NFL forecast: Rodgers rested, ready for big dog role

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

October 28, 2018 07:37 AM
rodgers
Aaron Rodgers, who had a bye week to recover from a knee injury, is an 8-point underdog as the Packers face the Rams in L.A.
© USA Today Sports Images

Two years ago, the Los Angeles Rams were poorly coached and a punch line. Jared Goff lost all seven of his starts as a rookie quarterback and looked like a bust.

 

The Rams are why coaching changes are made and why hiring the right guy can make all the difference. Two years ago, it would have been comical to imagine Goff as a favorite against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. But it makes perfect sense today.

 

Rodgers is the biggest underdog of his career as he prepares to face the Rams at the Coliseum, and it’s not easy to recommend taking the points.

 

The Rams’ rise under second-year coach Sean McVay has been sudden. McVay’s offense is averaging 33.6 points and features Goff, who has won all seven of his starts this season, and league rushing leader Todd Gurley. The L.A. defense ranks fourth in scoring (18.3 points per game) and is led by league sacks leader Aaron Donald.

 

The Packers are backpedaling under Mike McCarthy, who might find his job is in jeopardy if there is no turnaround soon. Green Bay (3-2-1 straight up, 2-4 ATS) was an underdog in two previous games this season, getting 1½ points against Minnesota and one point at Detroit, and respect for Rodgers is all that is keeping today’s line from hitting double digits.

 

Rodgers’ numbers (12 touchdowns, one interception) are impressive despite an injured knee that left him hobbled for several weeks. He had a bye week to rest for this trip and that’s a major positive. The biggest concern is how the Packers will hold up on defense.

 

The Rams have scored at least 33 points in six of their seven games and won their three home games by margins of 34, 12 and seven points.

 

The number hit 9½ at some books early in the week and has dropped to 8 out of respect for the NFL’s best quarterback. I’ll take the points. In a ‘dog show, Rodgers is far from an ugly one.

Four more plays for Week 8 (home team in CAPS):

* Broncos (plus-10) over CHIEFS: This line has dropped to 9½ at most books, but 10 still is available. Denver ranks 22nd in total defense, and Case Keenum has more interceptions (nine) than touchdown passes (eight). The good news for Keenum is he has extra time to prepare for a soft Kansas City defense. The bad news for the Broncos is Patrick Mahomes is warming up, and Mahomes triggers the league’s top scoring offense at 37.1 points per game. Mahomes, who ranks No. 1 in passing touchdowns (22) and No. 2 in yards (2,223), was held to one TD pass in the Chiefs’ 27-23 comeback win at Denver on Oct. 1. Kansas City opened as a 5-point favorite in that game and closed -3.5, so that’s the closest call in its 7-0 record against the spread. The Denver defense did step up in the 45-10 victory over the Cardinals, picking off rookie Josh Rosen three times, and Von Miller and Bradley Chubb each had two sacks of Rosen. The Broncos’ ability to pressure Mahomes will be the key to the game. It’s tough to buck the red-hot Chiefs, but this is a decent road ‘dog getting double digits in a division game.

* Seahawks (plus-3) over LIONS: Russell Wilson is not doing it alone anymore. Seattle is running the ball effectively, and its rebuilt defense ranks No. 5 in scoring (19.5). Detroit is finally running the ball, too, but the Lions rank 23rd in scoring defense (26.3). I’ll take the points with Wilson and the better defense.

* RAIDERS (plus-3) over Colts: Jon Gruden and the Raiders appear to be dead ‘dogs, so in the twisted world that is the NFL that’s a reason to think they will show up this week. Derek Carr was sacked six times in a 27-3 loss to Seattle in London before the bye week. Oakland’s offense totaled only 185 yards the last time out and now is without Amari Cooper and Marshawn Lynch. The Colts are not bringing a fearsome defense (375 yards and 26.4 points per game) to the “Black Hole” but they are riding in with Andrew Luck, who tops the league with 311 pass attempts and is second with 20 touchdowns, and Indianapolis is getting healthy on both sides of the ball. There are lots of reasons to like the Colts, but it’s a 2-5 team laying points on the road.

* VIKINGS (plus-2) over Saints: Drew Brees, the NFL’s only starting quarterback without an interception this season, is playing at the highest level of his career and he’s 3-0 on the road after taking down Baltimore’s top-ranked defense last week. The Vikings have slipped to No. 11 in total defense while allowing 23.6 points per game. Brees has the benefit of a running attack, something Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins is lacking. Cousins is completing 70 percent of his passes — Brees ranks No. 1 at 77.3 percent — with 14 touchdowns to three interceptions. Most signs point to New Orleans. The favorite has flipped from Vikings -1 to the Saints laying 1½ to 2, so this is a contrarian play in a Sunday night shootout in Minnesota.

Last week: 2-3 against the spread

Season: 17-17-1

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