NFL picks against the spread: Rams don't look good ahead of matchup vs. Cowboys
When you have Cooper Kupp, you find ways to get him the ball. That's smart.
The problem for the Los Angeles Rams is they have nobody else they want to get the ball to.
The Rams' offensive issues were on display on Monday night. The San Francisco 49ers shut them down. The Rams didn't score a touchdown. The 49ers are very good defensively, but the lack of any playmakers other than Kupp was troubling.
Los Angeles is a 5.5-point favorite at BetMGM against the Dallas Cowboys, and it's fair to wonder if that spread is way too high.
There is nothing going on downfield for the Rams, and there are a few reasons. But it's stark: Matthew Stafford's average depth of target (aDOT) is 6.8 yards, which is tied for 27th among 31 qualified QBs via Pro Football Focus. Last year it was 8.9, which ranked sixth. His percentage of deep passes has dropped from 11.6% last season to 8.7% this season. That's alarming for a QB whose career has been defined by deep passing.
Maybe Stafford's elbow is part of the problem. His elbow issues were the talk of the preseason and while he has shown good velocity on some throws, it's easy to wonder if his arm is a reason the Rams offense has changed. The offensive line has also been an issue. Stafford doesn't have a lot of time to throw. And then there's the receiver problem. New addition Allen Robinson II has been non-existent in the offense and it looks like his horrendous season with the Chicago Bears in 2021 was a sign of his decline and not just a Bears problem (Charles McDonald did a deep dive on the Rams offense in Four Verts this week).
It's not like the Rams get a break this week. The Cowboys have a very good defense. They get after the quarterback. Dallas is allowing 4.8 yards per pass attempt, tied for the lowest mark in the league. The offense has been just fine with Cooper Rush taking over for Dak Prescott. The Cowboys are playing well enough that a 5.5-point spread feels disrespectful.
I'll take the Cowboys and the points. It wouldn't surprise me if they won straight up. The Rams are still good but there are a lot of issues they need to work through.
Here are the rest of the against-the-spread picks for Week 5 of the NFL season, with the point spreads from BetMGM:
Broncos (-3) over Colts
It's not fun backing the Broncos, but as I talked about in The Daily Sweat, it's still easier than taking the Colts.
Giants (+8) over Packers
Another early morning London game. The Packers are good but it doesn't seem like they'll blow many teams out this season. Daniel Jones' ankle injury is worrisome, because his rushing ability is a big part of his game and the Packers defense can make life tough on him. But it feels like too many points.
Steelers (+14) over Bills
Teams generally rally when they have a new quarterback. Usually that's due to injury and not a benching, but I can see the Steelers playing hard around rookie Kenny Pickett. The quotes out of the Steelers the past few weeks indicated they were ready for a change. Fading the Bills means there's a chance you're trailing 24-0 in the first half — remember the Week 2 Titans game — but you can't be afraid to take ugly-looking underdogs.
Browns (+2.5) over Chargers
I liked the Browns more when they were +3. Apparently others did too. The Chargers' injuries are still a real challenge. They had a nice win over the Texans last week but I'm still concerned. The Browns are a team that will be in most games, and then it just depends on Jacoby Brissett making the plays they need to win it.
Bears (+7.5) over Vikings
There are a lot of underdogs on my card this week and this might be the one I feel the least confident in. The Bears are incredibly hard to watch on offense. Their absolute lack of trust in Justin Fields is setting their playcalling back 40 years. Still, it's more than seven points and the Vikings are coming back from London, which is a tough challenge.
Lions (+3) over Patriots
What happens when a Bailey Zappe-led offense faces the worst defense in the NFL? We're about to find out. The Patriots' playcalling got too conservative last week with Zappe in the game, and that's understandable. I can see that being the approach this week too. The Lions can score, there should be no doubt about that. I don't know how much New England can score with this offense.
Seahawks (+5.5) over Saints
Is the Seahawks offense good? It's hard to buy into that, but Geno Smith is playing well. Their 555 yards last week has much more to do with the Lions defense than anything else, but Seattle's offense has been quite surprising. The Saints also have the post-London issue, and their offense isn't great. Another underdog.
Dolphins (-3) over Jets
Again, teams with new quarterbacks often rally around that guy. And Teddy Bridgewater is a viable quarterback. The Jets had a nice win over the Steelers last week, but I think the Dolphins are the better team. They have extra rest too.
Falcons (+9) over Buccaneers
The concern here is that the Falcons might not score. I still believe in the Bucs defense (a lot of teams will get shredded by Patrick Mahomes), and Cordarrelle Patterson's injury is a big deal considering the Falcons don't want to pass the ball. But this looks like one of those seasons for the Buccaneers in which everything will come hard. And Atlanta has been competitive.
Titans (-2) over Commanders
I don't know yet if I'm sold on the Titans this season, but their win over the Colts was a big one. Washington started the season well by beating the Jaguars and it has been ugly since. I have more trust in Tennessee playing well.
Texans (+7) over Jaguars
Are this season's Texans like last season's Lions, a team that doesn't win a lot but covers a lot of spreads? The Texans haven't won yet but they're 2-1-1 against the spread, and had a good shot to cover against the Chargers last week before allowing a late touchdown. This was a tough pick because I think the Jaguars are good and will bounce back, but the Texans are feisty.
49ers (-6.5) over Panthers
Here's an underdog I can't talk myself into. If the 49ers can lock up the Rams offense, what will they do to this broken Panthers offense? Baker Mayfield is struggling badly, and facing the 49ers defense won't help.
Cardinals (+5.5) over Eagles
Sometimes you have to turn off your brain when picking the NFL. Nothing that we've seen would lead you to believe the Cardinals are the right side. I've been the Eagles' biggest cheerleader this season. I'm not that fond of the Cardinals. But it's the NFL. Absolutely weird things happen every week and this spread has my antenna up.
Bengals (+3) over Ravens
Can I bet on a push? I think this one lands right on the line. Let's not forget how dominant the Bengals were in both meetings against the Ravens last season. The Ravens were banged up last season, but there's something off about them this season other than the incredible play of Lamar Jackson. The Bengals have some extra rest too. It's a great test for both teams. Fun Sunday night game.
Raiders (+7) over Chiefs
Let's just end it with another underdog. I really don't think the Raiders are that bad. They've played close in all three losses this season, and let's make it 4-for-4 on Monday night.
Last week: 6-9-1
Season to date: 31-32-1