Arizona Cardinals (5-2) at Cleveland Browns (2-5)
Typically, I like fading significant line movements, because they tend to be week-to-week overreactions. This game does feature one, as the Cardinals were 4 point favorites on the early line last week, but are now favored by 6, probably as a result of the Browns’ big loss in St. Louis. However, I still like the Cardinals’ chances of winning big here on the road in Cleveland and covering this line. The Cardinals are “only” 5-2, but they rank 1st in rate of moving the chains differential. They’ve won the rate of moving the chains differential battle in all 7 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 or bad. 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, Pittsburgh (with Michael Vick/Landry Jones), and Baltimore. However, the Browns aren’t really better than any of those teams. They rank just 24th in rate of moving the chains differential. They get cornerback Joe Haden and safety Tashaun Gipson back from injury this week, but neither one of them was playing that well before getting hurt and the Cardinals are essentially at full strength injury wise as well. Even with this line moving up to 6, I still think we’re getting line value with the Cardinals.
The Cardinals are also in a way better spot, going into the bye. Good teams tend to take care of business going into a bye and win big as big favorites. Home favorites of 6+ going into the bye are 59-20 ATS since 2002. The Cardinals, unfortunately, are not at home for this one, but 3+ point road favorites are still 39-25 ATS going into a bye, for the same reason. It’s not as powerful of a trend as the other one, but the logic behind both is the same.
The Browns, meanwhile, need to turn around and play the Bengals on Thursday Night Football next week, a game in which they’re expected to be underdogs of 9.5. Underdogs of 6+ are 40-61 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 6+ again the following week, and that’s before you even take into account the upcoming short week. The Cardinals should have no problem beating up on the Browns, as they have against many similar caliber opponents, with no upcoming distractions on the horizon going into the bye. The only reason this isn’t my Pick of the Week is because of all the public money pouring in on Arizona.
Arizona Cardinals 27 Cleveland Browns 13
Pick against the spread: Arizona -6