has mainly faced underpowered offences, ranked in the bottom third of the NFL, along with a Green Bay side without Aaron Rodgers.
The three highest ranked offences they have faced, New England, Minnesota and Washington have handed them their only two defeats and although it required an improbable comeback, they beat the latter in Week 11.
Saints vs. Rams odds: What do the stats suggest?
The Rams present an offensive problem that the Saints has struggled to overcome in the regular season so far - they have allowed 32 points per game against passing offences ranked inside the top ten.
Statistically, both offences should move the ball easily on Sunday, both on the ground and through the air. Scoring rates and the respective Pythagorean expectations suggest the Rams are favoured by a field goal and around 52 total points as both teams look to cement their playoffs chances.