Week 9 of the NFL season is in the history books. Although the St. Louis Rams have missed QB Sam Bradford on the field, they've played inspired football. Since his injury, the Rams have lost to Seattle and Tennessee, yet kept both games close - and the result in doubt - until the very end of each contest. The Colts are coming off a huge comeback victory against the Houston Texans, rallying from a 21-3 half-time deficit. They will present a formidable challenge for the Rams, especially on their home field. The Rams will continue to rely on QB Kellen Clemens to guide the offense, keep the game close, and give the St. Louis an opportunity to pull off the upset.
Week 9 Results
The accompanying charts present the results of my picks for Week 8 and 9, and the season totals to-date:
|Week||Wins Straight Up||Wins vs Spread||Hot Picks vs. Spread||Rams Straight Up|
|Last Week||10 3||8 5||3 0||1 0|
|Season||80 40||72 48||18 6||4 4|
|Week||Wins Straight Up||Wins vs Spread||Hot Picks vs. Spread||Rams Straight Up|
|Last Week||10 3||10 3||3 0||1 0|
|Season||90 43||82 51||21 6||5 4|
The last two weeks were relatively easy for picking winners. The match ups were fairly straight-forward, with few games having extremely close point spreads. As the season progresses, the strengths/weaknesses of teams are more easily discernible. Week 10 promises to be a very difficult week for picking straight-up and against the spread. The match ups are intriguing, the spreads are close in many cases, and injuries are playing significant roles. This week looks to be the most challenging to-date.
How am I faring against the 93 experts Pickwatch is tracking? (link). My 10-3 record last week tied for the best among the 93 experts. Former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski remains in the lead, with 94 wins. Over the last two weeks I have gained 3 wins on him, and now stand 4 games behind in the wins column. My 90 wins is now tied for 4th in the overall standings. The chart below identifies the top 25 in the overall standings:
|Rank||Expert||Affiliation||Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4||Week 5||Week 6||Week 7||Week 8||Week 9||Wins||Losses||Win %|
|5||Andrea Hangst||Bleacher Report||10||11||12||9||9||9||10||11||9||90||43||67.67%|
|8||Matt Bowen||Bleacher Report||11||13||9||7||9||12||11||10||8||90||43||67.67%|
|11||Don Banks||Sports Illustrated||11||14||10||9||8||10||9||12||7||90||43||67.67%|
|12||Matt Miller||Bleacher Report||14||12||10||10||8||10||9||10||7||90||43||67.67%|
|17||Nate Davis||USA Today||11||14||8||8||9||11||9||11||8||89||44||66.92%|
|22||Ty Schalter||Bleacher Report||11||13||9||12||8||9||5||13||8||88||45||66.17%|
|24||Michael David Smith||PFT||12||12||10||9||8||11||8||10||8||88||45||66.17%|
|25||Zach Kruse||Bleacher Report||10||12||8||9||8||11||11||12||7||88||45||66.17%|
How did my weekly "Hot Picks Versus The Spread" fare? Kansas City, Carolina, and New England all won and covered the spread. My "hot picks" record for the week: 3-0. Overall, my "hot picks" record for the season is 21-6. My hot picks are three selections each week against the spread. The picks are determined by watching for spreads that do not seem realistic relative to other spreads in any particular week. They are the three picks I feel most strongly about in picking against the spread.
Week 10 Picks
For reference, the accompanying chart presents the straight-up, against the spread, and over/under records for all 32 NFL teams, after Week 9:
The accompanying chart presents the format [and my selections] for each game this week: home team - away team - the spread - my straight-up winner - which team covers/beats the spread - and the outcome of the game:
|Home||Away||Spread||Straight Up||Vs. Spread||Score|
|Indianapolis||St. Louis||Ind 10||Indianapolis||St. Louis||21 17|
|Minnesota||Washington||Was 1||Minnesota||Minnesota||23 20|
|Atlanta||Seattle||Sea 6||Seattle||Seattle||21 14|
|Baltimore||Cincinnati||Cin 1 1/2||Cincinnati||Baltimore||20 19|
|Chicago||Detroit||Det 2 1/2||Detroit||Detroit||24 21|
|Green Bay||Philadelphia||Pick||Green Bay||Green Bay||23 21|
|NY Giants||Oakland||NY 7 1/2||NY Giants||Oakland||21 17|
|Pittsburgh||Buffalo||Pitt 3||Pittsburgh||Buffalo||21 20|
|Tennessee||Jacksonville||Ten 11 1/2||Tennessee||Tennessee||28 10|
|San Francisco||Carolina||SF 6||San Francisco||Carolina||20 16|
|Arizona||Houston||Ari 2 1/2||Arizona||Arizona||24 21|
|San Diego||Denver||Den 7||Denver||Denver||28 17|
|New Orleans||Dallas||NO 6 1/2||New Orleans||New Orleans||28 21|
|Tampa Bay||Miami||Mia 2 1/2||Miami||Miami||20 17|
Hot Picks Versus The Spread
New Orleans over Dallas - The Saints are perfect against the spread at home this season [4-0]. They are also undefeated at home, and coming off a tough loss to the Jets. They will win this game going away, against a suddenly porous Dallas defense.
