Week 16 of the NFL regular season is now in the history books. The Rams are coming off back-to-back-to-back wins after upsetting the Seahawks in Seattle. The Rams are staying and practising in California for the season finale against the San Francisco 49ers. Can the Rams finish the season with a .500 record, a 4-game winning streak and a 5-1 record in the NFC West? Can Dubs catch the leader in season finale of 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 134 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 16 Results
|Week||Wins Straight Up||Wins vs Spread||Hot Picks vs. Spread||Rams Straight Up|
|Week 16||9 7||7 9||1 2||0 1|
|Season Record||159 81||151 85 4||33 14 1||8 7|
How did I fare against the experts in Week 16? Week 16 was full of difficult games to choose a winner from. On top of that, there were many upsets. My 9-7 record straight up was enough to stay in a tie for 2nd place in the overall standings, three wins behind the leader Josh Katzowitz of Forbes. My 7-9 record against the spread was an adequate result in a difficult week. My Hot Picks Against The Spread? Carolina and Kansas City both won but didn't cover the spread. The Rams won and covered the spread against the Seattle Seahawks. Record for the week: 1-2. The target every year is to have a winning percentage of 70% in picking straight up and 60% against the spread.
2015 NFL Team Records
|NFL ATS RANKINGS|
Dubs' Pigskin Picks - Week 17
|Home||Away||Spread||Straight Up||Vs. Spread||Score|
|San Francisco||St. Louis||StL 3||St. Louis||St. Louis||24 16|
|Atlanta||New Orleans||Atl 4||Atlanta||Atlanta||27 21|
|Buffalo||NY Jets||NYJ 3||NY Jets||NY Jets||21 17|
|Cincinnati||Baltimore||Cin 7.5||Cincinnati||Cincinnati||31 20|
|Cleveland||Pittsburgh||Pit 11||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh||31 14|
|Dallas||Washington||Dal 3.5||Washington||Washington||21 20|
|Indianapolis||Tennessee||Ind 6||Indianapolis||Indianapolis||27 20|
|Miami||New England||NE 11.5||New England||Miami||27 17|
|NY Giants||Philadelphia||NYG 3||NY Giants||NY Giants||20 16|
|Houston||Jacksonville||Hou 7||Houston||Houston||28 20|
|Denver||San Diego||Den 10||Denver||Denver||21 10|
|Kansas City||Oakland||KC 7.5||Kansas City||Kansas City||24 14|
|Arizona||Seattle||Ari 7||Arizona||Seattle||23 20|
|Carolina||Tampa Bay||Car 11.5||Carolina||Carolina||30 10|
|Green Bay||Minnesota||GB 3||Green Bay||Green Bay||20 16|
Hot Picks Against The Spread
Kansas City over Oakland: The Chiefs have won 9 games in a row and are battling for the AFC West title. A win over Oakland is a must for them to have any chance to overtake Denver.
Carolina over Tampa Bay: So much for resting their starters this week. Instead, the Panthers will be fighting for the Number 1 seed in the NFC. The Panthers clinch the No. 1 seed and home field advantage with a victory over Tampa Bay. If Carolina slips up again, Arizona could win home-field advantage by beating the Seahawks.
St. Louis Rams @ San Francisco 49ers
Keys For The Rams Vs. San Francisco
- The Rams must get off to a fast start in Sunday's game. In each of their 20 victories over the last 2 plus seasons, the Rams were either tied or leading at the half. In their first 15 games this season, the Rams have been outscored 77-66 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 4-2 when they win the turnover battle and 3-6 when they don't.
- The Rams must establish the running game, against a Seattle defense ranked 28th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (125.8) for the 2015 season. Can Pro Bowler Todd Gurley duplicate his Week 8 performance against the Niners, where he rushed for 133 yards and a touchdown?
- 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 5-2 when they've had the same or fewer penalty yards than their opponent and 2-6 when they've had more than their opponent.
- Pressuring and containing QB Blaine Gabbert. Putting pressure on and containing Gabbert is one of the bigger keys in this game. He's played more than adequately as Colin Kaepernick's replacement. The Rams' defense (particularly the DL) must replicate last weeks effort against Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks.
- Case Keenum once again gets the start for the Rams. Keenum was very efficient in last weeks win over the Seahawks. He will lead a conservative, ball-controlling Rams offense, against the 19th ranked San Francisco 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 Keenum in the pocket.
