Kansas City Chiefs (7-5) at Arizona Cardinals (9-3)
The wheels are starting to fall off for the Arizona Cardinals. They have lost 2 straight by double digits in Seattle and Atlanta and they have one offensive touchdown in their last 11 quarters. I’ve said all season that this team had not been playing as well as their record and it’s finally starting to catch up with them. They’ve been way too reliant on a +10 turnover margin this season, powered by a 61.90% rate of recovering fumbles (2nd in the NFL), a 2-0 record in games decided by a touchdown or less, and a +4 return touchdown margin.
All the advanced metrics have them as not being nearly as good as their record, even now that they’ve lost 2 in a row. They rank just 18th in the NFL in DVOA. In rate of moving the chains, they rank 12th, moving them at a 71.79% rate, as opposed to 69.64% for their opponents, a differential of 2.16%. Their offense has been even worse since Carson Palmer went down, as they’ve moved the chains at a 69.18% rate this season in games that Palmer doesn’t start, including the last 3. Now they’ve lost Tyrann Mathieu for an extended period of time defensively. Meanwhile, the Chiefs rank 7th, moving the chains at a 75.00% rate, as opposed to 71.31% for their opponents, a differential of 3.69%. The Cardinals don’t deserve to be favored here, even if it’s only by a point.
Speaking of the Cardinals being favored by a point, teams are 39-61 ATS since 2008 as favorites before Thursday Night Football. The Cardinals might not be completely focused for this non-conference game with a divisional game against the Rams up in 4 days. The Cardinals are also projected to be underdogs in that game, which opens up another bad spot for them as non-divisional home favorites are 88-107 ATS since 2002 before being divisional road underdogs.
On the flipside, the Chiefs host the Raiders up next, so all their focus will be on this game. Non-divisional road underdogs are 123-94 ATS since 2002 before being divisional home favorites and teams are 119-96 ATS before being double digit favorites since 2008. Combining these two, teams are 103-63 ATS since 2010 as underdogs before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. I wish we were getting more than a point with the Chiefs, but they should be the right side.
There are two reasons why the Chiefs aren’t a bigger play here. For one, the Cardinals have had a tough homefield advantage in recent years, going 28-11 ATS as home underdogs or favorites of less than 3 since 2007. Two, teams that lose back-to-back road games are 44-25 ATS in their next game as long as they still have a winning record and they’re home favorites. It makes sense. Any team that is able to lose two road games and still have a winning record and be favored at home was probably pretty good to begin with and may be undervalued off of those two losses. However, I don’t think the Cardinals are undervalued here and they don’t deserve to be home favorites. The Chiefs are the better team in the better spot and I have a reasonable amount in confidence in their ability to pull the upset.
Kansas City Chiefs 20 Arizona Cardinals 13 Upset Pick +100
Pick against the spread: Kansas City +1