Washington Mascots (1-0) at Arizona Cardinals (1-0)
The Cardinals pulled off a big upset last week in San Francisco, knocking off the reigning NFC Champions by score of 24-20 as 6.5-point underdogs. The Cardinals legitimately played well on both sides of the ball and finished with the 5th highest first down rate differential of the week at +8.24%. I buy their offensive performance, as they finished last season 18th in first down rate differential and now have DeAndre Hopkins as a #1 option, Kyler Murray in his second year, and a full season of Kenyan Drake, so they could make a leap offensively, but I have to see more from their defense to buy that they’re going to be consistently better than their 30th ranked finish in first down rate allowed in 2019, without any major off-season upgrades.
The Cardinals’ defensive performance last week might have had more to do with the fact that the 49ers were missing their two starting wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk due to injury and then had to turn George Kittle into a decoy for most of the game after he suffered an injury of his own. If the Cardinals’ defense falls back down to earth, they won’t be more than a middling team and will be looked back on as overrated after the first week.
The formerly named Washington team also got an upset win last week, knocking off the Eagles by score of 27-17 as 6-point home underdogs. That upset also was influenced by injury, as the Eagles were missing their top two offensive linemen and their entire right side of the offensive line with injury, though Washington had injury issues of their own, missing top linebacker Thomas Davis and top cornerback Kendall Fuller, who are both expected to return this week. However, Washington didn’t get nearly as much attention for their upset as Arizona, as this line shifted up further from Arizona -6 on the early line last week to Arizona -7 this week.
The Cardinals are definitely the better team, but the Mascots do some things well as well and they will play hard every week for Ron Rivera because of the situation he’s coaching through (think the Colts surprising 11-win season in their ChuckStrong year in 2012), so I only have the Cardinals about 3 points better in my roster rankings. Given that and that the Cardinals won’t have a normal homefield advantage this week, there’s some line value here with Washington, who should only be underdogs of 4.5 points at most and should be able to keep this one relatively close. They’re worth a small bet.
Arizona Cardinals 24 Washington Mascots 20
Pick against the spread: Washington +7