Thursday NFL Picks: Betting the Cardinals vs. Rams Spread

Jason Lake

Tuesday, December 9, 2014 8:13 PM GMT

Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014 8:13 PM GMT

The St. Louis Rams are picking up steam on the NFL odds board for Thursday night’s game against the Arizona Cardinals. They’d better not pick up too much steam if they want to cover their fifth straight game.

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

Are the good times over for the Arizona Cardinals? They’ve got three games left to go, all against NFC West rivals, and there’s a real chance Arizona (10-3 SU, 9-4 ATS) could lose all three games and miss the playoffs. First up: the St. Louis Rams (6-7 SU, 7-6 ATS), who are 3-1 SU and 4-0 ATS since putting Shaun Hill back under center. Kick-off from The Jones is at 8:25 p.m. ET on the NFL Network.

When we reported on the opening NFL odds for Thursday’s matchup, the Rams had moved from –3 home faves to –3.5, with 56 percent consensus in early betting. The reports at press time show the same 56 percent support at –4 (–102), which is virtually equal to –3.5 at the standard –110 vigorish. But several of our featured online sportsbooks have indeed moved all the way to the full –4. Will this spread keep moving all the way to kick-off?

Thursday’s Child
Perhaps not. It isn’t just the players who get frustrated with the short week before Thursday games – it also throws off handicappers when they make their NFL picks. It’s harder to predict which direction the lines will move when you take the usual weekend betting rush out of the equation. Plus, the football odds aren’t likely to move as far in such a limited time window.

It’s not like the Cardinals and Rams are traditionally two of the biggest public teams in the marketplace, anyway. But everyone loves a winner, and Arizona is tied for the best record in the league, so you can expect the Cardinals to get at least some action before kick-off. They’re No. 3 on the public money charts over the past 30 days, while St. Louis is No. 10.

If the Cardinals stay on the good side of +3, it might be difficult not to recommend them. There’s a low, low total of 39.5 on the NFL odds board for this game, down from 41.5 points at the open. The lower the score, the more difficult it is for favorites to cover. And we are expecting a defensive battle between these two teams – even if they are playing indoors.

Cro Cop
Having said that, Arizona’s defense looks like it’ll be missing a key component on Thursday. CB Antonio Cromartie suffered what’s believed to be a torn peroneal tendon in his left ankle during last week’s 17-14 win over the Kansas City Chiefs (–2.5 away). Early reports suggested Cromartie might have torn an Achilles tendon; this injury isn’t nearly as bad, and the Cardinals haven’t officially ruled him out for Thursday. Cromartie one of the better cornerbacks in the league, so even if he isn’t healthy enough to play, Arizona doesn’t want to let the Rams or anyone else to know about it.

When Cromartie left last week’s game in the fourth quarter, special teams whiz Justin Bethel filled in – something that could soon become permanent whether or not Cromartie is healthy. Bethel, who made the Pro Bowl last year on special teams, is an emerging star, while Cromartie is a free agent at the end of the season. But who will fill in for Bethel this Thursday if he moves into the starting secondary?

Let’s not forget that free safety Tyrann Mathieu is out after having surgery on his broken left thumb last week. Jerraud Powers has already taken Mathieu’s original spot as a nickel back, so if Powers ends up starting in Cromartie’s place instead of Bethel, that still leaves a hole in the Arizona secondary. We’re going to have to go with the Rams in this situation after all. Stay tuned for our NFL pick against the total.

Free NFL Pick: Take the Rams

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