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NFL Week 7 Game Preview: Rams vs. Panthers


Both the St. Louis Rams (3-3) and Carolina Panthers (2-3) have shown to be more competitive this season than the 2012 versions of their respective teams, but both squads still have a lot of work to do to reach the NFC playoffs – and that work starts today in a mid-season showdown at Bank of America Stadium.

After a rough start, both teams enter today’s gridiron battle playing their best football of 2013 so far. The Rams are coming off an impressive 38-13 rout of the Texans, while the Panthers easily took care of the Vikings last week by a score of 35-10, but it’s the Panthers who have the upper hand today at home – at least according to odds makers.

Most lines are laying Carolina six points today, which seems a bit generous for a team that is 2-3. However, considering the Panthers spanked the Giants at home 38-0 three weeks ago, bettors know Carolina can ferociously defend its home turf.

Being the team’s quarterback and leader, third-year man Cam Newton has understandably gobbled up most of the credit for the team’s recent success, but Carolina’s defense should be getting most of the praise. Not only have the Panthers prevented opponents from scoring more than 24 points in any game this season, but they also come into today’s game ranked seventh in the NFL in fewest passing yards allowed (210.4 per game) and fourth in fewest rushing yards allowed (88.8 per game).

Carolina will certainly need to tighten the screws on the defensive side of the ball against the Rams, who are starting to heat up offensively. While the St. Louis running game has still left a lot to be desired, quarterback Sam Bradford has caught fire recently, completing 31 of his last 50 throws for 339 yards and six touchdowns. He even posted a career-high QB rating of 134.6 against the Texans last weekend.

However, for the Rams to cover the spread, they’ll need to step up on the defensive end, particularly against the run. St. Louis has the third worst run defense in the league – allowing 130.5 yards per game – which bodes well for the Panthers, who rush for more than 135 yards per game (7th in NFL).

Then again, St. Louis still managed to win by more than 20 points last week, even after getting gashed on the ground for 153 yards by Houston. Forcing four Texans turnovers made all the difference for the Rams and considering Carolina has turned it over nine times in its first five games, St. Louis should be able to cause some Panthers miscues.

The Rams’ defense may not be able to hold up in the fourth quarter on the road, but with a hot QB and a ball-hawking secondary, the Rams should keep things close on the scoreboard. The Panthers could easily win this one, but don’t expect a blowout.

Take St. Louis to cover +6 today on the road.

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