NFL Picks: Rams vs. Panthers

Jason Lake

Thursday, October 17, 2013 1:14 PM GMT

The St. Louis Rams may have a better record than the Carolina Panthers, but the Week 7 NFL lines opened with Carolina laying a touchdown a home.

Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013, up to October 16 inclusive:

16-15-1 ATS

1-1 ML (+0.71 units)

3-5 Totals

Inconsistency is built right into the game of football. You’ve got a ball that’s shaped more like a shrimp dumpling, you’ve got a 16-game regular season, and you’ve got so many players getting hurt, they might as well stop sewing last names onto the uniforms. You just have to deal with these things when you bet on the NFL.

Which brings us to Sunday’s matchup (1:00 p.m. ET, FOX) between the St. Louis Rams and the Carolina Panthers. The Rams have won and covered back-to-back games after starting the 2013 season at 1-3 SU and 0-4 ATS. The Panthers were 1-3 SU and ATS before beating the Minnesota Vikings 35-10 last week as 2.5-point road dogs. Marvelous. So who’s gonna be our NFL pick in this game? The NFL betting consensus reports show the betting public split roughly down the middle with the Panthers laying up to a touchdown at Bank of America Stadium. 

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Strength in Numbers 

As always, we need to look past those records and focus on the performance level of the two teams in question. And it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the Rams are way behind in this respect. Football Outsiders has St. Louis ranked No. 26 in overall efficiency through Week 6 (No. 23 offense, No. 22 defense, No. 7 special teams), while Carolina checks in at No. 8 (No. 13 offense, No. 3 defense, No. 22 special teams). 

Strength of schedule has a lot to do with the difference here. Carolina only ranks No. 25 in this department, but St. Louis has had it even easier at No. 30. Those back-to-back victories were over the Jacksonville Jaguars (+11 away) and the slumping Houston Texans (–9.5 at home). The Jags and the Texans each gained more yards than the Rams, but turned the ball over a combined seven times to zero for St. Louis. That’s the way the dumpling bounces. 

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Zac Attack

These numbers don’t mean that St. Louis isn’t improving. The big development over the past two weeks is at tailback, where Zac Stacy was elevated to the starting lineup and responded with 4.9 yards per carry, a significant improvement over Daryl Richardson (2.9 yards per carry). Stacy’s contributions have opened up the offense for QB Sam Bradford, who enjoyed his two best games of the season versus Jacksonville (105.3 passer rating) and Houston (134.6 passer rating). 

Again, though, we’re talking about the Jags and Texans here. And while Stacy has been a godsend thus far, he’s also been hurt a fair amount already, and sat out Wednesday’s practice with a chest injury. He’s expected to suit up Sunday regardless. We’ll see how Stacy and Bradford deal with Carolina’s superior defense after waltzing through the past couple of games.

Follow our continuing football betting coverage with Daily NFL Week 7 Betting Odds Report!

They’ve Gone and Grabbed Old Ronnie 

The Panthers have also been getting better as the season has progressed. Full credit to coach Ron Rivera, who has famously joined the 21st Century by promising to be more aggressive on fourth downs. Rivera even went for it twice in the same drive last week against the Vikings, converting a 4th-and-1 at the Minnesota 32 and another at the goal line. “It's what we're going to do now,” Rivera told reporters after the win. 

If that’s the case, I’m going to bet Carolina from now on. Okay, maybe not every week, but it’s a lot easier to pull that NFL betting trigger now that Rivera is on board with The New Football. I’ll also take that extra hit of juice with the seven points that the NFL odds are offering, thank you kindly. 

NFL Pick: Take the Panthers +7 (+120) at Canbet
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