Baltimore Ravens (1-5) at Arizona Cardinals (4-2)
I’m pretty torn on this one. On one hand, the Ravens are in their 2nd of two road games. Teams are 119-86 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 97-59 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. Historically, teams cover at about a 65% rate in that situation. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 203-210 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.46 points per game, as opposed to 294-407 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 2.94 points per game. On top of that, the Ravens, despite being 1-5, haven’t lost by more than 6 all season. Their 5 losses have come by a combined 22 points. Those facts are relevant, considering this line is 9.
That being said, this is probably the toughest game the Ravens have had all season. They played the Bengals, but that was in Baltimore and this is in Arizona. They played the Broncos in Denver, but the Broncos aren’t as good as their 6-0 record and the Ravens still had Terrell Suggs for most of that game. They’ve really missed him. The Cardinals are “just” 4-2, but they actually rank 1st in rate of moving the chains differential and have won that battle in all 6 of their games. In their 2 losses, they won the first down battle by a combined 20 first downs and only lost because they had a -3 turnover margin in both games. Turnover margins are incredibly inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. On average, teams that have a -3 turnover margin in a game have a +0.1 turnover margin the following game. That’s why I don’t really like to use turnover margin as evidence for why a team is good. The Cardinals, despite 2 losses, have been very dominant through the first 6 weeks of the season.
Who they’re dominating is a concern though. They haven’t played a very tough schedule, playing New Orleans, Chicago, San Francisco, St. Louis, Detroit, and Pittsburgh (with Michael Vick/Landry Jones). However, the Ravens aren’t much better than any of those teams. In fact, they lost to the 49ers in San Francisco last week. Despite most of their games being close, they only rank 25th in rate of moving the chains differential. Sure, they could easily be 3-3, but their one win came in overtime so they could just as easily be 0-6. They’re more talented that that suggests and they ranked 3rd in rate of moving the chains differential in 2014, but they’ve lost Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Pernell McPhee, Darian Stewart, and Torrey Smith from that team, as well as offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, and that’s had a noticeable effect on this team. They’re not very good.
The Cardinals could easily have another blowout victory this week and cover this 9 point line. It helps that they have no upcoming distractions, as they head to Cleveland next week, where they are expected to be 4 point favorites over the Browns. Teams are 105-80 ATS since 2012 before being 3+ point road favorites and 68-48 ATS before being 4+ point road favorites. The Cardinals aren’t guaranteed to be 4+ point road favorites, but the logic would still hold either way. I’m going with the Cardinals, but this line is way too high for me to be confident.
Arizona Cardinals 24 Baltimore Ravens 13
Pick against the spread: Arizona -9