Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Friday, December 9, 2016 at 12:14 PM
In spite of a miserable season for the Rams in their first year back in Los Angeles, head coach Jeff Fisher picked up a two-year contract extension. The Rams are 4-8 on the field and only narrowly better at the betting window, with a 4-7-1 ATS showing. Fisher’s hold on an NFL coaching job is a source of some mystery to most observers, but it is worth noting that it was in this same spot last year that the Rams took off.
The 2015 edition of the Rams, then in St. Louis, were also 4-8 when they suddenly took off and won three straight games. All three were ATS winners as well, including a 23-17 win at Seattle as a (+12) underdog. The Seahawks are on this year’s December slate as well.
A cynic might say this is what Jeff Fisher excels at—getting hot after his team is long gone from playoff contention and winning enough games to create a facade of respectability in the final W-L record. That may well be true, but for NFL bettors it’s also largely irrelevant—if this Los Angeles team can do the same thing, there’s money to be made.
Jared Goff, the #1 pick in last spring’s NFL draft, is finally getting starts at quarterback. Sunday at home against Atlanta will be his fourth consecutive start. While Goff’s performance the first three games out has been poor, it is worth noting that this is an offense that ranks last in the NFL in points scored anyway. At minimum, they can’t get any worse, and if Goff shows improvement (a realistic hope for a rookie), Los Angeles could get just enough spice for the offense. Especially with a playmaker like Kenny Britt on the outside who just needs someone to get him the football.
Regardless of whether you believe in Goff, the Rams can certainly demand a lot more from Todd Gurley than they’ve gotten this season. Gurley is averaging a meager 3.2 yards-per-carry and while the offensive line isn’t great, it’s good enough for a back of Gurley’s caliber to produce.
It’s easy to excuse the running back on the grounds that all defenses can focus on him, but that ignores the fact that last season he produced 4.8 yards-per-carry and won Offensive Rookie of the Year. And last year’s Rams weren’t exactly quarterbacked by Kurt Warner. If Gurley merely spends four weeks playing like he did last year, that’s a big spark for Los Angeles.
Defensively, the Rams have one of the best players in the league—regardless of position—in defensive tackle Aaron Donald. A true wrecker of offensive fronts, Donald changes games even when he doesn’t get sacks, just by altering blocking schemes. If defensive end Robert Quinn could get himself healthy—he’s in the concussion protocol and his status for Sunday is uncertain, he and Donald can do some serious damage.
The rest of the defense is much like the offensive line—it’s not great, but on the flip side there are very spots that are really all that bad. A team with any kind of offense or one that was well-coached could win a few games with the talent on hand—or at least cover spreads, like the (+6) line they’ll benefit from Sunday against the Falcons. If you believe that now is the time when Jeff Fisher’s star shines brightest, the opportunity is there for him to do it.