Rams rout Patriots on Thursday night | Road to Army-Navy game has not been easy

Create: 2020-12-11
Update: 2020-12-11
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Friday, December 11, 2020
Happy Friday, friend! If I seem a little groggy this morning it's because I was one of those annoying people on your timeline late last night who stayed up to listen to the new Taylor Swift album. (Quick review after one listen: Evermore is fine-to-good ... it's slow out of the gate but finishes strong on the back half. The top three standout songs for me are "Ivy," "No Body, No Crime" and "Gold Rush." Overall, though, I think I'm going to prefer Folklore over this one.)
I know you probably didn't come here for my music takes -- if you did, you can find me on Twitter as I continue listening to new Taylor, Sturgill Simpson, Kacey Musgraves and Kid Cudi over the weekend -- so we should probably stick to sports, huh? Luckily, we've got a Thursday Night Football game to go over and a weekend to preview, so let's jump right in.

📰 What you need to know
1.  Rams dominate Patriots on Thursday Night Football🏈
For a while there it looked like the Patriots might be putting together a late-season run that sneaks them into the NFL's playoff picture. They had won four of their last five heading into last night's game against the Rams, and really needed to keep that run going if they were to hold onto hope for the postseason.
Unfortunately for Patriots fans like myself, things are bleak this morning. That's because the Rams were dominant on Thursday Night Football, beating the Pats by a score of 24-3. The win for Los Angeles gives them sole possession of first place in the NFC West ... for now. The loss puts New England back below .500 and snaps their run of consecutive 10-win seasons at 17, all but squashing any playoff dreams. 
Let's get to some takeaways:
  • Why the Rams won: The Rams were dominant when it came to possessing the ball. Cam Akers had a career night rushing the football, as the rookie carried 29 times for 171 yards. Los Angeles' defense also did a great job of containing the Patriots' weak offensive attack.
  • Why the Patriots lost: New England's play calling was predictable and their execution was poor. Cam Newton couldn't move the ball through the air and was ultimately replaced by Jarrett Stidham. The Patriots only had 211 yards, averaged 3.9 yards per play and went 0-for-4 in the red zone.
There were a couple of massive backbreakers in this game for the Patriots. The first was a Newton pick-six in the second quarter that wasted tremendous field position after a Jared Goff interception and made the score 17-0. The second was an imposing 16-play, 10-plus minute drive from the Rams' offense in the second half. Los Angeles seemed in control the entire time, especially on defense. 
I knew the Patriots weren't going to be all that good this year but, I gotta say, this offense is still managing to drive me insane. Cam has continued to struggle through the air and it's clear that the coaching staff doesn't really trust him throwing the ball, and defenses know that by now. Watching this team try to put the ball in the end zone by relentlessly pounding the ball up the middle when the other side knows it's coming? Not a whole lot of fun, it turns out. 
But I know LOTS of NFL fans will be thrilled with a Patriots-free playoffs this year, so congratulations to all you haters out there.
2. The grueling road to the 2020 Army-Navy game 🏈
Though we won't have Michigan-Ohio State this weekend, we will have plenty of other rivalry games in college football -- including the annual Army-Navy game. Of course, this year's game will look a little different due to the pandemic -- instead of being played in a packed NFL stadium, the game will be held at West Point for the first time since 1943 and will have a limited amount of spectators in attendance. 
Even with minimized fanfare, the game is still a big deal this year. There's pride and bragging rights on the line for the two branches of the military but, more importantly, the young men involved have endured a lot to get to this point, and this game means a whole lot to them. The COVID-19 prevention measures have been tough on all of us, including college athletes around the country, but our Dennis Dodd penned an outstanding column this week detailing how difficult the lockdown has been on some of these Army and Navy players in particular as they've battled isolation, depression and anxiety over the last several months:
  • Dodd: "Army-Navy has always been about the best of us. This season that has included elite athletes/students staring at four walls for hours at a time. Not counting road trips, since Army West Point players have been allowed off post for "walking privileges" -- off the grounds but no overnight stays -- for only two weekends since June 1. Navy's players have been free for a total of five nights."
For Navy, it's also been a particularly challenging season considering offensive lineman David Forney died in February due to cardiac arrest. Forney will be honored on Saturday and there's no doubt the Midshipmen are going to be feeling his absence a little extra. 
With the extra challenging road that led to Saturday's kickoff, it feels like the stakes in this game might be higher than ever. Whichever team wins will have the opportunity to look back on the season and feel like it was worth it, while the losing team will likely have a sour taste in its mouth for a long, long time. Either way, even getting to this point is proof that these young men are capable of handling and navigating expected adversity.
3. NFL Week 14 picks 🏈
Oh, Pete Prisco ... oh no. I swear I'm not rooting against Pete's weekly NFL picks but he hasn't made it easy to gas him up over the past few weeks. After going 4-11-1 in Week 12, Pete followed that up with a tough 6-9 (not nice) record in Week 13 and now he comes into this week with an overall record of 90-98-3 against the spread. Woof!
Of course, every new week brings a clean slate and I'm compelling Pete to channel his inner quarterback and approach this week with a short memory. He's got a great chance to bounce back and stop the skid in Week 14 -- and he already hit his Rams pick -- so let's see who he's feeling this weekend:
  • Giants (+2) keep rolling against struggling Cardinals: The Giants' defense has been outstanding and they'll have a chance to feast on an Arizona offense that is struggling and has lost three straight. With Daniel Jones likely back in the mix, Prisco is riding with the G-Men. The pick: Giants 24, Cardinals 20
  • Colts (-2.5) secure big win against Raiders: In a game that could have major playoff implications, Prisco likes Indy. Las Vegas almost lost to the Jets (the Jets!) last week and the Colts defense is capable of limiting Derek Carr & Co. The pick: Colts 27, Raiders 23
  • Steelers (-2.5) drop second straight in Buffalo: Pittsburgh's perfect season is gone and now they head into Buffalo after a short week. The Bills' defense can potentially give the Steelers problems, and Josh Allen is feeling himself right now. Prisco says the Steelers lose again. The pick: Bills 27, Steelers 23
We've got a pretty good batch of games this weekend and now it's really getting to be make-or-break for a lot of teams on the playoff bubble, so Sunday should be fun. You can find the rest of Prisco's picks right here. I'm praying I can be nicer to you next week, Pete.
4. Winners and losers from a slow Winter Meetings ⚾
Hey, so the 2020 Winter Meetings have come to a close and, uh, if you forgot they were happening this week then I can't say I blame you. There was way less hoopla around the event this year due to it being fully virtual because of the pandemic and, as it turns out, there wasn't much action to come from the meetings either. 
Our Matt Snyder did his best to pick out some winners and losers even with the lack of notable activity, so let's take a look at what he's got for us:
  • Winner: Chicago White Sox - It was a pretty rough offseason for the White Sox heading into the Winter Meetings but they were one of the few American League teams to do anything of substance. They added some rotation help with the acquisition of Lance Lynn, then brought in Adam Eaton. They're better than they were a week ago, and not many teams can say that.
  • Loser: Reds - They're coming off their their first winning season and playoff berth since 2013 but it now looks like they're shedding payroll and stripping pieces for pennies on the dollar. They didn't get much for Raisel Iglesias and are likely going to part ways with Trevor Bauer and Sonny Gray as well. So what was that rebuild for again?
  • Winner: Mets fans ... maybe - Steve Cohen and the Mets didn't make the big splash that many thought they might at the Winter Meetings, but they were closely linked to several top players on the market ... so that's something? If they manage to seal the deal on George Springer and/or Trevor Bauer, that'll lift some spirits in New York
Snyder has more winners and losers for you here, so check those out. 
I miss the days when it seemed like the ENTIRE MLB offseason went down at the Winter Meetings. I miss the mass rush to sign the top free agents. I miss the juicy trade rumors trickling out of meeting rooms. I miss the chaos of reporters running around hotel hallways and working the phones trying to get scoops. I miss the circus that used to be the Winter Meetings. 
I know it's a weird year with the pandemic and everything, but we need to work on making the Winter Meetings fun again after all this.
📝 Odds & Ends
  • The Tampa Bay Rays owner is now roasting his own team's popularity and attendance numbers
  • Christian McCaffrey won't play this weekend vs. the Broncos, according to his coach
  • Marshawn Lynch said he'd be willing to come out of retirement again, but there's a catch

