Week 8 of the NFL regular season is now in the history books. The Rams are coming off a 27-6 win over the San Francisco 49ers. They're on the road this Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, in a game important to the Rams' playoff aspirations. Will the Rams move to 5-3 on the season and inch towards playoff contention? Can Dubs make up some ground on the leaders in the weekly picks contest?
Dubs' Pigskin Pick'em & Rams Game Preview returns for a third season. I'll be predicting the winners (both straight up and against the spread) for all 256 regular season games. In addition, each week I'll be featuring 3 games in my "Hot Picks Against The Spread".
Pickwatch is a site devoted to tracking weekly picks results from NFL experts, analysts, and media types. This year, they're tracking 136 experts on a weekly basis. I'm competing against them again this season, and will publish the weekly results! In each of the last two seasons, I've managed to tie for first place in the overall standings. Can Dubs make it three years in a row?
Week 8 Results
|Week||Wins Straight Up||Wins vs Spread||Hot Picks vs. Spread||Rams Straight Up|
|Week 8||11 3||8 4 2||1 2||1 0|
|Season||82 37||75 41 3||19 5||4 3|
How did I fare against the experts in Week 8? My 11-3 straight up picks record was enough to move up to a tie for 7th in the overall standings, 5 behind the leader Gordon McGuinness of Pro Football Focus. My "Hot Picks Against The Spread" hit a little bump in the road this past week. Arizona won and covered the spread last week. Seattle won but did not cover the spread. The Falcons were upset by Tampa Bay. Record for the week: 1-2 (19-5 overall on the season). My ATS record rebounded with a solid week. Let's hope I'm back on track picking against the spread.
2015 NFL Team Records
|NFL ATS RANKINGS|
Dubs' Pigskin Picks - Week 9
|Home||Away||Spread||Straight Up||Vs. Spread||Score|
|Cincinnati||Cleveland||Cin 11||Cincinnati||Cincinnati||31 17|
|Minnesota||St. Louis||Min 2||St. Louis||St. Louis||20 17|
|Buffalo||Miami||Buf 3||Buffalo||Buffalo||21 17|
|New England||Washington||NE 15||New England||New England||33 17|
|New Orleans||Tennessee||NO 9||New Orleans||New Orleans||30 20|
|NY Jets||Jacksonville||NYJ 4||NY Jets||NY Jets||24 17|
|Pittsburgh||Oakland||Pit 4||Pittsburgh||Oakland||24 21|
|Carolina||Green Bay||GB 2.5||Green Bay||Green Bay||28 20|
|San Francisco||Atlanta||Atl 7.5||Atlanta||Atlanta||31 13|
|Tampa Bay||NY Giants||NYG 1||NY Giants||NY Giants||23 20|
|Indianapolis||Denver||Den 5||Denver||Denver||27 20|
|Dallas||Philadelphia||Phi 2.5||Philadelphia||Philadelphia||24 20|
|San Diego||Chicago||SD 4||San Diego||San Diego||27 17|
Hot Picks Against The Spread
Cincinnati over Cleveland - The undefeated Bengals (7-0) are 2-0-1 against the spread this season. For the Browns, Johnny Manziel gets the start in place of the injured Josh McCown. Cincinnati in a romp.
Atlanta over San Francisco - The 6-2 Falcons face a 49ers team in total disarray. The benching of Colin Kaepernick in favor of Blaine Gabbert tells us all we need to know.
Denver over Indianapolis - The Broncos bring the Number 1 defense in the NFL into this game. The undefeated Broncos (7-0) are 3-0-1 against the spread in games played on the road.
St. Louis Rams @ Minnesota Vikings
Keys For The Rams Vs. Minnesota
- The Rams must get off to a fast start in Sunday's game. In each of their 17 victories over the last 2 plus seasons, the Rams were either tied or leading at the half. In their first 7 games this season, the Rams have been outscored 40-19 in the first quarter.
- Winning the turnover battle. In 2014, the Rams were 0-6 in games with a negative turnover differential. In contrast, the Rams were 3-0 in games with a positive turnover differential and 3-4 in games with an even turnover differential. Finally, the Rams were 4-0 in games where they didn't turn over the football. Thus far in 2015, the Rams are 2-1 when they win the turnover battle and 2-2 when they don't.
- The Rams must establish the running game, against a Minnesota defense ranked 15th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (104.7) for the 2015 season. Can Todd Gurley rush for over 125 yards for the 5th consecutive week?
- Minimizing mistakes and penalties. When the Rams play disciplined football, they win games. In 2014, the Rams were 3-1 when they had a positive team penalty yards differential, and 3-9 when they had more penalty yards than their opponent. This season, the Rams are 3-1 when they've had the same or fewer penalty yards than their opponent and 1-2 when they've had more than their opponent.
- Pressuring and containing QB Teddy Bridgewater and RB Adrian Peterson. Putting pressure on and containing Bridgewater and Peterson are two of the bigger keys in this game. The Rams are tied for 2nd in the league in sacks (26) and rank 9th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (98.1).
