NFL against-the-spread picks: Packers or Rams could emerge as trustworthy contender

In our quest to find a reliable contender in the NFL, it's a little strange why we'd ignore the Green Bay Packers' season.

Maybe it's because the Packers got blown out in Week 1 by the New Orleans Saints. We should have forgiven them by now. It was probably a byproduct of their starters not playing at all in the preseason.

From then to last Sunday, the Packers covered the spread in every game, even when Jordan Love started at Kansas City. Last week the Packers lost (and didn't cover) on a last-second field goal at the Minnesota Vikings, which is an understandable loss. The Packers probably would have won if Kirk Cousins' wild pass that seemed like it was picked off by Packers safety Darnell Savage in the final minutes hadn't been overturned on review because it hit the turf.

Yet the Packers aren't getting the respect you'd think for a team that has been really good since the flop in the opener. BetMGM has the Packers as just 1-point favorites at home against the Los Angeles Rams.

There are reasons the Rams are such small underdogs. They're a good team too, though they're coming off a bad loss to the San Francisco 49ers before their bye week. The Packers put valuable guard Elgton Jenkins on injured reserve, and it's not great to lose good linemen before facing Aaron Donald. The Packers' secondary is coming off a rough game against the Vikings, and the Rams can throw it.

Yet, the Rams haven't had a great performance in a while. They're 4-3 over their last seven games, and their wins are against the Seahawks, Giants, Lions and Texans. When your best win since the start of October is against the 3-7 Seahawks, it's not great.

This is the kind of game that could determine who hosts an NFC divisional round playoff game, or even an NFC championship. Both teams could become trustworthy contenders by the end of the season. I'll take the Packers as a small favorite at home. They might be a really good team that's strangely flying a bit under the radar. Maybe they can become the consistent top-tier team we've been searching for in the NFL over the past few weeks.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his team will look to get back on track after last week's loss. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his team will look to get back on track after last week's loss. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

Here are the picks for Week 12, with the spreads from BetMGM:

Bears (-3) over Lions

There will be a longer breakdown of each Thanksgiving game in Thursday morning's Daily Sweat, our daily first look at the sports betting slate, so keep an eye out for that. But briefly, it's too hard to pick an 0-9-1 team getting just a field goal, and Andy Dalton really isn't a downgrade for the Bears at this time.

Raiders (+7.5) over Cowboys

The Raiders are struggling, but this line still feels inflated.

Saints (+5) over Bills

At some point we need to stop overrating the Bills, until they start giving us results.

Steelers (+4.5) over Bengals

Sunday night's comeback said a lot about the Steelers, even in a loss. This team battles every week. Ben Roethlisberger also played well, which is a great sign. The Bengals got back on track a bit last week, but the Steelers can keep it close. They might win.

Buccaneers (-3) over Colts

The Buccaneers can stop the run, and I'm not sure where the Colts turn if Jonathan Taylor can't get 100 yards. The way Taylor is playing he still could get 100 yards, but I just hate the matchup for Indianapolis.

Panthers (-1.5) over Dolphins

I'm not convinced the Dolphins are back. Cam Newton played very well last week, even though Carolina lost a bad one at home to Washington. It wouldn't surprise me if Miami won, but the Panthers still have the components to be a dangerous team.

Patriots (-6.5) over Titans

The Titans' loss to the Texans let everyone know that Tennessee's great start to this season wasn't going to continue. That's why you see a spread that is a little higher than it should be. Even though it's inflated, I don't know how this limited Titans offense scores enough to cover. The Patriots defense is playing really well.

Eagles (-3.5) over Giants

If you think the Giants firing Jason Garrett will turn things around, it probably won't. This is a Giants team that has a ton of issues and it's going to be a hard offseason figuring out what pieces, if any, should be part of the renewed rebuild.

Falcons (-1) over Jaguars

I know the Falcons have looked awful the past two weeks, but I'm not sure why I'd pick the Jaguars to beat anyone right now.

Jets (+2.5) over Texans

The old rule applies: When two absolutely awful NFL teams face each other, take whoever is getting points.

Chargers (-3) over Broncos

The Chargers aren't trustworthy. The near-collapse on Sunday night reminded us of that. Yet, they are the better team in this game. If you pick the Chargers, just prepare for the ride on the roller coaster.

Vikings (+3) over 49ers

Both of these teams are better than their records would indicate. The 49ers are all the way up to seventh in Football Outsiders' DVOA (the Vikings are 11th, two spots ahead of the Packers). In an alternate universe in which fans see beyond basic records, this might be the best matchup of the week. It's a big one in the NFC wild-card race.

Ravens (-4) over Browns

I'll assume Lamar Jackson is back for this one. The Ravens love playing close games every week, but I can't trust the Browns to cover. Baker Mayfield is banged up and not playing well. They can't threaten anyone in the passing game.

Washington (-1) over Seahawks

It's hard to trust any streak in the NFL, which is the ultimate week-to-week league. But Washington has shown signs of life lately. The Seahawks just look lost and can't find any answers.

Last week: 10-5

Season to date: 87-77-1