Los Angeles Rams (2-1) at Arizona Cardinals (1-2)
One of my favorite things to do as a bettor is go against significant week-to-week line movements. This game has one of them, as the Cardinals were 10.5 point favorites on the early line last week, but now are only 7.5 point favorites here at home. The reason for this is obvious, as the Cardinals lost by 15 in Buffalo last week. However, outside of a -4 turnover margin (including a return touchdown), they actually played pretty well in that game. They moved the chains at a 67.86% rate, while the Bills moved the chains at a 67.50% rate.
It’s important not to fixate on turnover margin because, even in a lopsided number like last week’s, it’s still only 4 plays out of a game which has over a hundred combined snaps on both sides of the ball. Turnover margin is also very inconsistent from week-to-week. Teams that lose the turnover battle by 4, on average, have a turnover margin of +0.0 the following week. They also cover against the spread about 53.4% of the time the following week. That’s likely because the public fixates on turnover margin and ends up underrating the team. The Cardinals’ aging offense doesn’t seem quite as good as it was last season, but their defense is just as good as they were last season and they’re still 5th in rate of moving the chains differential through 3 games, after finishing 1st in that metric last season.
There’s no way the Cardinals should only be 7.5 point favorites against a Rams team that is dead last in that metric, after finishing 30th in that metric last season. The Rams are above .500 this season, starting 2-1, but that’s very misleading. They were manhandled week 1 by a San Francisco team that’s been horrible in their other 2 games and, even in better performances week 2 and week 3, they still haven’t won the rate of moving the chains battle all season. Their opponents already have 30 more first downs than they do on the season, suggesting their early record is a major fluke. These two teams are very far apart talent wise.
The Cardinals are in somewhat of a tough spot here having to turn around and play in 4 days on Thursday Night Football, but they go to San Francisco for that one, which isn’t tough at all. They figure to still be very focused for the Rams this week. Favorites are 50-73 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football. However, teams are 46-35 ATS since 2012 before being road favorites of 6+ and favorites of 6+ are 86-49 ATS since 2012 before being favorites of 6+ again. As long as this line is 9.5 or lower, this is worth putting money on.
Arizona Cardinals 24 Los Angeles Rams 10
Pick against the spread: Arizona -7.5