Rams Vs. Saints (-3.5):
This is one of the most interesting breakdowns of a game all season because of the minds behind both of these teams. Sean McVay has gotten a ton of publicity this season as “boy wonder” due to his offensive creativity and his turn-around of the Rams in just two years. Sean Payton is also one of the smartest coaches in football that has been incredibly innovative throughout the season, and I think that is why I like the Saints in this game. I trust Sean Payton to make the smart move at basically every single turn because he has done so all year. One example is the implementation of Michael Thomas into the slot more often. Thomas is not your typical slot receiver, but he lines up there a lot. Why? It gets him in the best situation to make plays. This may be a key to this game. In their last meeting, Thomas was decent with 12 catches for 211 yards and a TD. In that game, it has been well covered that the Saints targeted Marcus Peters with Michael Thomas with a lot of success. In this game, we should see Aqib Talib take the role of covering Thomas. However, I do not expect Talib to cover Thomas when the put him in the slot. The Saints have also killed teams that cannot defend the slot, like the Browns and the Steelers, with Michael Thomas. I trust Sean Payton to put Thomas in a spot to succeed, and I think Thomas will have another monster game in a different role than he had the first time.
On the other side of the ball, the Rams’ passing game may also be in trouble. The Rams have 2 clear options and then a bunch of guys that could catch a few passes. Todd Gurley hasn’t been as useful out of the backfield as he was last season and earlier this year. I think that the Rams may try to use him more in that role than they have recently, but I don’t think he can carry the passing game. Since trading for “bust” Eli Apple, the Saints secondary has been incredible. I have heard some people rationalize this because of the chemistry that Apple now has with two former college teammates that also played in the same roles in college. I think the scheme is also a key factor. The Saints have adopted what I think is probably the best defensive coverage option in the league right now. Marshon Lattimore is used as a shutdown cornerback that they can put on whoever on any down, we even saw him get an interception in single coverage vs. Zach Ertz last week. The Saints have then used Eli Apple and Von Bell mostly to basically bracket the other top option. I think they do this to Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks on Sunday and they see less success in the receiving game than they think. Give me the Saints here in a close game that they eventually pull away in after a turnover.
Patriots (+3) Vs. Chiefs:
I will take the Patriots here because I think this line should be even. I really don’t feel comfortable picking a winner here, but I’ll take whatever side I’m getting points with. If I was choosing, I still like the Patriots to pull this one out. The biggest reason I like the Patriots is because of the stylistic matchup for each team. I think that both offenses will be able to move at will on a regular basis in this game. Now, could the Patriots drop two third and 8 passes while the Chiefs catch them or vice versa? Sure, but I think that the most common outcome is that these offenses convert at similar rates. When I think about the late game, I have to give the Patriots the advantage if I assume that this game does stay close late. I trust the Pats to get the job done down the stretch more from a personnel standpoint. Mahomes is great, but he is still more likely to make a bad decision than Tom Brady is. Any poor decision in this high octane of a game can be the difference. I also trust New England’s final driveability more than I do the Chiefs. The Chiefs “safety blanket” is clearly Travis Kelce. I think that is who the Patriots are the most focused on this week and rightfully so. Tyreek Hill is one of my favorite players in the NFL, but I would take Julian Edelman and his skill set on a final drive over Tyreek Hill. Hill is a game breaker, not a 6-receptions-in-a-single-drive receiver. They are both great, but I think the Chiefs are more likely to be stopped late than the Chiefs. Basically, no outcome in this game would surprise me besides an offense looking really bad. I think the best bet here is waiting until the pregame show hypes up the cold and betting the over late, but the Patriots are still my team in this one.