- Nick Foles will lead a conservative, ball-controlling Rams offense. A clean, mistake-free game is all that's expected of him. He'll need to connect deep with Jared Cook, Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt to open up the Rams' running game. Better utilization of: the RB's coming out of the backfield, screens and shorter patterns all may help in reducing the pressure being put on Foles in the pocket.
- 3rd down and red zone conversions will play a big role in this game. The Rams rank close to the bottom of the league in both statistical categories (last in 3rd down conversions). It doesn't matter how many times Todd Gurley gashes the opposing defense, if the Rams can't punch it in (see Green Bay game).
Prediction: Rams 20 - Minnesota 17
The Vikings have been confounding the oddsmaker's all season. They are a perfect 3-0 against the spread at home. The Rams haven't been a great road team this season and find themselves 2 point underdogs in this game. The two teams are alike in many ways: strong defenses, powerful rushing attacks and dynamic playmaking wide receivers. This game will be a hard fought defensive struggle, with the Rams getting the win with a field goal in the dying minutes of the game. Todd Gurley and the Rams' defense rise to the occasion once again.
Perspective On The Rams Versus Minnesota
Dani Klupenger sits down with Jeff Fisher to discuss the upcoming matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.
Game Preview From New York Times/STATS:
- The Rams beat the 49ers at home last week, 27-6. St. Louis held San Francisco to just 189 total yards and a 3-for-17 mark on third downs. The Rams went just 1-for-12 on third downs themselves, the lowest percentage by any NFL team in a win this season.
- Minnesota won at Chicago last week, 23-20. The Vikings won on a 36-yard field goal by Blair Walsh as time expired, capping a comeback win after the Bears led by seven with two minutes to go. Minnesota has won three straight games by single digits for the first time since a three-game streak from September 26-October 17, 2004.
- Nick Foles completed just 14 of 23 passes for 191 yards in last week's win, but he did throw a 66-yard touchdown pass to Tavon Austin in the fourth quarter. Foles has completed fewer than 20 passes in each of the first seven games of the season, but he has completed at least one pass of 25+ yards in each game. He is the first player to start a season with such a streak since Mark Sanchez did so in his first seven games of the 2009 season.
- Teddy Bridgewater completed 17 of 30 passes for 187 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the Vikings' win over Chicago. Bridgewater has gone 8-2 at home as a starter -- his eight home wins are tied with Drew Bledsoe for the most by any quarterback before turning 23 since 1950 (Bridgewater turns 23 next Tuesday).
- Todd Gurley rushed for 133 yards last week, his fourth consecutive game with at least 120 rushing yards. Gurley is the first Ram to do so since Eric Dickerson in 1984 (six straight) and the first rookie to do so since the merger.
- Stefon Diggs had another big game last week, accounting for over half the team's receiving yards with 95. Diggs is the first player since the merger to record at least 80 receiving yards in each of his first four NFL games.
Nick Wagoner joined Kevin Wheeler to talk about the Vikings/Rams matchup, what determines the game, the Rams lack of use over the middle of the field and more.
Rams-Vikings Capsule: The Associated Press
ST. LOUIS (4-3) at MINNESOTA (5-2)
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox
OPENING LINE — Vikings by 3
RECORD VS SPREAD — Rams 4-3, Vikings 6-1
SERIES RECORD — Vikings lead 25-16-2
LAST MEETING — Vikings beat Rams 34-6, Sept. 7, 2014
LAST WEEK — Rams beat 49ers 27-6; Vikings beat Bears 23-20
AP PRO32 RANKINGS — Rams No. 10, Vikings No. 7
RAMS OFFENSE — OVERALL (30), RUSH (3), PASS (32)
RAMS DEFENSE — OVERALL (6), RUSH (9), PASS (10)
VIKINGS OFFENSE — OVERALL (29), RUSH (5), PASS (30)
VIKINGS DEFENSE — OVERALL (7), RUSH (15), PASS (9)
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES: Rams last played in Minnesota in 2006, only loss by Vikings in last five in series, and have visited just twice in last 23 seasons. ... Rams coach Jeff Fisher is 1-6 in career against Vikings. ... In only prior start against Vikings, Rams QB Nick Foles had 428 yards, three TDs and 103.5 passer rating for Eagles in 48-30 loss at Minnesota on Dec. 15, 2013. ... Rams RB Todd Gurley is first rookie in NFL history with four straight games of 125-plus yards rushing. ... Rams tied for second in league with 26 sacks, led by DE Robert Quinn with five. ... Seventh-year Rams LB James Laurinaitis plays first pro game in home state. ... Vikings have won six straight home games. ... Vikings RB Adrian Peterson has 350 yards and three TDs in three career games against Rams. ... Peterson (90.4) ranks second behind Gurley (115.0) in yards rushing per game in NFL. ... Vikings DBs have one interception, by Harrison Smith. ... Blair Walsh has made 13 straight FGs for Vikings. ... Fantasy Tip: Rams WR Tavon Austin has five TDs in last four games, coming off 98 yards receiving, second-highest total of career. Vikings WR Stefon Diggs has been targeted an average of 10 times per game, with 419 yards and two TDs receiving in four games.