Week 12 of the NFL regular season is now in the history books. The Rams are coming off a humiliating 31-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. This weekend the Rams are back at home to face the Arizona Cardinals, a bitter divisional rival and a team the Rams defeated 24-22 in Week 4. Can the Rams once again pull off the upset and keep their slim mathematical playoff hopes alive? 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 12 Results
|Week||Wins Straight Up||Wins vs Spread||Hot Picks vs. Spread||Rams Straight Up|
|Week 12||11 5||11 5||2 1||1 0|
|Season Record||113 63||109 63 4||25 10 1||5 6|
How did I fare against the experts in Week 12? A sense of normalcy returned to the NFL in Week 12, as most of the favorites won. My 11-5 straight up picks record was enough to move up two spots into a tie for 6th place in the overall standings, 5 behind the leaders Josh Katzowitz of Forbes and Gordon McGuiness of Pro Football Focus. My "Hot Picks Against The Spread" for the week? Both Carolina and Chicago covered the spread. The Cardinals won but didn't cover the 11.5 point spread against the 49ers. Record for the week: 2-1 (25-10-1 overall on the season). It was a very good week picking against the spread (11-5). My overall record picking ATS is in the top 5% among all prognosticator's.
2015 NFL Team Records
|NFL ATS RANKINGS|
Dubs' Pigskin Picks - Week 13
|Home||Away||Spread||Straight Up||Vs. Spread||Score|
|Detroit||Green Bay||GB 2.5||Green Bay||Green Bay||24 21|
|St. Louis||Arizona||Ari 7||Arizona||St. Louis||20 14|
|Buffalo||Houston||Buf 3||Houston||Houston||21 20|
|Chicago||San Francisco||Chi 8.5||Chicago||San Francisco||24 20|
|Cleveland||Cincinnati||Cin 10.5||Cincinnati||Cincinnati||31 14|
|Tennessee||Jacksonville||Ten 2.5||Tennessee||Tennessee||21 17|
|Miami||Baltimore||Mia 3.5||Miami||Miami||21 16|
|NY Giants||NY Jets||NYJ 1||NY Jets||NY Jets||23 20|
|Tampa Bay||Atlanta||Even||Tampa Bay||Tampa Bay||21 20|
|Oakland||Kansas City||KC 2.5||Kansas City||Kansas City||26 20|
|San Diego||Denver||Den 3.5||Denver||Denver||28 13|
|New England||Philadelphia||NE 11||New England||New England||31 17|
|New Orleans||Carolina||Car 7.5||Carolina||Carolina||31 17|
|Pittsburgh||Indianapolis||Pit 7||Pittsburgh||Indianapolis||27 21|
|Washington||Dallas||Was 4.5||Washington||Washington||27 20|
Hot Picks Against The Spread
Cincinnati over Cleveland - The Bengals are a perfect 5-0 against the spread in road games this season. The Browns start Austin Davis in place of the injured Josh McCown.
Denver over San Diego - The Broncos are one of the better teams in the league against the spread this season. Brock Osweiler has filled in admirably for the injured Peyton Manning. The 3.5 point spread is at least 3 points too low and doesn't properly reflect the relative strengths of the two teams.
Carolina over New Orleans - The Panthers (11-0) are a perfect 5-0 against the spread in road games this season (tied with the Bengals for best in the league). They face a Saints team riding a three-game losing streak.
Arizona Cardinals @ St. Louis Rams
Keys For The Rams Vs. Arizona
- 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 11 games this season, the Rams have been outscored 67-42 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 2-2 when they win the turnover battle and 2-5 when they don't.
- The Rams must establish the running game, against an Arizona defense ranked 4th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (91.1) for the 2015 season. Can Todd Gurley get back on track and rush for 100+ yards?
- 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 1-6 when they've had more than their opponent.
- Pressuring and containing QB Carson Palmer. Putting pressure on and containing Palmer is one of the bigger keys in this game. The Cards' offense is averaging 32.3 points per game to lead the NFL. With injuries to RB's Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson, Arizona will be looking to their passing offense to lead the way.
- Nick Foles once again takes over for the injured Case Keenum. He will lead a conservative, ball-controlling Rams offense, against the 10th ranked Cardinals defense. 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). Can Foles duplicate his performance of Week 4?
