Week 9 of the NFL regular season is now in the history books. The Rams are coming off a hard-fought, disappointing 21-18 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. They’re back at home this Sunday hosting the Chicago Bears, one of a series of upcoming games important to the Rams’ playoff aspirations. Will the Rams move to 5-4 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 9 Results
|Week||Wins Straight Up||Wins vs Spread||Hot Picks vs. Spread||Rams Straight Up|
|Week 9||7 6||7 6||1 2||0 1|
|Season||89 43||82 47 3||20 7||4 4|
How did I fare against the experts in Week 9? With all the upsets, it was a brutal week for most of us. My 7-6 straight up picks record was enough to remain in a tie for 8th place 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. Both Denver and Atlanta lost as big favorites. The Bengals won handily and covered the spread. Record for the week: 1-2 (20-7 overall on the season). Given the number of upsets, my ATS picks record for the week was solid, if unspectacular. Let’s hope I’m back on track picking against the spread.
2015 NFL Team Records
|NFL ATS RANKINGS|
Dubs’ Pigskin Picks – Week 10
|Home||Away||Spread||Straight Up||Vs. Spread||Score|
|NY Jets||Buffalo||NYJ 2.5||Buffalo||Buffalo||20 17|
|St. Louis||Chicago||StL 7.5||St. Louis||Chicago||23 17|
|Green Bay||Detroit||GB 13||Green Bay||Green Bay||31 17|
|Tennessee||Carolina||Car 5.5||Carolina||Carolina||28 17|
|Philadelphia||Miami||Phi 7||Philadelphia||Miami||27 24|
|Pittsburgh||Cleveland||Pit 4.5||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh||23 17|
|Tampa Bay||Dallas||TB 1||Tampa Bay||Tampa Bay||24 21|
|Washington||New Orleans||Even||New Orleans||New Orleans||27 20|
|Baltimore||Jacksonville||Bal 5.5||Baltimore||Jacksonville||24 20|
|Oakland||Minnesota||Oak 3||Oakland||Oakland||26 17|
|Denver||Kansas City||Den 5.5||Denver||Denver||27 19|
|NY Giants||New England||NE 8.5||New England||New England||31 21|
|Seattle||Arizona||Sea 3||Seattle||Arizona||21 20|
|Cincinnati||Houston||Cin 12||Cincinnati||Cincinnati||30 17|
Hot Picks Against The Spread
Denver over Kansas City – The 7-1 Broncos look to get back on track, after suffering their first loss of the season last weekend. The Chiefs are struggling and sport a 1-3 record against the spread on the road.
Cincinnati over Houston – The Bengals are at home this week to a hugely disappointing Texans team. Cincinnati is 7-0-1 against the spread this season.
Carolina over Tennessee – Have to go with the hot team in this contest. The Panthers are a perfect 3-0 against the spread on the road and will keep their undefeated regular season record intact with a big win over the Titans.
Chicago Bears @ St. Louis Rams
Keys For The Rams Vs. Chicago
- 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 8 games this season, the Rams have been outscored 50-25 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 2-2 when they don’t.
- The Rams must establish the running game, against a Chicago defense ranked 24th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (121.6) for the 2015 season. Look for Todd Gurley to have a big day against the slowly improving Bears defense.
- 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 1-3 when they’ve had more than their opponent. The Rams were flagged for 12 penalties last week in the game against the Vikings.
- Pressuring and containing QB Jay Cutler. Putting pressure on and containing Cutler is one of the bigger keys in this game. He’s ranked in the bottom third of QB’s in the NFL. RB Matt Forte will not play and WR Alshon Jeffery could also miss the game. The Rams are tied for 2nd in the league in sacks (27).
- Nick Foles will lead a conservative, ball-controlling Rams offense, against the 27th ranked Bears 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). It doesn’t matter how many times Todd Gurley gashes the opposing defense, if the Rams can’t punch it in (see the Green Bay and Minnesota games).
Prediction: Rams 23 – Chicago 17
Make no mistake, the Rams’ defense truly rocks at the Dome. They’ve gone 36 straight possessions without allowing a touchdown at home. The Bears could be without Matt Forte and Alshon Jeffery (their two most potent offensive weapons). This is a must win game for a Rams team still in the mix for a playoff berth. Todd Gurley and the defense will win this one for the Rams, although the contest will be closer than suggested by the 7.5 point spread.
Perspective On The Rams Versus Chicago
Fisher Up Front: St. Louis Rams Official Website
Dani Klupenger sits down with Jeff Fisher to discuss the signing of Wes Welker and the upcoming matchup against the Chicago Bears.
- The Bears and Rams will meet for the 90th time on Sunday, with Chicago leading the all-time series 51-35-3. Although the Rams won the prior matchup between the two teams on November 24, 2013 in St. Louis, 42-21, the Bears have won four out of the last five in the series overall, holding the Rams to under 10 points in three out of those five games.
