Arizona Cardinals (3-3-1) at Carolina Panthers (1-5)
The Cardinals are just 3-3-1, but they have played much better than their record. If not for numerous special teams mistakes against both New England and Seattle, the Cardinals would be at least 5-2 right now. In their loss to the Rams, they lost by just 4 despite losing the turnover battle by 4; turnover margin tends to be a very fluky thing week-to-week. They’re legitimately a few plays away from being 6-1 right now, after finishing 13-3 last season. They finished last season 1st in first down percentage differential and once again rank 1st in that metric, as they have a league best +45 first down margin. Their offense isn’t as good as it was last season as Palmer has not repeated the career year he had in 2015, but their defense has allowed the lowest first down percentage in the league and they still have a lot of talent on offense around Palmer.
The 1-5 Panthers are also better than their record, as 3 of their 5 losses have come by 3 points or fewer. After Cam Newton and Jonathan Stewart both missed time in the early part of the season, the Panthers are relatively healthy coming out of their bye. However, this line is at 3 in favor of the Panthers at home, which suggests these two teams are even. Considering the Panthers still rank just 10th in first down percentage differential, we’re getting significant line value with the Cardinals at +3. The only reason I’m not confident enough to put money on the Cardinals is that they could be exhausted off of last week’s tie with the Seahawks. Teams are understandably just 5-11 ATS off of a tie since 1989. The Cardinals would have won easily in regulation last week if not for special teams mistakes. It’s possible their special teams ended up blowing two games at once last week, if the Cardinals can’t play their best this week, after playing 5 quarters last week.
Carolina Panthers 24 Arizona Cardinals 23
Pick against the spread: Arizona +3