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NFL picks against the spread: Rams’ season is already miserable and it will get worse

The Rams are trending toward being the worst reigning Super Bowl champ ever.

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Los Angeles Rams vs. Kansas City Chiefs in Week 12 was supposed to carry the Sunday NFL slate. There aren’t many great post-Thanksgiving matchups, but Rams vs. Chiefs was supposed to be a battle of two Super Bowl contenders. We all remember 54-51 a few years ago.

Instead we get a Rams team that is a 14.5-point underdog against the Kansas City Chiefs at BetMGM and might not even be able to cover that.

The Rams have gone from one of the worst defending Super Bowl champions ever to almost assuredly the worst. Anything can happen, but the Rams are 3-7 and need to win five games to avoid becoming the second reigning champ to lose double-digit games. The 1999 Denver Broncos were 6-10. The 2022 Rams would be lucky to only lose 10.

The main problem with the Rams is injuries. Their offensive line hasn’t really been healthy all season. Then Cooper Kupp suffered an ankle injury that required surgery and will likely keep him out the rest of the season. Matthew Stafford is back in concussion protocol and it would be reckless for the Rams to play him anytime soon. The injuries don’t account for everything — the defense misses Von Miller badly, the offensive line never replaced Andrew Whitworth, Allen Robinson has been a free-agent disappointment and there’s no running game to speak of — but it’s hard to play when you’re losing key players every week.

So we’re probably stuck on Sunday afternoon with Rams backup quarterback John Wolford (maybe, he missed last week with an injury) throwing to Ben Skowranek and handing off to backs who will average about three yards per carry (Darrell Henderson won’t be around for those ineffective carries; he was cut this week). It won’t be pretty.

We’ve had just one game with a 14-point spread this season, and the Buffalo Bills beat the underdog Pittsburgh Steelers 38-3 in Week 5. Going back to Week 15 of last season, four of the last six teams that were at least 14-point underdogs have failed to cover. I want to take the Rams because it’s the NFL and 14.5 points is a lot, but I can’t figure out how the Rams score.

The Rams are hard to watch this season. It definitely isn’t what Fox expected when they featured this game on their Week 12 schedule.

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandon Powell is tackled by the New Orleans Saints last week. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Here are the picks against the spread for Week 12 of the NFL season:

Lions (+9.5) over Bills
Cowboys (-9.5) over Giants
Vikings (-2.5) over Patriots

There was a breakdown of each of these three Thanksgiving games in an early edition of the Daily Sweat.

Browns (+3.5) over Buccaneers

The Browns are bad, but so are the Buccaneers. Maybe the trip to Germany turns their entire season around, but I need to see it again. I’m not trusting them as a road favorite of more than a field goal yet.

Titans (+1.5) over Bengals

More Titans disrespect. At some point we just have to accept the Titans are going to beat analytics and win win more games than projected. The Bengals are good, but backing the Titans (they’re a league-best 8-2 against the spread) is not a bad strategy.

Texans (+13) over Dolphins

Houston’s Week 11 effort was troubling. It looked like a team that’s ready for the offseason to start. But 13 points is a lot in the NFL and I’ll take them, understanding there could be a lot of regrets by the end of the first quarter.

Jets (-4.5) over Bears

Sure, Zach Wilson is not good. But we don’t know if Justin Fields will play, and even if he does, the Bears are going to be against a much better defense than they’ve faced in a few weeks. The Bears were +3 at the Falcons last week and +4.5 at the Jets with Fields dealing with a separated shoulder … that doesn’t make any sense.

Falcons (+4) over Commanders

I don’t think there’s much separation between these teams. The Commanders are better, but I’ll take the four points with an Atlanta team that is flawed but playing hard. Usually Kyle Pitts‘ injury would be a factor, but Atlanta was determined to ignore him in the offense. They can probably replace his 35 yards per game.

Panthers (+2.5) over Broncos

The Broncos are bad. I’m not sure how fired up they’ll be to fly east and play an early game against a 3-8 Carolina team. The Panthers are turning back to Sam Darnold at quarterback and while we all know what Darnold is by now, will the Panthers be a little excited to be playing with a QB who isn’t Baker Mayfield? Maybe.

Jaguars (+4) over Ravens

The Jaguars are coming off the bye and the Ravens struggled a bit on offense last week. Are injuries catching up to Baltimore on the offensive side? Could be. Jacksonville’s defense has been horrendous against the pass but OK against the run, which matches up well against the Ravens. It’s not the easiest spot for Baltimore.

Chargers (-4.5) over Cardinals

The Cardinals’ season keeps getting worse. I don’t know that it’ll be easy to dig out of this hole. I don’t love the Chargers laying this many points as a road favorite. But I don’t want to back the Cardinals.

Seahawks (-3.5) over Raiders

Seattle is off its bye and the Raiders are simply not a very good team. The Raiders pulled out a win in the final seconds of regulation and overtime against a dreadful Broncos team. Don’t plan a parade for that. Seattle has been undervalued all season and I like the Seahawks in this spot.

49ers (-9) over Saints

I needed to be convinced that the 49ers could be that dominant team everyone was projecting since the Christian McCaffrey trade. Monday night was dominant. Sure, it was against a bad Cardinals team, but the Saints aren’t much better. It might be fun to back the 49ers down the stretch.

Eagles (-7) over Packers

It’s just not happening for the Packers. They’re not good. We can look at the Eagles’ last two games as either a sign that Philly is regressing, or as a wake-up call. I think it’s the latter. They lost one and came close to losing another, and they can’t afford to drop games with the Cowboys not far behind them.

Colts (-2.5) over Steelers

What did we do to deserve this Monday night matchup? Yuck. It’s hard to back the Steelers, especially on the road. I don’t know if the Colts feel OK about themselves after nearly upsetting the Eagles, or deflated from the last-minute loss. I’ll say the team that played the Eagles so tough can get a win over the Steelers. But it’s anyone’s guess.

Last week: 8-5-1

Season to date: 86-74-2

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