Arizona Cardinals (4-4) at Green Bay Packers (5-3)
This is what I said about the Cardinals after their 3-0 start. “Almost every year, there’s a team that gets off to a good start and then fades away and misses the playoffs and makes their believers look dumb (“This Ryan Fitzpatrick is the real deal.” “Rex Grossman is a legitimate franchise quarterback.”).Winning 3 in a row at any point in a season isn’t that impressive, but when teams do it to start the season, it’s much more noticeable and you get idiots like Michael Silver putting them first in his Power Rankings (Really? Kevin Kolb is going to win the Super Bowl?). This is essentially the same team that finished last year 8-8 and I expect them to finish somewhere around there this year. Bettors should ride the correction.” They haven’t covered since and have lost 4 straight.
Now with Kolb out, John Skelton is actually a downgrade, believe it or not, despite their records last season. Skelton was 6-2 in the 8 games he played the majority of the snaps, while Kolb was 2-6, but Skelton had the luxury of playing most of his games supported by better defensive play. In Skelton’s 8 games, the Cardinals allowed 19.0 points per game and in Kolb’s they allowed 24.5. Skelton was actually the inferior of the two quarterbacks last season. He led 100 drives last season and the Cardinals scored 16 touchdowns and 11 field goals (129 points, 1.29 points per drive) on those 100 drives. Kolb led 91 drives, leading to 20 touchdowns and 6 field goals (138 points, 1.52 points per drive).
Kolb also outplayed him statistically. He completed 146 of 253 (57.7%) for 1955 yards (7.7 YPA), 9 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. Skelton completed just 151 for 275 (54.9%) for 1913 yards (7.0 YPA), 11 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. This year, Skelton is completing 57.9% of his passes for 5.9 YPA, 1 touchdown, and 4 interceptions, while Kolb is completing 59.6% of his passes for an average of 6.4 YPA, 8 touchdowns, 3 interceptions. Until Kolb returns, this team is really going to struggle. Meanwhile, the offensive line is one of the worst I’ve ever seen and it might be the worst ever. They’re on pace to allow 89 sacks, which would shatter the NFL record of 76 set by the Texans in 2002. They’re still a good team to bet against going forward. Teams are 13-20 ATS off of 5 straight ATS losses as 10+ dogs.
Now they’re in a bad spot coming off a 17+ point loss on Monday Night Football. Teams are 22-37 ATS off a Monday Night Football loss of 17 or more. 5 days is just not enough time to bounce back mentally from a devastating loss and it’s not enough time to fix the problems. Meanwhile, the Packers are touchdown plus home favorites before a bye. Teams are 35-12 ATS in this spot since 2002, winning, on average, by 16.4 points per game. Good teams tend to be extra focused heading into a bye.
We are getting line value with the Cardinals, however. The yards per play differential method gives us a real line of Green Bay -7 and the rate of sustaining drives method gives us a real line of Green Bay -6.5. And its not because the Cardinals grade out well in those two statistics, ranking 24th and 18th respectively. It’s the Packers. They’re not the same team they were last year. They don’t run the ball well at all. Their offensive line isn’t good. They miss Greg Jennings and several other injured contributors. And they don’t consistently win the turnover battle anymore. They rank just 11th and 10th in those statistics respectively.
However, I still like the Packers. The Cardinals are heading in the wrong direction and are starting a truly inferior backup quarterback, while the Packers have some momentum. That slowed last week against Jacksonville, but they are expected to get Jordy Nelson back, which will help. The Packers are still good enough for the touchdown plus favorites after a bye trend to be in play. I hate laying this many points, especially on a public lean, and not getting line value, but the Packers should be the right side.
Public lean: Green Bay (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Arizona covers)
Sharps lean: ARZ 9 GB 2
Final update: I’m dropping down to 1 unit for 3 reasons. The first one is that the Packers may hold Jordy Nelson out another week, with an easy opponent this week and a bye next week. The second one is that, while 7+ home favorites tend to cover at a high rate going into a bye, 10+ home favorites are just 11-7 ATS (home favorites of between 7 of 10 are 24-5 ATS before a bye). It seems good teams tend to cover going into a bye, so long as they don’t have to cover a massive spread. The third reason is that the sharps like Arizona. Green Bay should still be the right side, but I’m not really confident and I hate laying this many points.
Green Bay Packers 27 Arizona Cardinals 12
Pick against spread: Green Bay -11 (-110) 1 unit