The 6-6 Patriots are out west to take on the 8-4 Rams in this Thursday Night Football showdown.  This will be the first meeting between these two franchises since Super Bowl LIII where Tom Brady got his sixth ring in a 13-3 win.  Cam Newton is now leading the Pats offense, and they will be facing a tough Rams defense led by Aaron Donald.  Should be a fun one.

Week 14 Prime Time Picks: Patriots (+205) vs Rams (-5) O/U 44.5 – All lines via DraftKings

Prime Time Picks: 14-14-1

Playoff Hopes

A few weeks ago, the Patriots stood at 2-5 and didn’t really know what to think of their playoff chances, or if they even had a shot at the postseason.  But after winning four out of their last five games, with back-to-back wins against the Cardinals and Chargers, they have reached the .500 mark, and just might be poised for a late-season playoff push.  With the 7-5 Raiders and 7-5 Ravens still ahead of the Patriots in the AFC playoff picture, a lot would have to happen to help New England out, but a win against the Rams tonight is crucial if they want to stay alive.  On the other side, the Rams are 8-4 and currently hold the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoff picture.  They currently lead the highly competitive NFC West, and have won three out of four.  With both teams really needing a win to help their playoff outlook, this should be a very competitive game.

Patriots Offense With Cam at the Helm

The Patriots are going to run the ball.  It’s what they do best.  New England is averaging 150.9 yards per game on the ground, which is third in the league.  QB Cam Newton has not exactly been great throwing the ball, as he has more interceptions (9) than touchdowns (5), but he is a dangerous threat on the ground.  He has 435 rushing yards this season, along with 11 rushing touchdowns, the most among QB’s, and third-most in the league overall.  New England’s backfield has dealt with some injuries this season, but Damien Harris (126 carries, 641 yards, 5.1 YPC, 2 TD’s), Sony Michel (36 carries, 208 yards, TD) and James White (88 rushing yards, 267 receiving yards, 2 TD) should all be good to go.  However, Rex Burkhead will be out, as he suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 11 against the Texans.  All in all though, the Patriots backfield should be ready to roll with Newton, Harris, Michel, and White.  Going 4-1 over their last five games, Newton has only passed for over 300 yards once, and that was the game they lost to the Texans 27-20.  He has been taking care of the ball, as during those five games, the Pats have turned the ball over just twice.  The Patriots will be adamant about getting their ground game going, and the Rams defense poses a tough challenge.

Rams Strong Defense

As good as the Patriots are running the ball, the Rams defense is just as good at stopping the run.  Their defense ranks second in the NFL in total yards allowed (291.3 per game), leads in yards per play (4.62), and is third-best against the run (93.1 yards per game).  The Rams are also tied for third in the league with 36 sacks, and 2nd in 3rd down percentage, with opponents converting just 35.3% of third downs against LA.  It is truly going to be a matchup of strength vs strength.  The Rams are allowing 20.3 points per game (5th in the league), however, they have struggled a bit against mobile quarterbacks.  Kyler Murray and the Cardinals put up 28 points against them, and Josh Allen and the Bills put up 35.  It will be interesting to see what their game plan is in regard to containing Cam Newton and the Patriots rushing attack.

Rams Offense Needs Some Consistency

The Rams have a solid offensive unit, but they have been somewhat inconsistent.  The Rams have the 7th-most giveaways in the NFL, as they have given the ball away 20 times.  QB Jared Goff has 17 TD’s and 10 INT’s on the season, but he has lost four fumbles and has thrown six interceptions in his last five games.  The Rams running game can struggle to get going, so Goff has often been asked to throw a lot. In fact, the Rams have had just one game with a 100-yard rusher this season, and that was all the way back in Week 3 with Darrell Henderson Jr.  The Rams running game is used to set up the play-action pass, as they use play-action 33% of the time (3rd-most). They did run the ball 31 times last week, so even if the running game isn’t able to have extraordinary success, I don’t see them abandoning it. The Patriots defense has the second-highest interception rate at 3.79 percent, and have 14 picks on the season, which is 3rd-most.  They have been playing very well as of late, so there might be some opportunities for them to force some turnovers.  

PREDICTION

I think the Patriots are clicking at the right time.  Bill Belichick has his team playing well in all three phases of the game, and defense and special teams really stood out on Sunday against the Chargers.  Devin McCourty returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown, and Gunner Olszewski returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown.  I think the Patriots have the advantage in the special teams department, and that could be huge in what figures to be a very competitive and hard-fought game.  The Rams are on their third kicker of the year, and have struggled in the kicking game all season, while Nick Folk has missed just two field goals all season.  Bill Belichick takes pride in his special teams unit, and is a master at exploiting an opponents weaknesses.  That could be shown in the special teams game.  I also think Cam Newton’s mobility, as well as the Patriots rushing attack as a whole will be able to give the Rams problems on defense.  Newton seems more and more comfortable in the offense as the season goes on, and his experience is paying off at the right time.  New England’s run-heavy offense should keep the clock moving, and could very well give them an advantage in time of possession and control of the clock.  The Patriots defense has also picked it up as of late, and I think they will be able to make some big plays against a Rams offense that can be inconsistent.  New England was able to hold both Kyler Murray and Justin Herbert to zero touchdown passes in their last two games, and I think they will have a solid game plan for Jared Goff as well.  The Patriots just won 45-0 on this same field on Sunday, and they have stayed out west in-between games.  So not only will they will be comfortable with the surroundings, but by staying in LA, that could help mitigate some of the usual problems that arise on a short week.  I think we see a low-scoring, competitive, and hard-fought game that comes down to the final minutes.  In that scenario, I like the Patriots +5. I like the Under as well, given the fact that the Pats will run and keep the clock moving, and I don’t think the Rams will abandon the run by any means. The Rams defense has also been solid at home. They are giving up just 15 points per game at home this season, so I think we will see a low-scoring game tonight out in LA.

Patriots +5 and Under 44.5

@stadium_times

Title Photo: Getty Images

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