- The Rams were defeated last week 21-18 in overtime at Minnesota, and are now just 1-4 (.250) against teams outside of their division, compared to 3-0 (1.000) against the NFC West. St. Louis was held under 200 net yards passing for the seventh straight game, the longest streak by the franchise since a seven-game streak from September 1 — October 20, 1996. In addition, St. Louis has been held under 200 net yards passing in each of its last four games against the Bears.
- The Bears were victorious in Week 9, defeating the Chargers 22-19 on Monday night with a go-ahead Jay Cutler touchdown pass with 3:19 left in the fourth quarter. Each of the Bears’ three wins this season have come via a fourth quarter comeback, tied with the Bengals for second most in the league (the Falcons lead with four). Last season, the Bears had just one fourth quarter comeback victory.
- With his two touchdown passes last week against the Chargers, Jay Cutler moved into sole possession of first place for most touchdown passes (139) in Bears’ history, entering the game tied with Sid Luckman. Furthermore, Cutler moved into sole possession of the record for most wins as a Bears’ starting quarterback (47), entering the game tied with Jim McMahon.
- Nick Foles completed just 54.5 percent of his passes in last week’s loss to the Vikings, and his 58.2 percentage on the season ranks 27th out of 32 qualifiers. However, Foles has completed 65.3 percent of his passes at home, compared to 52.1 percent on the road, and has a 94.0 passer rating at home compared to 67.6 on the road.
- Todd Gurley rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown on 24 attempts last week against the Vikings, bringing his rookie record of four straight 120+ rush yard games to an end. Gurley’s 664 rush yards through his first six career games are the most since Adrian Peterson rushed for 670 in his first six contests in 2007.
- Alshon Jeffery had 10 receptions for 151 yards on Monday night against San Diego, his second straight game with 10 or more receptions and 100 or more receiving yards, and his third straight game with 100 or more receiving yards. Jeffery became the first Bears’ receiver with 100 or more receiving yards in three straight games since Jeff Graham in 1995 — no Bears’ player has ever had 100 or more receiving yards in four straight games.
ESPN’s Nick Wagoner previews the Rams-Bears game on the Kevin Wheeler Show
Rams-Vikings Capsule: The Associated Press
CHICAGO (3-5) at ST. LOUIS (4-4)
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox
OPENING LINE — Rams by 7 1/2
RECORD VS. SPREAD — Bears 4-4, Rams 4-4
SERIES RECORD — Bears lead 52-36-3
LAST MEETING — Rams beat Bears 42-21, Nov. 24, 2013
LAST WEEK — Bears beat Chargers 22-19; Rams lost to Vikings 21-18, OT
AP PRO32 RANKING — Bears No. 21, Rams No. 15
BEARS OFFENSE — OVERALL (22), RUSH (16), PASS (21).
BEARS DEFENSE — OVERALL (9), RUSH (24), PASS (5).
RAMS OFFENSE — OVERALL (31), RUSH (4), PASS (32).
RAMS DEFENSE — OVERALL (5), RUSH (13), PASS (4).
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — Bears have won four of five in series. … Bears QB Jay Cutler has franchise-record 139 TD passes, passing Hall of Famer Sid Luckman (137) in Monday night victory. Cutler has 12 winning TD passes in fourth quarter since joining Bears in 2009, most in NFL during that span, and is 2-0 against St. Louis. … RB Matt Forte (knee) could return after missing Chargers game. Forte has 359 scrimmage yards and three TDs in three career meetings vs. Rams. Backup RB Jeremy Langford had career-high 142 scrimmage yards (72 rushing, 70 receiving) and TD last week. … WR Alshon Jeffery has three consecutive 100-yard receiving games, matching longest streak in franchise history. Jeffery has 28 catches for 414 yards and two TDs over that stretch. … LB Lamarr Houston had two sacks last week. … Rams RB Todd Gurley has 664 yards rushing, third most in first six games in NFL history. He’s first rookie in Super Bowl era to rush for 85 or more yards in his first five career starts and is averaging 131 yards rushing in last five games. … QB Nick Foles won only career start against Bears in 2013 with Eagles, going 21 for 25 for 230 yards and two TDs with no interceptions. In first season with Rams, Foles has completed just 58.2 percent of passes for seven TDs with five interceptions. … WR-PR Tavon Austin has 16 career TDs — eight receiving, five rushing, three punt returns. He’s among three players in NFL with rushing, receiving and return TD this season. … WR Kenny Britt is averaging 20.7 yards per catch, but on just 15 receptions. … Rams lead NFC with 27 sacks, five by Robert Quinn and 4 1-2 by Aaron Donald. … Fantasy Tip: Newly signed Wes Welker could make debut for Rams, who are just 4 for 37 on third down and trail rest of NFL with 23.8-percent conversion rate. He’ll likely get limited duty after just three practices, but history of reliability could open up things for Gurley, whose streak of four straight 100-yard rushing games ended against Vikings.