Jared Goff won’t play for Rams on Sunday and that’s worth 5 points because…?

Saturday, 02 January 2021 16:44 EST

Since the 2020 NFL season’s start, most fans and bettors have figured that the Arizona Cardinals-Los Angeles Rams game in week 17 would be crucial for both teams and the entire NFC playoffs – just how crucial was certainly bargained on by few. And so the current line of...

Arizona Cardinals -3 at Los Angeles Rams, over/under 40½ points

…would make sense from nearly any vantage point during this season. Except that the line opened at Arizona +1½, despite the suspicion that the thumb injury taken by QB Jared Goff in the Rams’ week 16 game would keep him out for this one. Once the injury was confirmed – and Blake Bortles(!) brought back in from the Denver Broncos practice squad – this line rapidly flipped and then widened to as much as Cardinals -3½ at some sportsbooks.

So in the minds of most NFL bettors, Goff’s absence (plus other Rams offensive starters) is worth 4½ to 5 points?

Utter nonsense, NFLbets would suggest.

The truth is that when Troy Freakin’ Aikman, who wouldn't call out a fellow quarterback if he was caught in flagrante with Mrs. Aikman, is calling you out on a Fox Sports broadcast, you’re having a brutal season – and whoa, has Goff been terrible. At least two losses (at San Francisco, vs Seattle), either of which would likely have already clinched a playoff spot for his team, can be pinned directly on his poor play. As leader of the Rams offense, Goff has gone from leading an NFC-winning offense capable of going for 48 points against the Kansas City Chiefs to a team that can’t manage a touchdown against the 2020 New York Jets.

As mundane as Goff’s stats appear and as awful as he’s looked, a deeper dive into the stats reveals with profound depth literally just how useless he is in most game situations. His QBR is dead last in pressure situations at under 30.0, as his miniscule 4.5 yards per scramble. With a 19.6% completion rate under pressure, Goff’s on a par with Mitchell Trubisky and Teddy Bridgewater, both of whom might miss the playoffs altogether. No disproportionate share of blame is due the OL, either: at 23 sacks, Goff’s taken half as much abuse as, likesay, Russell Wilson (sacked 45 times) or DeShaun Watson (ditto).

Granted, this week’s Rams offense will be slightly makeshift for first-time starter John Wolford. Dominant WR Cooper Kupp is currently listed on the reserve/Covid list and will likely be out. RB Cam Akers is definitely out; Malcolm Brown may not play and instead the Rams may be depending on rookie Xavier Jones in the backfield. LT Andrew Whitworth is also out again this week.

But you know what? This team has been about defense first, second and third since Aaron Donald’s name hist the roster. The Rams D has been a force in 2020, going top-3 statistically in points allowed, passing yards allowed, passing TDs allowed, rushing yards allowed, rushing yards per attempt and opponents time of possession.

In the Rams’ last five *losses*, the L.A. D has allowed just 17.2 points per game while the offense has managed just 16.4 in those games. Considering that just one offense has averaged under 16 points in 2020 – whose else but the New York Jets’, at 15.3 ppg – Wolford has a pretty low bar, needing to show little more than competence as his defense can carry this game alone, particularly against Kyler Murray’s stumbling and inconsistent Cardinals offense. Not only does the 38-28 win at Arizona in week 13 represent the last 400-yard game for Rams offense, it’s also the last occasion on which the defense generated more than 1 turnover.

So call it addition by subtraction, call it rallying around the new guy, call it whatever you like; NFLbets believes that Goff to just about any current starting quarterback in the NFL is an improvement from Jared Goff. (Well, OK, maybe not Bortles.) Take the Los Angeles Rams +3 vs Arizona and take the under on an O/U of 40½ points.

--written by Os Davis