Betting Odds Analysis for Monday Night Football's 49ers vs. Rams

Jason Lake

Thursday, October 9, 2014 2:07 PM GMT

The St. Louis Rams were expected to finish last in the NFC West. But if the playoffs were held today, the San Francisco 49ers wouldn’t make it in, either. The Week 6 NFL odds still have the Rams getting more than a field goal at home.

Jason’s Record After Week 5: 19-16 ATS, 5-7-1 Totals

Profit: plus-0.1 units
 

Welcome to the NFC West, where 10 wins is not enough. It wasn’t enough for the Arizona Cardinals to get a Wild Card berth – they finished third in the division last year behind the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers. Looks like another epic three-way battle this year, and for now, it’s the Niners (3-2 SU and ATS) in third place.

The St. Louis Rams (1-3 SU and ATS) were hoping to make it a four-way. But their 2014 campaign looked like it was over before it began, after starting QB Sam Bradford tore up his knee again during the preseason. Don’t blame the quarterback, though. Austin Davis has been surprisingly good in Bradford’s absence, and the Rams were the preferred NFL pick for early bettors as 4-point home dogs on the NFL odds boad in Monday night’s matchup (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) with San Francisco.
 

How to Tell the Truth with Statistics
It was supposed to be Shaun Hill filling in for Bradford this year, but Davis was thrust into the lineup in Week 1 after Hill left the season opener against the Minnesota Vikings with a mysterious thigh injury. So far, it’s turned out pretty well for the Rams; Davis has a 96.8 passer rating, higher than Hill’s career rating of 85.2, and higher than Bradford’s 90.9 rating during his half-season in 2013.

So why does Football Outsiders have St. Louis ranked No. 25 in the NFL in passing efficiency? Suspect No. 1: the offensive line. The Rams have the league’s best run blocking, with Zac Stacy chewing up 4.2 yards on every rushing attempt and Benny Cunningham providing 4.1 yards per carry in relief. Their pass protection, on the other hand, ranks No. 25 in efficiency. Eventually, center Barrett Jones (back) will be healthy enough to return to action and shore up the interior – but will it happen this week? Maybe.

Suspect No. 2: passer rating. It’s not the most accurate QB metric by any means, but it’s usually close enough for our purposes. As it turns out, the efficiency stats agree, ranking Davis No. 13 among qualifying quarterbacks in passing DVOA at plus-5.9 percent. Bradford finished No. 14 last year with the same plus-5.9 percent. So we can let this suspect go – but see if he’s carrying any money in his car first. We need a new margarita machine.
 

Your Zero
Many of you might not be surprised that Davis has been an able replacement for Bradford. But what if we told you that he’s outperforming Colin Kaepernick? San Francisco’s starting QB has a 0.0-percent passing DVOA (No. 21 in the league), as average as average can be. And he’s not making up for it with his feet at minus-15.9 percent (No. 30). That’s well behind such legendary scramblers as Drew Brees and Derek Anderson.

Again, how can this be when Kaepernick has rushed 43 times for 205 yards (4.8 yards per carry)? Well, he did have that one fumble against the Chicago Bears (+7 away) in Week 2, when the Niners snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in a 28-20 loss. But what the DVOA numbers tell us first and foremost is that an average QB would have done even better than Kaepernick this year, given the same opportunities to carry the ball.

Our consensus reports at press time showed 58 percent of bettors supporting St. Louis as a 3.5-point puppy (–115), so it appears the sharps have sussed out some value here. Note that San Fran flipped over to 55 percent support when the line moved to +3 (+105), although there’s virtually no difference between those two lines. Shop smart, and we’ll see you later in the week with our free pick on the spread and total.

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