Game of the week: Rams get Packers after knocking off Cardinals

The St. Louis Rams know how to win when the odds are stacked against them. Last week’s victory over the Arizona Cardinals, who were previously ranked as one of the top teams in the NFL in this space, proved that.

That wasn’t an easy victory. This week’s game against the Green Bay Packers will be even more difficult. But if there’s an underdog with the ability to upset the Packers, it’s the Rams.

This St. Louis team has one of the more impressive pass rushes in the NFL. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald and defensive end Robert Quinn are among the best at what they do, and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who previously coached in New Orleans, has done a good job of putting his players in position to succeed.

Seeing how this front performs against Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a solid Green Bay offensive line will be one of the more interesting mini-matchups of the week.

The major issue the Rams must overcome is their offense. This is still a team with Nick Foles at quarterback. While he doesn’t make many mistakes and minimizes risks, it’s doubtful he’ll be able to hang in if this game turns into a shootout.

St. Louis will need the defense to limit the Packers, have Foles protect the ball and lean on rookie running back Todd Gurley, who broke loose last week for 146 yards on 19 carries.

The Rams are almost the real deal. They’re good enough to upset teams and do some damage. But in a league that is all about quarterbacks, St. Louis still lacks a great one. Until the Rams find that player, it’s always going to be difficult to pick them when a great player like Rodgers is on the other side of the ball.

Nick Underhill

NICK’S PICKS: Underhill’s top five teams (this week)

1. PATRIOTS (3-0)

It didn’t look like anyone in the NFL would be able to cool this team off during the first three weeks of the season. Maybe last week’s bye did what no one else could, but we doubt it.

2. Packers (4-0)

The Packers have a tough matchup against the St. Louis Rams this week. The problem is that Aaron Rodgers and this offense look like they’re on a mission to get to the Super Bowl.

3. BRONCOS (4-0)

Peyton Manning keeps getting the job done. As long as he’s doing that, and the Denver defense continues to stay strong, the Broncos are going to be a tough out for anyone.

4. BENGALS (4-0)

Andy Dalton seems to have figured something out this offseason. He’s winning games, moving the ball down the field, and the Bengals are rolling. Will that be true in January?

5. FALCONS (4-0)

This team looks good. New coach Dan Quinn has the Falcons performing on both sides of the ball. If the Saints hope to make the postseason, Atlanta needs to fade fast.

This week’s games

Bears (1-3) at Chiefs (1-3)

WHEN: Noon, Sunday

Line: Chiefs by 9

BRIEFLY: First trip for Bears to Arrowhead Stadium since Dec. 28, 2003, 31-3 loss. ... Bears RB Matt Forte (Tulane) needs two TDs to pass Rick Casares (59) for third-most in Bears history. ... Bears are fourth in NFL in pass defense (189.8 yards per game). ... Chiefs QB Alex Smith has thrown for 1,110 yards, fourth most in AFC through four games. ... Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos (Tulane) set franchise record with seven FGs in last Sunday’s loss to Bengals.

NICK’S PICK: Chiefs 20, Bears 17

Seahawks (2-2) at Bengals (4-0)

WHEN: Noon, Sunday

Line: Bengals by 3

Briefly: Seahawks make only second visit to Paul Brown Stadium. Lost 27-24 in 2003, coach Marvin Lewis’ first season. ... Game matches NFL’s second-ranked offense against second-ranked defense. ... Seahawks haven’t allowed TD in opponents’ last 20 possessions, forcing 18 punts, a fumble and a field goal. ... Seahawks are one of three teams (New Orleans, Washington) without interception. ... RB Jeremy Hill (LSU) leads AFC and is second in NFL with five touchdowns rushing.

NICK’S PICK: Seahawks 21, Bengals 16

Redskins (2-2) at Falcons (4-0)

WHEN: Noon, Sunday

LINE: Falcons by 7

BRIEFLY: Redskins tied for first in NFC East with Cowboys and Giants. Falcons tied for first in NFC South with Panthers. ... Redskins RB Alfred Morris second in NFL to Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch with 4,233 yards rushing since entering league in 2012. ... WR Pierre Garcon had seven catches for 129 yards, TD in last meeting. Since 2013, Garcon’s 205 catches lead NFC. ... Atlanta’s 137 points scored are second most in NFL, trailing Arizona (148). ... Falcons reached 4-0 for the first time since 2012, when team finished 13-3 and advanced to NFC championship game.

NICK’S PICK: Falcons 28, Redskins 20

Jaguars (1-3) at BUCS (1-3)

WHEN: Noon, Sunday

Line: Bucs by 3

BRIEFLY: Jacksonville has won four straight in series. ... Winner will end frustrating streak of futility. Jaguars have lost 11 consecutive road games. Bucs have dropped 11 straight at home, 10 under second-year coach Lovie Smith. ... Jaguars QB Blake Bortles, third overall pick in 2014 draft, is 96 shy of 4,000 career passing yards. He is 0-8 in road starts. ... Tampa Bay RB Doug Martin averaging 4.3 yards per carry after being slowed by injuries past two seasons.

