NFL forecast: Rodgers appealing as road dog

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

November 24, 2019 12:32 AM
A trip to the Bay Area is a homecoming game for Aaron Rodgers, who is 2-0 as a road ‘dog this season.
© USA Today Sports Images

In his 15th season, Aaron Rodgers is running out of chances to reach another Super Bowl. The Green Bay Packers’ road to that destination could get a little easier with a win Sunday night.

The Packers-49ers showdown in San Francisco — or Santa Clara, to be accurate — has NFC postseason implications and it’s a homecoming game for Rodgers.

A bye does not always arrive at a good time but it did for Green Bay, which was fortunate to beat Carolina in Week 10 and has a defense leaking oil. The Packers rank 28th in total defense (384.7 yards per game) and have regressed on that side of the ball while the offense has steadily improved. Rodgers has nine touchdown passes with no interceptions in the past four games, and running back Aaron Jones is off a 93-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Panthers. The Packers have scored 23 points or more in seven of their past eight games.

San Francisco’s defense was dominant during the season’s first half yet has declined recently while allowing an average of 26 points in the past three games.

While it’s always difficult for defenses to pick on Rodgers, Jimmy Garoppolo has a turnover problem. Garoppolo threw two more interceptions in Week 11 and has 10 for the season. He has been less effective because of the 49ers’ injuries. According to a Saturday report, tight end George Kittle and wideout Emmanuel Sanders are expected to play Sunday. Running back Matt Breida, left tackle Joe Staley and defensive end Dee Ford are not expected to go.

The Packers (8-2) have their best record through 10 games since 2011, when Rodgers was the league MVP. With Circa Sports and the Westgate SuperBook moving this line to 3½, I’ll take the points with Rodgers, who is 2-0 straight up as a road ‘dog this season. If there’s a reason to be concerned, this underdog will be too popular.

Four more picks for Week 12:

* JETS (plus-3½) over Raiders: Public play on the favorite has forced a few Las Vegas books (Caesars, Circa and Stations) to move this line off of 3. It seems to be the wrong move. Four of the Raiders’ final six games are on the road, including three against AFC West opponents. The biggest remaining game is Dec. 1 at Kansas City, but it would be a big mistake for Oakland to overlook this game. The Jets are 2-1 at home — beating the Cowboys and Giants — since quarterback Sam Darnold returned from mono. Darnold had an ugly night against the Patriots by throwing four picks, yet he totaled seven touchdown passes with two interceptions in three wins against weak defenses. The Raiders rank 20th in total defense and 27th against the pass (262.2 ypg). One secret to Jon Gruden’s success has been Oakland’s ability to run the ball with rookie Josh Jacobs, but the Jets boast the NFL’s No. 1 run defense (79.1 ypg). The early kickoff time should work against the Raiders, who are 0-10 ATS in their past 10 road games following a straight-up win.

* Cowboys (plus-6) over PATRIOTS: Bill Belichick’s defense has devoured bad quarterbacks and weak offenses, but Dallas ranks No. 1 in total offense (444.6 ypg) and No. 4 in scoring (28.6). The Cowboys will force feed running back Ezekiel Elliott and if that’s not working, Dak Prescott has plenty of weapons in the passing attack. Of course, the Dallas defense has some problems, and it’s always problematic to bet against Belichick and Tom Brady at home. Since 2001, New England is 57-21-7 ATS as a home favorite of seven points or fewer. I’ll take the points with the better offense, but this is a contest play and not a bet.

* Seahawks (plus-1) over EAGLES: It’s easy to blame Carson Wentz for the Eagles’ offensive shortcomings, but he was a quarterback backed into a corner without big-play receivers DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery in last week’s 17-10 loss to New England. Jeffery could return this week, yet right tackle Lane Johnson (concussion) is out. Wentz has exactly one touchdown pass in each of the past four games. Wentz needs to elevate his play to overcome the Eagles’ injuries, but that has not happened this season. Philadelphia is 4-10-1 ATS in its past 15 regular-season home games. On the flip side, the Seahawks are 5-0 straight up on the road and Russell Wilson has thrived in the road ‘dog role with five consecutive covers. Wilson has 23 touchdown passes with two interceptions and his passer rating (114.9) ranks No. 1 in the league. Back the better quarterback who finds ways to win on the road.

* RAMS (plus-3) over Ravens: There’s not a lot to like about the Rams and that’s why the betting public will be all over the short road favorite. Most sharps will be on the home ‘dog, especially if the line goes to 3½. The sharps are not always right, of course. The Lamar Jackson hype is at an all-time high, but expect wily defensive coordinator Wade Phillips to be well prepared for the young Baltimore quarterback. Sean McVay will show everything he’s got in his offensive playbook, too. If the Rams are sitting on a big game, this is probably it.

Last week: 3-2 against the spread

Season: 31-23-1

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