The Thursday Night Football gods have done it again. They have found a way to use a story line to keep us interested in a primetime game that most fans would do away with if given the chance. Tonight, the Las Vegas Raiders hit the road to take on the Los Angeles Rams, and all eyes will be on quarterback Baker Mayfield.
The former No. 1 overall pick was claimed off waivers from the Carolina Panthers earlier this week by the Rams, who recently placed starting quarterback Matthew Stafford on injured reserve with a spinal cord contusion. He’ll likely missing the rest of the season. This will now be the third team of Mayfield’s young career, who could serve as starting quarterback until the end of the year if John Wolford can’t power through injury.
The Rams have had no luck this year when it comes to health, and their 3-9 record proves this out. Star receiver Cooper Kupp went down earlier in the season, and will likely be shut down for the remainder of the year. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald has been out since injuring his ankle against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 12, but is expected to return this season. Just one year after winning the Super Bowl, the Rams are grasping for wins anywhere they can find them. Mayfield is an upgrade to anyone the Rams would have been able to play behind Wolford, who is questionable with a neck injury and is expected to be a game-time decision.
The Raiders’ 5-7 record doesn’t show it, but they have played pretty good football over the last few weeks. Running back Josh Jacobs leads the league in rushing, and wide receiver Davante Adams has most certainly carried his weight lately, as well. Defensive end Chandler Jones comes into this game as the reigning AFC Defensive Player of the Week, and looks to build on that success after muddling through a slow start to the season.
I expect this game to be ugly for several reasons. Mayfield is learning a brand new, very complex offense with limited weapons available to him. Had Kupp been available, I may have felt differently. But Mayfield has been underwhelming this season when given opportunities, as he was last year with the Cleveland Browns. The first game in a new system won’t change the player he is, and I expect the offense to struggle against this energized Raiders defense.
I also expect Jacobs to continue his quest to win the NFL rushing title this season. The only interesting matchup for me will be Adams versus Jalen Ramsey, an exceptional cornerback in this league. Some can and will argue he is the best at his position. Not too long ago, when paired with Aaron Rodgers, the same argument could be made for Adams at the receiver position.
I am taking the Raiders, who are favored by 6.5 points per DraftKings Sportsbook, to win and cover the spread tonight against the Rams.