Seattle Seahawks (9-6) at Arizona Cardinals (13-2)
I’ve thought for a while that the Cardinals were the most underrated team in the NFL. I’ve taken them in every week since week 2. Despite the fact that the Panthers didn’t lose their first game of the season until last week, I think the Cardinals have been the best team in the league for most of the year. The Cardinals rank first in the NFL in rate of moving the chains differential, despite having a couple losses. In those 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 to support an evaluation of a team.
Comparing them with the Panthers, they have a point differential of +206, while the Panthers are at +162, despite the fact that they have a turnover margin of +12, while the Panthers are at +19. The Cardinals are 4-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less, but the Panthers are 6-1, accounting for nearly half of their wins, and the Cardinals rank 17th in rate of strength of schedule, as opposed to 28th for Carolina.
However, it appears the Cardinals are underrated no more, in the wake of their 38-8 win over the Packers last week, as this line has shifted from 2.5 in favor of the Seahawks to 6.5 in favor of the Cardinals, a massive 9 point shift. I actually think the line is pretty appropriate, but we’ve lost all value with the Cardinals. In fact, I’m going the other way. The Cardinals rank #1 in rate of moving the chains differential, but the Seahawks still come in 4th, despite a huge upset home loss to the St. Louis Rams last week. The Seahawks would have had a much easier time winning that game if they didn’t lose the turnover battle by 3 (including a fumble recovered for a touchdown) and I’ve already talked about how inconsistent turnover margins are.
Despite that loss, the Seahawks have still won 7 of 9 since a 2-4 start. They are 26-7 ATS in the second half of the regular season in the Pete Carroll era (since 2011), including 5-2 ATS this season. Well run teams like the Seahawks always seem to get it together down the stretch. Losing running back Marshawn Lynch, tight end Jimmy Graham, and running back Thomas Rawls with injuries has made this team more one-dimensional, but Russell Wilson has been playing arguably the best football of his career.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals are missing cornerback Tyrann Mathieu for the season with a torn ACL and he was playing like a Defensive Player of the Year candidate before going down. They obviously didn’t seem to miss him last week against the Packers, but it’s possible they just had a really spirited performance to compensate for Mathieu, something that’s going to be tough to do every single week. They’ll definitely miss him. The Seahawks are also in a great spot as divisional road underdogs are 57-31 ATS in a same season regular season rematch against a team they previously lost to as divisional home favorites, since 2002. Revenge is far from uncommon in divisional matchups similar to this one and the Cardinals beat the Seahawks as underdogs in Seattle earlier this year. I can’t put money on the Seahawks, but I’m going with them.
Arizona Cardinals 24 Seattle Seahawks 20
Pick against the spread: Seattle +6.5