NFL against the spread picks: Rams can claim pole position in NFC West

The Los Angeles Rams can’t win a division title after five weeks. But they can make a big step in that direction, and also legitimize their fast start, on Sunday.

The Seattle Seahawks play at the Rams in game that is much more important than we could have predicted in August. The Seahawks were the consensus favorite to win the NFC West, but with a win on Sunday the Rams would take a two-game lead with a tiebreaker edge.

The Rams have been good, and it doesn’t look like they’re going anywhere. Also, the Seahawks have been surprisingly inconsistent so far. Seattle lost Week 1 at Green Bay and didn’t look good, they trailed at home against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2 before winning late, they trailed 30-13 after three quarters in Week 3 at the Titans before rallying some and trailed 15-10 at halftime at home against a bad Colts team last week before dominating the second half. Seattle hasn’t come close to playing four good quarters in a row. Injuries to defensive end Cliff Avril and running back Chris Carson don’t help them moving forward, either.

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However, I believe Seattle finally plays a complete game on Sunday. It’s hard for me to believe the Seahawks are fading out of the spotlight. This is still a star-filled team that has at least shown brief flashes of being a championship contender, like the second half against the Colts. I think the Seahawks understand this is a much bigger early-season game than they anticipated, and they’ll rise to the occasion. The line is a pick ’em in the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em and the Seahawks are plus-1 in the SuperContest, and I’ll take the Seahawks to win in both. If the Rams lose I don’t think it means they’re not for real. It would just mean the Seahawks aren’t ready to give up control of the division.

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) talks head coach Sean McVay in a win over the Cowboys. (AP)

Here are the rest of the lines for Week 5 of the NFL:

SUPERCONTEST

Bengals (-3) over Bills: It does seem a bit disrespectful to the 3-1 Bills to make them an underdog to the 1-3 Bengals. I still think the Bills let down a bit after two big wins against the Broncos and Falcons. According to OddsShark’s Week 5 betting primer, the Bills are 2-11 in their last 13 games coming off consecutive wins. The Bengals have looked better of late. (The line is Bengals minus-2.5 in the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em.)

Browns (pick ’em) over Jets: Let’s put it this way, if the Browns don’t win this week, you’ll hear a lot of 0-16 talk. If they can’t beat the Jets at home, there aren’t many other chances to win on the schedule. I assume the Browns will have some urgency here.

Packers (+2) over Cowboys: This is a fun game. It’s a rematch of last season’s playoff classic, and I just like the Packers more at this point. I’m picking them anticipating they get some injured players back. Most of the players on their injury report got in at least limited practices this week. (The line is Packers plus-2 in the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em.)

Bears (+3) over Vikings: We’ve seen the Bears play well in both home games. I don’t think Mitch Trubisky is a downgrade over Mike Glennon, and Watson has reminded us that rookies can play well right away. And the Vikings come in with either a banged-up Sam Bradford or Case Keenum at quarterback, and no Dalvin Cook. This seems like a really good spot for the Bears.

And here are the rest of the picks this week:

Buccaneers (+5.5) over Patriots (picked Thursday): This line moved a lot but it was 5.5 on the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em, which I use for my picks, and I’m thankful for that. The Patriots defense looked much better until letting up a bit late.

Lions (-1) over Panthers: At some point I have to admit the Lions are better than I anticipated.

Colts (pick ’em) over 49ers: The 49ers have played hard, but aside from the Rams game, their offense has been horrendous. The Colts haven’t been great either, though I think quarterback Jacoby Brissett is at least good enough to get his playmakers the ball. The 49ers are 1-18 in their last 19 games, and it’s hard to pick them to win on the road against anyone.

Dolphins (+1) over Titans: I’m assuming Marcus Mariota doesn’t play, or isn’t fully healthy due to a hamstring injury. Therefore, I’ll go with Miami. I think a lot of the Dolphins’ issues the last couple weeks have come from an absolutely brutal early-season travel schedule.

Chargers (+3.5) over Giants: The battle of two pretty good 0-4 teams. I just assume the Chargers will lose a close one, because that’s what they do.

Eagles (-7) over Cardinals: I generally like what I’ve seen with the Eagles and the Cardinals have looked awful. Not sure playing an early game on the East Coast helps Arizona out much.

Jaguars (+10) over Steelers: I’m banking on the good Jaguars showing up. Their defense is talented and I think they can at least be somewhat competitive. But we can already see the Jaguars are a team that we won’t be able to predict week to week.

Ravens (+2.5) over Raiders: There’s no way I’d pick this game if I didn’t pick every game. We’ve seen the Raiders without Derek Carr, and it’s not pretty. We’ve also seen the Ravens the last couple weeks, and that’s not pretty either. No idea what we’re getting here.

Texans (pick ’em) over Chiefs: I think we’re looking at a different Texans team with Deshaun Watson. I did not anticipate him being this good this soon.

Last week: 10-6
Season to date: 40-22-2
SuperContest: 3-2 last week, 14-6 season to date

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!