*Glass shatters* ... Announcer: "Bah gawd. THAT'S TYLER SULLIVAN'S MUSIC!"
Hello and Happy Thursday, everyone. I'm Tyler Sullivan and I cover the NFL here at CBSSports.com. Our pal Tom Fornelli couldn't make it today, so the powers that be allowed me to jump into your inboxes to say hello and talk gambling. I'm not sure why the decision-makers love having Bostonians like Pete Blackburn and me type sweet nothings about sports, gambling and everything in-between to you, but we're going to have some fun and hopefully make a little scratch in the process.
With the NFL finally getting back to its traditional schedule now that the Ravens' COVID-19 outbreak is in the rearview mirror, Thursday Night Football is back, baby! We have the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams kicking off Week 14 in what will be these clubs' first head-to-head meeting since Super Bowl LIII.
I do love it when we have a coaching matchup like the one that's on deck tonight between Bill Belichick and Sean McVay. Often, Belichick and McVay both look like Beth Harmon in "The Queen's Gambit": five moves ahead of their opponent on the other sideline. Tonight, however, it's football genius vs. football genius. Is there any better start to the weekend? Not in my book.
Let's catch up on the day's news.
- Our NBA experts ranked the top 100 players in the league
- Cadets, Midshipmen battled to play the Army vs. Navy game this weekend.
- Jalen Hurts had a great reaction to being named the Eagles starting QB for Week 14
- Yadi Molina balks at 'ridiculous' offer from Cards, more from MLB's hot stove.
- James Harden reportedly adds two teams to his preferred destinations list.
OK, now let's get this bread
All times Eastern, and all odds via William Hill Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
New England Patriots at Los Angeles Rams, 8:20 p.m. | TV: Fox/NFLN
The Pick: Rams -4.5 (-110): As dominant as New England's 45-0 thrashing over the Chargers last week was, the NFL teams in L.A. were not created equal. I think there's a little too much credit being paid to the Patriots for that win and not enough on the Chargers simply being a bad football team. Bill Belichick is going to out-scheme dreadful football teams in his sleep but he doesn't have the luxury of that on Thursday night against Sean McVay and the Rams.
While New England has found an offensive identity as a running football team, that plays right into Los Angeles' strength. Entering Week 14, the Rams defense is inside the top five in DVOA and allowing the third-fewest rushing yards per game (93.1). If Aaron Donald does what he does best and disrupts the Patriots to the point where they can't run the football effectively, New England's offense fundamentally implodes. Cam Newton, who has thrown for under 100 yards in each of his past two games, also hasn't shown the ability to win a game with his arm or even keep it close.
Key Trend: Since the start of last season, the Rams are 8-2 ATS in primetime (3-1 ATS this season).
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: SportsLine's Projection Model generated selections for Thursday's showdown between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium.
💰 More Thursday Night Football picks
The Pick: Over 44 (-110): There are a lot of trends that point to the Under hitting tonight and I'll even include a pivotal one in the Key Trend below. That said, I have a sneaking suspicion that we creep into the Over tonight. Even as both of these defenses rank among the top in the league, they are both surrendering over 20 points per contest entering this matchup. Meanwhile, the Patriots offense has been clicking as of late. Even if you exclude the two special teams touchdowns from the Chargers game in Week 13, the Patriots offense is averaging 25 points per game over the last five weeks. If they are fortunate enough to produce points from the punt return unit again, all the better.
As for the Rams, they are averaging 25.1 points per game this season, but are fresh off a 38-point showing against the Cardinals where the offense produced four touchdowns. I'm certainly zagging when all the trends say to zig, but I have a gut feeling we're looking at a 28-20-type of final score that squeaks us Over.
Key Trend: Rams Unders are 5-0 at home this season and have gone under by an average of 13.3 points per game.
The Pick: Cam Newton anytime touchdown (-120): If you're going to try and find a Cam Newton prop for tonight, it needs to be anytime touchdown. The Patriots quarterback has 11 rushing touchdowns this season -- tied for the third-most among all NFL players and only looking up to Dalvin Cook (13) and Derrick Henry (12). Whenever the Patriots get inside the 10-yard line, Newton has shown this season that he's far more likely to take it in himself than let it fly from his arm.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: SportsLine's Hank Goldberg is 11-8 in his last 19 Patriots picks against the spread. Find out which way he is leaning tonight.