In the win @ Arizona in Week 4, Foles was 16/24 for 171 yards with 3 TDs. Good for a 126.9 rating—his highest of the season.— Myles Simmons (@MylesASimmons) December 3, 2015
Prediction: Arizona 20 - Rams 14
This is a much different Rams team than the one that defeated the Cardinals 24-22 in Week 4. The Rams' defense is banged up and appears to be tiring as the season wears on. The offensive line is in shambles (mostly due to injuries) and the quarterback position is now a huge question mark. This game will be a defensive struggle and will be closer than suggested by the 7 point spread. Arizona is coming into this game red hot and in the midst of a 5 game winning streak. The Cardinals prevail in a close one.
Perspective On The Rams Versus Arizona
Fisher Up Front: Arizona Cardinals: St. Louis Rams Official Website
Rams reporter Dani Klupenger sits down with coach Jeff Fisher to discuss this week's upcoming matchup against division rival Arizona Cardinals.
Cardinals-Rams Preview: New York Times/STATS
- Arizona won its fifth straight game Sunday, 19-13 at San Francisco. The Cardinals are 9-2 through 11 games for a second straight year, and 9-2 or better through 11 for just the fifth time in franchise history. Their record includes a 5-1 road mark, their second-most road wins in any season since 1980 (6-2 in 2009).
- The Rams fell, 31-7, in Cincinnati last week, their fourth straight loss after opening the season 4-3. St. Louis has scored less than 20 points in all seven losses this season (11.0 ppg), and 24 or more in all four wins (27.3 ppg).
- St. Louis earned a 24-22 road win over the Cardinals in Week 4, and is unbeaten within the NFC West this season (3-0, versus 1-7 outside the division). The win broke a three-game win streak in the series by Arizona. The Cardinals hold a slim lead in the all-time series, 36-35-2.
- Carson Palmer failed to throw a touchdown pass in last week's win over the 49ers, after throwing at least three in each of his previous three games (11 total). For the season, his 27 passing touchdowns are just three shy of Kurt Warner's franchise record of 30 set in 2008.
- Todd Gurley had nine carries for 19 yards last week against the Bengals, both his fewest in eight starts this season. Gurley topped 100 rushing yards in each of his first four starts (141.5 ypg), but has not done so in four games since (54.8 ypg).
- Arizona leads the NFL with 32.3 points per game, while the Rams rank next-to-last with 16.9 per contest (49ers, 13.8). The Cardinals have led the NFL in scoring in a season just once previously, in 1948 (32.9 ppg).
ESPN's Nick Wagoner talks about the Rams' chances against the Cardinals on Sunday.
St. Louis Rams-Arizona Cardinals Capsule: Associated Press
ARIZONA (9-2) at ST. LOUIS (4-7)
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox
OPENING LINE — Cardinals by 6
RECORD VS. SPREAD — Cardinals 6-5, Rams 4-7
SERIES RECORD — Tied 36-36-2
LAST MEETING — Rams beat Cardinals 24-22, Oct. 4, 2015
LAST WEEK — Cardinals beat 49ers 19-13, Rams lost to Bengals 31-7
AP PRO32 RANKING — Cardinals No. 3, Rams No. 23
CARDINALS OFFENSE — OVERALL (1), RUSH (12), PASS (4).
CARDINALS DEFENSE — OVERALL (5), RUSH (4), PASS (10).
RAMS OFFENSE — OVERALL (31), RUSH (7), PASS (32).
RAMS DEFENSE — OVERALL (13), RUSH (21), PASS (8).
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — Cardinals have won six of seven since losing at home to Rams in Week 4 and have five-game winning streak. They've won nine of their first 11 in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history and lead the NFC West by three games. ... Rams have lost four straight after entering November with a winning record for the first time since 2006, but are 3-0 vs. NFC West with home victories over Seahawks and 49ers. ... Cardinals S Tyrann Mathieu had a career-high 13 tackles last week and in four games vs. NFC West opponents has four interceptions, one returned for TD, eight passes defensed and a forced fumble. ... QB Carson Palmer is second in NFL in TD passes (27) and passer rating (105.9), trailing only the Patriots' Tom Brady in both categories. ... WR Larry Fitzgerald has 16 TD receptions against Rams, most among active players in NFL against single team in regular season, and needs 8 yards receiving for seventh 1,000-yard season of career. ... Rams have averaged 10 points the last three games of the four-game skid. ... RB Todd Gurley had 146 yards rushing against Cardinals in first career start, but held to 19 yards on nine attempts last week. ... WR Tavon Austin had two TD receptions against Cardinals in October. ... Fantasy Tip: Palmer has led game-deciding scoring drives in each of the last three games. He's three TD passes shy of the franchise record set by Kurt Warner in 2008.