- 3rd down and red zone conversions will play a big role in this game. The Rams still rank close to the bottom of the league in both statistical categories (last in 3rd down conversions).
Prediction: Rams 24 - San Francisco 16
The Rams are in the midst of a three game winning streak. Particularly impressive was the victory in Seattle last weekend. The Rams are 4-1 in the division heading into Week 17 and no doubt want to end the season with a .500 record (let alone the minimum of a tie for the best record in the division). I suspect the 49ers will be mailing in this one and are already looking ahead to a long, difficult offseason.
Perspective On The Rams Versus San Francisco
Jeff Fisher Press Conference January 1: St. Louis Rams Official Website
Head coach Jeff Fisher talks about the work that has been accomplished this week and what it would mean to finish with four straight victories.
Jeff Fisher Press Conference December 31: St. Louis Rams Official Website
Head coach Jeff Fisher talks about the 49ers game plan and the status of running back Todd Gurley.
- The St. Louis Rams went into Seattle last week and upset the Seahawks, 23-17, for their third consecutive victory. The Rams have not won four in a row since they had a seven-game streak in 2003.
- The San Francisco 49ers lost at Detroit in Week 16, 32-17, for their third consecutive defeat. The Niners need a win on Sunday to avoid dropping to 4-12, which would be their worst record since having the same mark in 2005.
- The Rams have won the last two games in the series, including a 27-6 blowout at St. Louis last November 1; it is the first time that they have beaten the Niners in back-to-back games since 2004. Since 2005, San Francisco leads the series, 14-6-1.
- In the four division games in which he has played, Todd Gurley has rushed for 405 yards and has averaged 6.0 yards per carry; he has had 10 rushes of 10-plus yards in those four contests.
- Gurley (10) and Tavon Austin (9) have scored 19 of the Rams' 26 scrimmage touchdowns this season; that 73.1 percent is the highest for any pair of teammates this season.
- Anquan Boldin pulled down five receptions a week ago, giving him 1004 for his career. He is the thirteenth player to collect 1000 catches, and the fifth fastest to do so (185 games, trailing Marvin Harrison, Andre Johnson, Jerry Rice and Larry Fitzgerald).
ESPN's Kevin Siefert and Nick Wagoner talk about Sunday's game and what an 8-8 record means for the Rams.
Associated Press Capsule
ST. LOUIS (7-8) at SAN FRANCISCO (4-11)
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS
OPENING LINE — Rams by 3 1/2
RECORD VS SPREAD — Rams 7-8, 49ers 6-9
SERIES RECORD — 49ers lead 65-64-3
LAST MEETING — Rams beat 49ers 27-6, Nov. 1, 2015
LAST WEEK — Rams beat Seahawks 23-17; 49ers lost to Lions 32-17
AP PRO32 RANKING — Rams No. 16, 49ers No. 31
RAMS OFFENSE — OVERALL (32), RUSH (8), PASS (32)
RAMS DEFENSE — OVERALL (21), RUSH (20), PASS (21)
49ERS OFFENSE — OVERALL (31), RUSH (21), PASS (30)
49ERS DEFENSE — OVERALL (28T), RUSH (28), PASS (25)
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — Rams seek first three-game winning streak in series since six-gamer in 1999-2001. ... Rams spent week practicing in California's wine country after last week's game in Seattle. ... St. Louis seeks first four-game winning streak since seven-gamer in 2003. ... Win would end streak of eight straight losing seasons for Rams. ... St. Louis QB Case Keenum has thrown for 597 yards in four starts and has only one interception. ... Rams rookie RB Todd Gurley has one 100-yard game in last eight after doing it in each of first four starts. ... Rams DT Aaron Donald's 11 sacks tied for most at position. ... Loss would leave Niners with worst record since going 4-12 in 2005. ... San Francisco's nine losses by double digits are tied for second most in franchise history, behind 10 in 2004. ... 49ers QB Blaine Gabbert had two TD passes and no INTs last week for second time in 34 career starts. ... Niners are third in NFL allowing 17 points per game at home. They rank 31st with 31.5 points per game given up on road. ... 49ers WR Anquan Boldin's six career 100-yard receiving games vs. Rams are his most against any opponent. ... San Francisco TE Vance McDonald has TD catch in three of past five games. ... Fantasy Tip: RB DuJuan Harris, with his fifth team this season, had 11 carries for 73 yards in his San Francisco debut last week.