Tennessee over Jacksonville - Jacksonville is 1-7 against the spread this season. Tennessee is 5-2-1 against the spread this season. Enough said.
Seattle over Atlanta - Seattle keeps finding ways to win. Atlanta has lost 4 of their last 5 games. They are succumbing to a spate of injuries to key players.
Keys For The Rams vs. Indianapolis
- Turnovers were critical in Rams losses to Seattle and Tennessee - two interceptions vs. Seattle, and two fumbles vs. Tennessee. Protecting the ball - and forcing turnovers - will be a key to the Rams' chances versus Indianapolis.
- Minimizing penalties, especially on special teams, will allow the Rams better field position and momentum on drives. A timely punt return by Tavon Austin could be significant to the Rams ability to win this game.
- Containing and pressuring Andrew Luck will be vital to slowing down the Colts' offense, which ranks 8th in the league in points scored-per-game. Ball control will be key for the Rams, as a means of keeping Andrew Luck off the field.
- The Rams OT's will have to contain DE Robert Mathis, who leads the Colts with 11.5 sacks. Kellen Clemens will need to be patient and not force throws, as the Colts have a ball-hawking secondary.
- Establishing the run will be a key for the Rams, as the Colts' defense ranks 27th against the run. Zac Stacy will need to continue his recent success. Overall, the Colts have a classic bend-but-don't-break defense, ranking 22nd in yards allowed-per-game, yet ranking 7th in points allowed-per-game. Efficiency in the red zone will be vital if the Rams are to stay in this game and be competitive.
- Points will be hard to come by for the Rams in this game. Greg Zuerlein must be accurate on all field goal attempts if the Rams are to stay close to the Colts.
If this game was in St. Louis, I would give serious consideration to picking the Rams for the win. The Rams will keep this game close, and cover the spread, but will lose in another hard-fought battle. How tough are the Colts at home? Both Denver and Seattle walked into Lucas Oil Stadium earlier this year as undefeated teams [6-0 and 4-0 respectively]. They both walked out of that stadium with their first [and only] losses of the season thus far.
Prediction: Indianapolis 21 - Rams 17
Perspective On The Rams Versus Indianapolis
Advanced NFL Stats takes an in-depth, statistical look at the game between Indianapolis and the Rams (link).
ESPN's Mike Sando offers his "Inside Edge" on the Rams - Colts game (link).
Coach Rick Venturi details the best way for the Rams to attack the Colts:
Rams and Colts stat facts:
"Indianapolis has committed fewer penalties (31) for fewer yards (242) than any other NFL team this season. The Rams' 64 penalties are tied for fifth most in the NFL."
Andrew Luck against Houston last week:
"Andrew Luck completed a season-low 45.0 percent of his attempts against Houston (18/40), but threw three TD passes and no interceptions for the second straight game. For the season, Luck has 13 touchdown passes against just three interceptions, the second-best ratio in the league (4.33; Peyton Manning, 4.83; minimum 14 Att/Team G)."
Quotes are courtesy of the Wall Street Journal's game preview (link).
Pro Football Focus presents its 3 keys to watch for in Sunday's game (link).
Prediction and analysis from Ramblin' Fan:
"St. Louis Rams @ Indianapolis Colts. The Rams will hit the road to take on the resilient Colts. The Colts fell behind the Texans early last week but rallied to win it late, even without the services of Reggie Wayne. The Colts struggled on both offense and defense in the first half against the Texans before settling in late. If the Rams hope to win this game they will need to see the defense from their Monday Night game against Seattle as opposed to the one that showed up against the Titans. If the Rams hope to spring the upset the defense will need to pressure Andrew Luck early and often while the offense leans on Zac Stacy again. If the Rams can continue to get solid contributions from Stacy they may be able to hit on a big play and steal the victory." Colts win 24 – 21.
Jamal Collier [Bleacher Report] breaks down St. Louis' game plan against the Colts (link).
CBS Sports' Pete Prisco, Pat Kirwan, and Will Brinson share their thoughts on the Rams - Colts game (link).
Prediction from Rant Sports NFL:
"Defensively, the Rams rank 20th in the league in points allowed per game. Where the defense has struggled the most is the run game, ranking 28th and allowing 125.2 yards per game — good news for Trent Richardson. Indianapolis allows the seventh-least amount of points per game while also struggling in the run game, ranking 27th in rush yards allowed — good news for Zac Stacy."
PREDICTION: Rams 14, Colts 28
ESPN's Nick Wagoner and Mike Wells provide analysis and predictions for the game between the Colts and the Rams (link).
Nick Wagoner: The Rams have managed to hang tight in both games since losing Sam Bradford to a knee injury, but this is the first time they've had to go on the road. Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton should have big days, and though the Rams should have some success running the ball, the Colts should be able to rush the passer well enough to hold them off.
Colts 30, Rams 17
Mike Wells: The Colts lose this game only if they beat themselves. Coach Chuck Pagano won't let that happen after they learned their lesson in San Diego last month. Indianapolis will need this victory to maintain a two-game lead on Tennessee for first place in the AFC South because the Titans are playing winless Jacksonville on Sunday.
Colts 28, Rams 10