A year ago, Sean McVay was making it look easy. That’s not the reality of the NFL, though, and it has been mostly downhill for the Rams coach since Super Bowl Sunday, when his offense produced only three points and the 33-year-old whiz kid took a lesson from Bill Belichick.
Two weeks ago, the Baltimore Ravens kicked McVay while he was down and buried the Rams 45-6.
After getting humiliated by the Ravens and Lamar Jackson, the Rams get a second chance against the other leading MVP candidate on Sunday night. Russell Wilson is 6-0 straight up and 5-1 against the spread on the road this season, so it might not be a stroke of genius to bet against the Seahawks, the No. 2 seed in the NFC. But I’ll do it anyway.
This is a win-or-go-home spot for the Rams. With a win, McVay stays in the playoff race. A loss would essentially be a dead end.
It’s a shot at redemption game for McVay, who’s 11-4 in division play. In a strong bounce-back performance after the Baltimore debacle, the Rams rolled to a 34-7 win at Arizona. Jared Goff passed for 424 yards and two touchdowns, Todd Gurley carried the ball 19 times for 95 yards and the Rams dominated in total yards, 549 to 198.
Of course, the Cardinals are passive birds and the Seahawks are a different animal, literally. Seattle was a 1½-point favorite when it won the first meeting 30-29 on Oct. 3. Wilson was lucky to find a way in that one.
But Wilson’s winning roll on the road should stop in Los Angeles. This time, I expect McVay to find his way to the win column. The Rams are my pick in a pick’em game.
Four more picks for Week 14:
* Bengals (plus-7) over BROWNS:
The “Red Rifle” is fired up to go out with a bang. Andy Dalton’s time in Cincinnati is running out, but the veteran quarterback displayed his resilience by leading the Bengals to their first win in 12 games this season. In windy conditions, Dalton connected on 22 of 37 passes for 243 yards and a touchdown with no turnovers in a 22-6 victory over the Jets. Somehow, Cincinnati has improved on defense, allowing 13 points per game over the past three. Meanwhile, Baker Mayfield has a banged-up throwing hand and the Browns are ready to fold a losing hand with their playoff chances slipping away. Believe it or not, the Bengals are 4-1 ATS in true road games this season, 8-1 ATS in their past nine on the road and have won four of their past five at Cleveland.
* JAGUARS (plus-3.5) over Chargers:
Jacksonville is hoping to recapture some early-season magic by benching $88 million veteran Nick Foles and recalling rookie Gardner Minshew from the bullpen. In his eight starts, Minshew went 4-4 and passed for 2,010 yards and 11 touchdowns with three interceptions. The hope is he resuscitates a lifeless team, and the Jaguars need some juice. The Chargers are as cold as a corpse in the playoff race.
If it seems Philip Rivers has the ball with two minutes to go and the Chargers trailing by one score every week, that’s close to the truth. Six of the Chargers’ 12 games have been decided by three points or fewer or in overtime. Only two of their games have been decided by more than seven points. The Chargers are 3-8-1 ATS, including 2-4 on the road. Rivers turns 38 on Sunday, but with fading arm strength and the mobility of a mannequin, he could pass for 48. Take the points because most games involving Rivers are sloppy for three quarters and wind up as down-to-the-wire thrillers.
* PATRIOTS (-3) over Chiefs:
This is a buy-low opportunity with New England, which is being written off after last week’s weak showing at Houston. Kansas City will be a public ‘dog for several reasons, one being that Patrick Mahomes is hot and Tom Brady is not. But before Belichick’s defense riddled the Rams in the Super Bowl, his defense held Mahomes scoreless in the first half of the AFC championship. This is Belichick off a loss and Brady when he’s being doubted, so it smells like the right spot for the Patriots. Under the total of 49½ also looks appealing.
* RAIDERS (plus-3) over Titans:
A brutal schedule finally took its toll on the Raiders, who were outscored 74-12 in losses to the Jets and Chiefs. Jon Gruden’s team had an empty gas tank, but a return to the “Black Hole” should help. It also will help if Derek Carr can shake off his recent slump and wake up Oakland’s offense, which might be without rookie running back Josh Jacobs. Ryan Tannehill has brought new life to the Tennessee offense. The Raiders are a risky play, yet it looks like a flat spot for the Titans, who have won three in a row.
Last week: 2-3 against the spread