NICK’S PICK: Bucs 20, Jaguars 17

Browns (1-3) at Ravens (1-3)

WHEN: Noon, Sunday

Line: Ravens 7

BRIEFLY: Ravens have won 13 of last 14 games between teams, exception 24-18 loss in Cleveland in November 2013. Browns’ last win in Baltimore was in 2007. ... This is Browns’ first AFC North game, Baltimore’s third. ... Browns have lost last two games by total of 10 points. Ravens’ three defeats have been by combined 14 points.

NICK’S PICK: Ravens 24, Browns 20

RAMS (2-2) at Packers (4-0)

WHEN: Noon, Sunday

Line: Packers by 9

Rams WR Tavon Austin first player in NFL history to have punt return of 75 yards or longer in three straight seasons. ... LB James Laurinaitis’ 100 consecutive starts are third-longest active streak among linebackers. ... Packers 11-0 at home since start of 2014 season, only unbeaten team at home in that stretch. ... WR James Jones tied for first in league with six catches of 25-plus yards. ... Packers have sack in franchise-record 40 straight regular-season games.

NICK’S PICK: Packers 21, Rams 17

BILLS (2-2) at TITANS (1-2)

WHEN: Noon, Sunday

Line: Bills by 1

BRIEFLY: Titans have won five straight vs. Bills. Buffalo’s last win over Titans was in 2000. ... Bills trying to win first two road games for first time since 2008. ... Bills lead NFL with 47 penalties and 428 yards off penalties. ... Bills QB Tyrod Taylor has passed for at least 270 yards in past two games. ... ... Titans rookie QB Marcus Mariota threw for career-best and franchise-rookie record 367 yards in last game

NICK’S PICK: Bills 23, Titans 20

Cardinals (3-1) at Lions (0-4)

WHEN: 3:05 p.m., Sunday

Line: Cardinals by 3

BRIEFLY: Cardinals have won six straight against Detroit. ... The NFC West-leading Cardinals have scored NFL-high 148 points. ... ... Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson (LSU) is NFL’s only player with at least 15 interceptions and five interception returns for scores since 2011. ... Detroit QB Matthew Stafford ranks 27th in NFL with 79.7 rating, his lowest since rookie season six years ago.

NICK’S PICK: Cardinals 24, Lions 21

Patriots (3-0) at Cowboys (2-2)

WHEN: 3:25 p.m., Sunday

Line: Patriots by 81/2

BRIEFLY: Patriots have won past four in series after Cowboys won first seven from 1971-96. ... Patriots are averaging 37.8 point per game during six-game winning streak that includes playoffs last season. ... Cowboys coach Jason Garrett needs one win to tie Jimmy Johnson for second on franchise career list with 44. Tom Landry had 250.

NICK’S PICK: Patriots 27, Cowboys 20

Broncos (4-0) at Raiders (2-2)

WHEN: 3:25 p.m. Sunday

Line: Broncos by 41/2

BRIEFLY: Broncos won last seven meetings, including all six with Peyton Manning. Current streak is tied for longest ever for Denver in series with seven-gamer from 1997-2000. ... Manning and Raiders S Charles Woodson two of three remaining players from 1998 draft class; Colts QB Matt Hasselbeck is other. ... Oakland WR Amari Cooper leads all rookies with 24 catches, 339 yards receiving.

NICK’S PICK: Broncos 24, Raiders 17

49ers (1-3) at GIANTS (2-2)

WHEN: 7:25 p.m., Sunday

Line: Giants by 61/2

BRIEFLY: After running for 168 yards in season opener, halfback Carlos Hyde has 114 yards in last three games. ... San Francisco is last in NFC with minus-5 differential on turnovers. ... Giants QB Eli Manning is 5-2 against Niners, including playoffs. ... Giants have not rushed for 100 yards in game this season. ... WR Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU) is tied for 18th in league with 24 catches. He is tied for 11th on third downs with eight for 102 yards. ... WR Rueben Randle (LSU) has caught touchdown pass in each of last two games.

NICK’S PICK: Giants 23, 49ers 20

Steelers (2-2) at Chargers (2-2)

WHEN: 7:30 p.m., Monday

Line: Chargers by 31/2

BRIEFLY: In last start vs. Chargers, Sept. 15, 2013 with Philadelphia, Michael Vick passed for career-high 428 yards with two TDs, including one rushing, with 123.4 rating. ... In past eight games, Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell averages 160.5 scrimmage yards (805 rush, 479 receiving, 1,284 total), has 10 TDs (nine rushing, one receiving), including 150 yards, one rushing TD last week. ... Chargers TE Antonio Gates makes season debut after serving four-game suspension without pay for testing positive for PEDs. Gates needs one TD catch for 100th in career.

NICK’S PICK: Chargers 20, Steelers 17


Nick’s picks last week: 10-3

For the season: 35-23