The LA Rams travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints in the pick of this week’s NFL fixtures. Looking for value in the NFL Week 9 odds? Read on to inform your NFL Week 9 predictions.
The battle between two high-flying teams
The competitive nature of the NFL ensures that few teams survive to half season with a substantial winning record.
25 of the 32 teams are currently within two games of a 0.500 or worse record, so it is a rare, regular season treat for an unbeaten 8-0 team to travel to a 6-1 team, as happens in week 9.
Were the season to have ended after week 8, the 8-0 LA Rams would be the NFC’s top seeded team and the 6-1 New Orleans Saints would be number two. If seeding was then respected in the post season, this game would be the NFC Championship game, albeit played in LA.
The only common opponents so far for each side is the Minnesota Vikings, whom the Rams defeated by seven and the Saints overcame by ten and Sunday’s meeting will provide some additional indication regarding the likely pecking order in the NFC.
What does seem assured is that the game will follow the lead of many 2018 matches by being high scoring.
Analysing the LA Rams
The Rams have reached at least 30 points in six of their eight matches, while the Saints have reached that milestone in five from seven games, stretching to 40 or more points in three of those five.
It’s another battle of the generations at the quarterback position.
Drew Brees was keeping the hot seat warm in San Diego for Philip Rivers as long ago as 2005.
But it was from 2006 onwards in New Orleans that he made his mark on the NFL, leading his side to post seasons in six of the subsequent twelve seasons, a Super Bowl win in 2009 and a host of passing related awards.
Brees hasn’t fallen out of the top six of regular seasonal passers since he was traded to the Saints in 2006 and he’s the league’s second most efficient passer through eight weeks of 2018.
2017’s 11-5 record was well deserved judging by New Orleans’ points scoring and conceding record. They were worth just over 11 Pythagorean wins and that was under pinned by the usual, well above average passing efficiency from Brees, but also above par rushing and an unusually fine passing defence.
They even managed to lose two more narrowly decided matches than they won on the way to their 11-5.
Both the excellent 2017 passing defence and running game benefitted from the presence of not one, but two “Rookie of the Year” award winners, but perhaps unsurprisingly both have slipped back in 2018.
Key statistics in finding value
NO’s 2018 rushing game is averaging just 93% of the average yardage per play that their opponents are allowing, compared to 111% in 2017 and their defensive pass efficiency has also declined from allowing just 96% of average yardage per pass attempted against them in 2017 to an unimpressive 117% so far in 2018.
In short, New Orleans has gone from a good passing defence, who kept points off the board and a potent, well balanced offence to the familiar situation under the Brees era, whereby a leaky defence and an adequate running game, relies upon his now, 39 years old arm to get them through.
LA, formerly the St Louis Rams has provided the stepping stone for a handful of recent quarterbacks to make a noteworthy step up in performance levels with other teams. Keenum at Minnesota, Foles with Philadelphia.
Therefore, it is fitting that another passer, who looked to be failing with the Rams has also produced numbers that has not only secured his NFL future, but also established himself amongst the current passing elite.
It is a rare, regular season treat for an unbeaten 8-0 team to travel to a 6-1 team, as happens in week 9.
Jared Goff was picked first overall in the 2016 draft, took the Rams’ starting role in week 11 and failed to impress either in completion % or passing efficiency.
In 2017, he leapt into the top ten of quarterbacks, trailing established passers, such as Brady, Roethlisberger, Rivers and Sunday’s opposing number, Brees, but heading the new wave of passing talent, that includes Wentz and Winston.
Those levels have been maintained in 2018 and LA overall are second only to KC on the offensive side of the ball.
They are passing a full two yards per attempt further than the defences they have faced usually allow. The running game is also 0.3 yards per carry above par and they are translating those efficiencies into 4 more points per game than their opponents allow, on average.
Where can the match be won and lost?
There’s little to split these two potent offences, but the Rams hold an advantage on the defensive side of the ball.
LA just boast a top ten defence, mainly down to their slightly above average passing efficiencies. They allow two tenths of a yard less per attempt faced than their opponents usually achieve, on average and consequently they don’t let an opponent dominate the scoreboard.
New Orleans, by contrast are adrift amongst the NFL’s defensive also rans.
Both passing offences should dominate Sunday’s showdown, but the Rams have shown that they are the more capable of the two defensive units at slowing down the pass and despite home advantage for the Saints, the Rams are taken to shade the game by three points, with around 57 points scored in total.
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