Arizona Cardinals (0-1) at Indianapolis Colts (0-1)
The Colts had an embarrassing week 1, losing 46-9 in Los Angeles to a Rams team that won 4 games last season. They only managed 10 first downs to the Rams’ 19 and moved the chains at a 13.97% worse rate than their opponents. It’s clear this is not the same team without all of the players they are missing with injuries, most notably quarterback Andrew Luck, but also center Ryan Kelly, cornerback Vontae Davis, and safety Clayton Geathers. All four of those players will miss this week as well.
The Cardinals also had a nightmare week 1 too, though in a different way. They only lost by 12 in Detroit, but lost star running back David Johnson and left tackle DJ Humphries for an extended period of time with injury. The Cardinals jumped out to a 10-0 lead and led 17-9 in the third quarter, but were outscored 26-6 the rest of the way against an overrated Detroit team that is also missing it’s left tackle and won just one game by more than a touchdown in 2016. The injuries, especially the injury to Johnson, were a big factor in the Cardinals’ declining performance throughout the game.
Johnson and Humphries are not the only Cardinals who will be out this week, as left guard Mike Iupati, tight end Jermaine Gresham, and wide receiver John Brown are also expected to miss this game after playing week 1, while middle linebacker Deone Bucannon remains out after off-season surgery. The Cardinals probably get defensive end Robert Nkemdiche back this week, but he’s hardly the reinforcements they need. The Cardinals also lost 5 defensive starters in free agency this off-season, including stud defensive end Calais Campbell and talented safeties DJ Swearinger and Tony Jefferson, so this team is a far cry from their 2016 version.
Despite both of these teams’ rough first weeks, this line has shifted from 3.5 in favor of the Cardinals to 7 since the early line last week, the biggest line movement in any game from last week to this week. Missing as much as they currently are, the Cardinals shouldn’t be favored by a touchdown on the road against anyone, but the casual betting public sees the Colts as unbettable right now, which is why the public money keeps pouring in on the Cardinals despite the line movement. The public always loses money in the long run, so I’m always weary of heavy public favorites like this. I don’t think the casual public understands how bad the Cardinals are right now given all of their injuries.
The casual public is also likely underestimating the effect of the Colts’ quarterback change from Scott Tolzien to Jacoby Brissett. Brissett has only been with the team for a couple weeks, acquired from the Patriots before final cuts, but he’s undoubtedly more talented than Scott Tolzien (who now has 9 career interceptions to just 2 career touchdowns) and he should be a significant upgrade, even on a limited playbook. He also gives them dual threat ability as a passer and runner than Tolzien did not give them and should do a much better job of getting the ball to what is still an above average receiving corps.
The Colts are also in a good bounce back spot after that horrible defeat, while the Cardinals could overlook the Colts with a much tougher game next week at home against Dallas on Monday Night Football. Teams are 53-28 ATS since 2002 off of a loss of 35+ or more (16-8 ATS since 2012), as teams tend to be overlooked, undervalued, and embarrassed after a huge loss. You can definitely argue the Colts will be all three of those things this week. Meanwhile, road favorites like the Cardinals are just 17-32 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs, which the Cardinals are expected to be next week against the Cowboys. With a major tougher game on deck, the Cardinals might not have been completely focused in preparation throughout the week and that could show on the field. I’m not super excited about betting on the Colts, but we’re getting too much value here to not make a small bet.
Arizona Cardinals 20 Indianapolis Colts 17
Pick against the spread: Indianapolis +7