Rams worth a long shot look

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There’s something to be said about a stellar defense. Just ask the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers and 2016 Denver Broncos.

The common denominator?

All four ranked No. 1 or 2 in the NFL with total yards allowed. They also ranked no higher than No. 16 in total yards gained, the Buccaneers being the worst of the four coming in at No. 24.

It’s not too shabby when you consider that’s 20% of the Super Bowl champions since 2000.

Smile Los Angeles Rams fans, you have a chance.

The Westgate Las Vegas Super­Book has the Rams listed at 40-1 to win it all, and it might be the best value to win Super Bowl LV. Can you imagine a $100 bettor holding a ticket worth $4,000, enabling you the chance to hedge just enough to get your $100 back, while not risking too much that would chip away at your $4K?

Los Angeles, which earned its third postseason berth in four years under coach Sean McVay, has the No. 1 defense which has allowed 4,511 yards this season, and was the only team to yield less than 300 points, with 296 points against. They also rank No. 1 in limiting the opposition to scores on just 27.9% of their drives.

The Rams haven’t allowed more than 28 points since a 35-32 loss in Buffalo on Sept. 27, and they’ve allowed 17 or less in half of their games.

The path to the NFC Championship — the Rams are 20-1 to win the conference, by the way — means games against Seattle and vs. higher seeds. Los Angeles split the regular-season series with the Seahawks, beat Washington and beat the Buccaneers.

Green Bay, New Orleans and Chicago are on the other side, and Los Angeles played just one of those teams, having beaten the Bears in October.

That’s a 4-1 mark, the most wins among the NFC field than any other team. Green Bay and New Orleans were 3-1, Seattle was 2-1, Chicago and Tampa Bay were 1-4 and Washington was 0-2.

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Quarterback John Wolford may have put minds at ease in his NFL debut on Sunday, when he passed for 231 yards and rushed for 56 more in an 18-7 win over Arizona. And while he did his part, Troy Hill returned an interception 84 yards for a touchdown in what was another dominant defensive performance by the Rams.

Perspective: Los Angeles failed to score an offensive touchdown for the second straight game, but still snapped a two-game skid with its eighth consecutive win over Arizona.

So do smile Los Angeles Rams fans, there’s something to be said about a stellar defense. It can take you a long way.

Saturday

Colts at Bills -6.5: By the looks of its 30-point rout of Miami in the regular-season finale, coach Sean McDermott has his team poised for a deep run. Their point differential of +119 from Game 11 through 16 ranked No. 1 in the league, easily outdistancing No. 2 Baltimore (+92). Ride the momentum. BILLS

Rams +4 at Seahawks: See above. Defense will carry the day as Los Angeles advances to the Divisional round. RAMS

Buccaneers at Washington +8.5: Speaking of stellar defenses, coupled with a team’s last six games of the regular season, has anyone else noticed what Washington has done during a 4-2 run to close the campaign? 

Washington’s 102 points allowed are the second fewest between Games 11 through 16. Washington also ranked third in that span in allowing 4.45 yards per play.

It’ll be a tough chore to beat Tom Brady, but the Bucs have shown vulnerability this season. WASHINGTON

Sunday

Ravens -3 at Titans: Thanks to reigning regular-season MVP Lamar Jackson, the Ravens have one of their most balanced teams in recent memory, ranking second in points allowed (303) and seventh in points scored (468). Its run game ranks No. 1 in rushing attempts (555) and yards gained (3,071), which could spell trouble for a Titans team that owns six victories after scoring the winning points in the final minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime. RAVENS

Bears at Saints -10: The Bears came out of their bye week allowing 75 points in their first two games — including 34 in a four-point loss to Detroit — and the 161 points they’ve given up in their last six games were ninth highest. If there is one blowout you can count, it comes from this game. SAINTS

Browns +6 at Steelers: If there is one game that has the potential of coming down to the final play or overtime, it’s this one. Five of the last eight meetings have been decided by four points or less. The Browns closed the season on a 6-2 run, including their 24-22 win over the Steelers on Sunday. Look for a close one. BROWNS

Last week: 1-5

Season: 48-49-1

About the Author

W.G. Ramirez

W.G. Ramirez is a 32-year veteran covering sports in Southern Nevada, and resident of 46 years. He is a freelance reporter in Las Vegas and the Southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press.

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