📺 What to watch this weekend
🏀 No. 9 Villanova vs. Georgetown, 7 p.m. | GTOWN +11.5 | TV: FS1
🏀 No. 3 Iowa vs. Iowa State, 9 p.m. | IOWA -14 | TV: BTN
🏈 Nevada vs. San Jose State, 10 p.m. | SJS -1.5 | TV: CBSSN
🏀 Notre Dame vs. Kentucky, 12 p.m. | TV: CBS  
🏈 Army vs. Navy, 3 p.m. | ARMY -7 | TV: CBS 
🏀 No. 6 Illinois vs. Missouri, 8 p.m. | TV: SEC Network
🏈 Cardinals  vs. Giants, 1:00 p.m. | NYG +3 | TV: FOX 
🏈 Colts vs. Raiders, 4:05 p.m. | LV +2.5 | TV: CBS
🏈 Steelers vs. Bills, 8:20 p.m. | BUF -1.5 | TV: NBC
📝 Top scores from last night
🏈 Rams 24, Patriots 3
Rookie Cam Akers had 29 carries for 171 yards in the win.
💵 Winning wagers: LAR -4.5, Under (43.5)
🏀 No.24 San Diego State 80, No.23 Arizona State 68
Nathan Mensah had 17 points and 15 rebounds as San Diego State dominated inside against ASU.
💵 Winning wagers: SDSU +110, Over (144)  
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