NFL

Thursday Night Football Betting Preview: Will the Patriots Cover as Road Underdogs Versus the Rams?

A few seasons ago, these two teams squared off in the Super Bowl. And since that point, things have changed a bit -- Tom Brady has exited stage right from the New England Patriots, and while the Los Angeles Rams have a lot of the same crew, gone is Brandin Cooks and in is Jalen Ramsey.

What remains consistent for both of these teams from two season ago is their strong defenses. According to our schedule-adjusted metrics, the Rams boast the league's top defensive unit, while the Patriots have given up only 17 total points in games since Stephon Gilmore came back from injury.

Let's dive into what our model thinks could be some intriguing betting angles for this contest.

Don't Bet Against Bill

By any metric you want to look at -- and we'll use our in-house Net Expected Points (NEP) metric -- it is very obvious that Cam Newton has struggled throwing the ball. He has only five touchdown passes against nine interceptions, and his 0.05 Passing NEP per drop back is well below the league average of 0.14. It's not all on Cam, though, as the Pats have a pretty blah receiver group.

And he's gotten it done on the ground as Newton has rushed for 11 touchdowns on the season. A 45-0 drubbing last week of the Los Angeles Chargers highlights the conundrum that is the Pats -- the special teams scored two touchdowns, and Newton piled up less than 85 passing yards for the second consecutive week.

After a rough 2019 campaign in which he tossed only 22 touchdowns, Jared Goff has bounced back with 17 scores this season to go with a roughly league-average Passing NEP per drop back, and a 53.7% Passing Success Rate -- which is the percentage of his drop back that result in an NEP gain.

It will also be interesting to see how the running back play sorts out for LA. Rookie Cam Akers may finally have become the clear lead back after logging a season-high 21 carries a week ago while playing a season-high 63% of the snaps.

A short week is normally a recipe for disaster for road teams. But this is no ordinary head coach, and the Patriots stayed in southern California this week instead of traveling back to New England. While the Rams are 8-4 in 2020, they have notably struggled against some of the better defenses they've played, scoring only 17 points against the New York Giants, 16 points against the San Francisco 49ers, and 17 points against Miami Dolphins.

The Rams are 4.5-point favorites at FanDuel Sportsbook, and the total is at 43.5 points -- and trending down. Per oddsFire, the betting public likes LA to cover as 61% of the bets and 60% of the money is taking the Rams.

Bets to Consider

Our algorithm loves the Rams -- we have them getting the win approximately 64.20% of the time. We project LA to win 24.73-20.51.

When it comes to the spread, however, despite public money pouring in to support LA, we lean toward New England. We hand the Pats a 52.42% chance to cover the 4.5-point spread. We also think the over has a narrow edge, forecasting it to hit 55.68% of the time.

As far as props, Jared Goff's passing yards prop feels a little bit light. Our model has Goff passing for about 271.2 yards, and his passing yards prop at FanDuel Sportsbook is at only 258.5, with even -110 odds on both sides. Goff has topped 300 passing yards in four of his last five contests.

Another potential in-game parlay to consider is Cam Akers to score a touchdown (+135) and the Rams to win. The rookie has rushed for a combined 156 yards and two scores in his last two games.

Historical Betting Trends

-- These teams are somewhat similar from an against-the-spread (ATS) perspective in 2020. New England is 6-6 ATS, and the Rams are 7-5.

-- Belichick has been downright masterful in this situation in the past. Over the Pats' last 11 games on Thursday Night Football, New England is 10-1 straight up.

-- Historically this series has been dominated by New England as they are 6-0 straight up and 5-1 ATS in their last six meetings versus the Rams.

-- It may be a boring bet, but don't sleep on the under, which has hit in seven of the Rams' last nine games.