Exploit Low Total with Thursday's Cardinals-Rams NFL Pick

Jason Lake

Thursday, December 11, 2014 1:41 PM GMT

Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014 1:41 PM GMT

The St. Louis Rams haven’t allowed a single point in over 128 minutes of football. The Arizona Cardinals offense is sputtering with Drew Stanton at the helm. Should we add the UNDER to our Week 15 NFL picks?

Jason’s record after Week 14: 35-48-1 ATS, 18-22-1 Totals

It seems very likely that the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams are about to engage in one of those classic grind-‘em-out, low-scoring affairs this Thursday night (8:25 p.m. ET, NFLN) at The Jones. You’ve got two of the Top 10 defenses in the league, and you’ve got a pair of back-up quarterbacks getting the start. Bettors were quick to jump on the UNDER when Thursday’s total opened at 41.5 points on the Week 15 NFL odds board. They kept hammering away as the total dropped to 40.5, then 40, and finally all the way down to 39.5 points as we go to press.

But have they taken things too far? The Rams have the OVER at 7-6 on the season and 4-2 in the friendly, climate-controlled confines of their domed stadium. And while the Cardinals (UNDER 8-4-1) have been putting some low scores on the board, the one time they’ve played in a dome this year, the Cards went OVER 45.5 points in a 29-18 road loss to the Atlanta Falcons. What’s a handicapper to do?

Air America
There’s an argument to be made for auto-betting the UNDER all the way through to the Super Bowl. Week 15 is considered the demarcation point for taking the UNDER in situations where the road team is travelling long distances to play in lousy weather, especially when the road team has nothing left to play for. That’s obviously not the case at The Jones; Arizona (10-3 SU, 9-4 ATS) is fighting for first place in the NFC West. But travel is still a burden for the Cardinals during this short week. And they’re running out of healthy bodies to ship cross-country.

That isn’t stopping CB Antonio Cromartie from making the trip. He’s been listed as a game-time decision despite a left ankle injury that was originally feared to be a torn Achilles tendon. Cromartie is officially listed as questionable; safety Tyrann Mathieu (thumb) remains out, as does RG Paul Fanaika, who suffered a sprained left ankle in the Week 13 loss to Atlanta.

Indoor Games
Losing Fanaika isn’t going to help the Cardinals find the end zone this week. The former journeyman started all 16 games for Arizona last year, and Arizona was one of three teams in the NFC West to go 11-5 ATS. Without Fanaika, the Cardinals moved Ted Larsen over to right guard and gave Jonathan Cooper his first NFL start in last week’s 17-14 win over the Kansas City Chiefs (UNDER 41.5). Stud LT Jared Veldheer is also limited by an ankle injury he picked up against the Falcons.

It’s not an ideal situation for Arizona to say the least, not with the St. Louis defense waiting in the wings. The Rams defensive line ranks second in the league in efficiency against the run and No. 11 against the pass. Thursday could be a very long night for Cardinals QB Drew Stanton (79.0 passer rating), who himself was limited in practice this week with an ankle injury. However, Stanton should at least benefit from playing indoors, where his completion percentage jumps from 48.1 to 58.3.

Which brings us back to The Jones. As convenient as it would be to ignore the location of Thursday’s matchup, it would be foolish to treat this contest as if it were any other December road game. And those back-to-back St. Louis shutouts? They were against Oakland and Washington, two teams with even worse offenses than Arizona’s. Some NFL picks are easier than others; we’re hoping to exploit Thursday’s low total by taking the OVER, while acknowledging that Stanton will be challenged to keep his indoor numbers up.

Free NFL Pick: Take the OVER at BetOnline

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