Los Angeles Rams -6½ at Baltimore Ravens, over/under 46½ points

Wagering on NFL games is betting; playing fantasy football is gambling – NFLbets says it all the time to anyone who’ll listen. For years, we’ve managed to avoid this wormhole of wasted time, thought and, worst of all, bankroll.

But this year, we fell back under the wagon. We played fantasy football.

We continued on, describing the sordid fate of our own making with short, punchy paragraphs in the style of Matthew Berry, The One-Time Talented Mr. Roto. This is how sick NFLbets has become with this stuff.

Our league was a tough one, too, comprised of 16 football historians, writers and a couple of ardent Detroit Lions fans (no kidding). Our side, The GOAT Football Team, ended up as no. 1 seed in the playoffs by combination of record and total points scored. This week, we’re in the finals against the no. 2 overall seed, one of just four teams to hand the GOATs an L this year.   

NFLbets wished some back-patting is justified here but, again, hear (read?) this: NFL betting is a skill game; fantasy football is about 90% luck.

Case in point: The GOAT Football Team. Drafting 5th overall in a traditional-style draft, i.e. un-snake, the GFT landed Austin Ekeler – no real surprise there but at no. 21, Cooper Kupp was still available. Kupp is currently tops among *all players in fantasy points* by the NFL.com scoring system. D.K. Metcalf came to us in the 3rd, and our fourth pick Leonard Fournette was, admittedly, a panic pick. We would be shocked to see Damien Harris going in the fifth round in any preseason 2021 draft, but the GOATs picked him up.

These five RB/WRs were enough to get us through most games alone (and here’s the rub) while missing a combined three games to injury and/or Covid. These guys plus the Dallas Cowboys D was good enough so as to carry a team with Mac Jones, Carson Wentz, Trevor Lawrence and, for one game, Teddy Bridgewater. That’s luck, plain and simple.

Why are we writing this? Because this is what annoying fantasy players do when they take the game far too seriously and are in the championship. Also because the concern for our team may be clouding the judgement. So we’re betting in a tricky week 17 just one Sunday game, namely

Los Angeles Rams -6½ at Baltimore Ravens, over/under 46½ points

All betting trends aside, the Rams look like a team that’s peaking at the right time. Entering the 2021 NFL season, L.A. was among the top-6 favorites in the “To Win Super Bowl” proposition bet, fetching 12/1 to 14/1 depending on sportsbook; currently, they’re fourth with most bookies at +700 to +750.

Between the NFL Draft and this first Sunday of 2022, the Rams acquired Von Miller and Odell Beckham. But whereas the newcomers appeared to result in a 1-3 SU/0-3-1 ATS jag between weeks 8 and 12, the two are now as integrated as much as they will be: Beckham has gone for four TDs in his last six games despite playing alongside GOAT Football Team MVP Cooper Kupp (sorry), while Miller bagged his first QB sack in week 15. Even Sony Michel is working out right now, at 108.0 yards per game and a pair of TDs in the past four weeks.

Looking back on the 2021 Los Angeles Rams season, we may yet marvel at not only the fair lack of injuries to key players (excepting the offensive line, which is now back to its starting five after five weeks of jiggery pokery needed due to injury/Covid) but also the timing demonstrating in adding new players and adapting to subsequent conditions. The Rams are currently on a 4-0 SU/ATS run, which might otherwise be scary vis-à-vis fading the trends, but looks far less worrisome when considering the overall season record of 8-6-1 ATS.

On the other side are the 2021 Baltimore Ravens, who will apparently play this game without their offense – I mean, Lamar Jackson – an ugly fact that has reduced the point spread on this game from as low as Rams -4 to its current -6 or -6½ points. Tyler Huntley is a perfectly serviceable starting quarterback at 1-1 SU/ATS in ’21, but with the offensive gameplan so geared to Jackson’s game, about the best Ravens backers can say for their QB situation this week is that at least Huntley got the first-team reps in practice this week.

The truth is that a mix of banged-up Jackson plus Huntley has the Ravens staggering to a 2-5 SU/3-4 ATS “run” that has them outside the playoff bubble going into week 17. Nor has Baltimore beaten a prospective playoff team since week 5 in an OT win over the Indianapolis Colts; they’re 0-4 SU/1-3 ATS against contenders. Facing a team that must win to stay ahead of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in playoff seeding, this game could well be a reason to raise the white flag and bench Jackson in week 18.

NFLbets could be saying this because we’re staring Kupp and Jefferson, but we don’t think so: Take the Rams -6½ at Baltimore.

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.

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