You’d feel a lot happier taking this at -6.5 (currently 4/6 in the Alternate Handicap markets) but there’s a straightforward case for the Rams being such heavy favourites, give or take the half-point.
Firstly, this is a very tough spot for the Vikes. These two teams in neutral conditions would probably be a lot closer to a field goal, but a Thursday night road trip from Minneapolis to Los Angeles gives so little time to the Vikings to prepare for one of their toughest games of the season, even if they were in top form.
And clearly they are not.
As 16.5 point home favourites they were humiliated by a Bills team that looked like it could have a dire season for the ages prior to Week 3. Kirk Cousins fumbled twice early, digging a hole for his team, but they still had a Great Lakes-sized amount of time in which to fight back, and nothing happened.
There are injuries along the offensive line, the running game looks off-the-pace, and their defence will be without Everson Griffen for the foreseeable. They still have excellent receivers, so I wouldn’t rule out them showing some fight, but you can easily see why people like the Rams so much here, even before you look at their numbers.
And what numbers they are.
Sean MaVay’s team has one of the league’s best punters, Jonny Hekker, but they’re just so damn good at scoring he barely gets a chance to show his skills anymore.
Through three games, you can count the number of times they’ve punted on one fully intact hand (sorry JPP)! They’ve had just five punts in 180 minutes of football.
The next nearest team is KC with nine, and we’ve all seen how Pat Mahomes is finding the endzone for fun, and they’re still way behind the Rams stampede.
The key man in keeping Los Angeles’s offence on the field is running back Todd Gurley, who has 376 total yarrds and 5 touchdowns so far this season. He can play every down and is as big a receiving threat as a rusher. Jared Goff looks to be improving with each game at QB, and his new toy Brandin Cooks gives LA the speedy receiver they wanted Sammy Watkins to be last season.
They’ve barely looked troubled since half-time in Oakland in Week 1, though they will likely be without corner back Marcus Peters in this one. He’s one of the league’s top pass defenders, and his signing in the offseason from the Chiefs, along with Ndamukong Suh‘s switch from Miami, signalled that the Rams were putting all their chips on the table this season.
It’s Super Bowl or bust in LA.
Peters’ fellow CB Aqib Talib is definitely gone for the majority of the regular season at least, so there is a clear opening for Minnesota if they can protect Cousins long enough.
That’s a big if.
Handicap: LA Rams -7 – 20/23
It’s not ideal, but the quick turnaround for Minnesota after such an appalling performance on Sunday sways me towards the Rams even with a touchdown difference needed to cover. Essentially you’re betting the Rams will control this game all the way, and even if the Vikes can exploit their injury hit secondary, LA will have too much power for Cousins and co to keep pace.
First Touchdown Scorer: Todd Gurley – 7/2
He’s the most important player on the field and defines the way the Rams play. He’s led them this season in their scoring, meaning there’s little value in the Any Time market. If the Rams dominate like they should, Gurley is the likeliest goalline threat.
#WhatOddsPaddy – Los Angeles Rams to win all 4 Quarters – 10/1
This is such a horrible place for the Vikings to be going for a Thursday game. It’s possibly an overreaction to last week seeing them this unfavourably, but the 10/1 price makes it worth a shot if the Rams get on top early.
*All odds correct at time of posting