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A look at NFL handicapping with the PFW editor lobbying to become Las Vegas bureau chief.

The Rams' long road ahead

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Recent posts by Mike Wilkening

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Posted July 31, 2009 @ 11:35 p.m.
Updated Oct. 06, 2010 @ 7:27 p.m.
By Mike Wilkening

The Lucky's sportsbooks in Las Vegas have put lines up for every regular-season game, and arlier this week, I looked at how many times each of the AFC teams were favored on the line.

Now, let's take a look at the NFC.  (For spreads for each team, click here.) The number to the right of the team denotes how often it is favored out of 16 games; PK denotes the game is a pick 'em. We'll start with the most-favored teams and work downward:  

Dallas: 12

N.Y. Giants: 12

Green Bay: 12

The Cowboys are tremendously popular with the public. The Giants had a strong offseason. The Packers' schedule is not all that imposing and Green Bay is another popular team with bettors. SO I can reasoning for these three being favored more than the others even if I don't see the Cowboys or Packers winning 12 games. Onto the next tier:

Minnesota: 11

Carolina: 10

Philadelphia: 10

No surprises here; all three teams made the playoffs a season ago.

Arizona: 9 (2 PK)

New Orleans: 9 (2 PK)

Atlanta: 9 (1 PK)

Chicago: 9

This is an interesting tier of teams, isn't it? Lots of boom-or-bust potential.

Washington: 7

San Francisco: 6 (2 PK)

Seattle: 6 (2 PK)

I like Seattle and Washington to exceed expectations. On the other hand, I am not sold in the least on the Niners.

Now, onto the NFC's bottom tier of teams in terms of number of times favored by the pointspread in 2009:

Detroit: 1

Tampa Bay: 1

St. Louis: 0 (2 PK)

Yes, you read that correctly: The Rams are not favored in any games this season by Lucky's, though their home games vs. the Seahawks and 49ers are rated as dead even. The Buccaneers are favored just once (vs. the Jets in Week 14). The only time the Lions are favored? When they host St. Louis in Week Eight. And even then, they are laying just one point.

Back to the Rams for a second. The potential challenges they present for oddsmakers are many. They were awful last season and struggled for a good deal of '07. There are major questions about QB Marc Bulger's ability to perform at a high level anymore, and the QB position is the most scrutinized by the public. Add to the mix Bulger's lack of weapons outside of WR Donnie Avery (just a second-year player) and RB Steven Jackson (who was banged-up last year) as well as doubts about the Rams' leaky defense, and those looking to write off St. Louis before it even plays a game this season can do so rather easily if they so choose.

If the Rams are to be made a favorite, they will have to clearly earn it with their play, for the public is not going to be convinced they are better until they actually see it after a couple of bad years.

You can say the same about the Lions, but much has been said about their plight. And the Buccaneers are clearly rebuilding.

The Rams, lest we forget, also have a long way to go, and the Lucky's line are just another way, albeit an unconventional one, of reflecting that.

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