- In the Patriots’ 45-0 win last week, they had two return touchdowns and totaled just 291 yards of offense
Week 14 kicks off with a rematch of Super Bowl LIII, with the Patriots visiting a Rams team they beat 13-3 in the lowest-scoring Super Bowl of all time back in February 2019. The game is in Los Angeles, but New England has actually been in town longer — they stayed in California for the short week after winning against the Chargers, while the Rams beat the Cardinals in Arizona Sunday.
The Patriots have become an increasingly tough team to handicap. A run-first team with an inconsistent defense, New England can look great one week and flat the next. They thrashed the Chargers 45-0 in Week 13, but did so with the help of return touchdowns on a punt and blocked field goal. Cam Newton threw for just 69 yards, and despite the blowout the Patriots totaled only 291 yards of offense.
The Rams benefited from a defensive touchdown of their own last week, a Troy Hill interception return of Kyler Murray in the fourth quarter to seal their eventual 38-28 win. In their case, that shouldn’t mask what was a strong offensive performance, as they put up 463 total yards. They’ve been a tough team to handicap this year in their own right, as Sean McVay has done something that is often attributed to Bill Belichick — tailored his gameplans to opponents. Los Angeles has vacillated between three-WR and heavy two-TE usage depending on opponent and game situation. They’ve more frequently prioritized the run, but they’ve also surprised at times and come out throwing, like their Week 11 win in Tampa where they came out with some tempo and a clear intent to pass.
But the Rams do seem to slow things down at home, for whatever reason. All five of their home games this year have stayed below the Week 14 total of 44.5. I’m not sure how predictive that trend will prove, but anything that pushes me toward the under against the Patriots is notable. New England wants to run and slow games down at all times, and the Rams might be happy to oblige. They’ve operated at the league’s 10th-slowest pace in home games so far this year.
With the spread in no man’s land, I’m looking toward the total. And while 44.5 is low for the 2020 scoring environment, this matchup features two teams that have shown a willingness to run the ball and play deliberate football. Both offenses rank in the top 10 in success rate over the past six weeks, so there's certainly a case for some points. But the Rams have been playing high level defense as well, and Belichick did seem to have McVay's number the last time these teams met. I think we're in for a competitive but perhaps slow game, with perhaps a few more field goal tries than usual. I’m on the under.
NFL Expert Picks
Under 44.5 @ -109
NFL Free Picks
Week 14 gets underway tonight with a Thursday Night Football clash between the Patriots and the Rams. We have another chance to see Bill Belichick face off with Sean McVay. The gameweek ends with that huge divisional clash between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football that we're all waiting for! In between we have a full slate of games, with a number of divisional games and big matchups. Elsewhere we're set to see Jalen Hurts' first start for the Philadelphia Eagle who have announced him as the start this week.
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