The Cardinals are one of my top picks to regress this season. They went 11-6 last season, but needed a +12 turnover margin to get to that record, which is not predictive, and they ranked just 14th in overall efficiency, barely above average. They also got a lot worse this off-season, losing starting wide receiver Christian Kirk, top edge defender Chandler Jones, top off ball linebacker Jordan Hicks, top cornerback Robert Alford, and their most efficient running back Chase Edmonds, with their only major addition being former Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown, who cost the Cardinals their first round pick in a trade and who isn’t a significant upgrade on Christian Kirk.
Making matters worse, the Cardinals will be even further short-handed this week, missing top wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins due to suspension and his replacement Rondale Moore due to injury, as well as injured starting cornerback Trayvon Mullen, while starting tight end Zach Ertz, top interior defender JJ Watt, starting cornerback Byron Murphy, and starting left guard Justin Pugh all legitimately questionable for this team. On top of that, the Cardinals are facing a Chiefs team that should be among the best in the league again.
The Chiefs losing top wide receiver Tyreek Hill this off-season got a lot of attention, but they did a good job reloading at the position, giving them a much deeper group than a year ago, even if it lacks a true #1 receiver, while their defense figures to be much better than their 29th ranked finish in defensive efficiency a year ago. Most of their defensive struggles were concentrated early last season when they had significant injury problems and, once they turned it around defensively, the Chiefs went on to win 11 of their final 13 games, with their only two losses coming against the AFC winning Bengals.
I expect the Chiefs to continue being one of the best teams in the league even without Hill and have them calculated as 10-point favorites in Arizona against a Cardinals team that was likely to be below average this season even before all of their recent injuries. This line has moved up to Kansas City -6 due to the Cardinals’ injury situation, but it hasn’t moved high enough and we’re still getting enough line value with the Chiefs for them to be worth betting. The only thing preventing this from being a bigger play is that the Chiefs have to play again four days after this game in a huge divisional matchup against the Chargers on Thursday Night Football and could overlook this game a little bit as a result, with favorites covering at just a 44.0% rate before Thursday Night Football historically.
That might not matter as much in week 1 though, especially since Andy Reid coached teams typically do well with extra time to plan, going 36-22-1 ATS in that spot all time, which might cancel out the other trend. Depending on who ultimately is ruled out for the Cardinals and where this line ends up, I may consider increasing this bet even with the Chiefs potentially in an unfavorable situation. It’s worth locking in a bet at -6 even before knowing the final injury report because the Chiefs should cover either way and this line is likely to rise before gametime.
Update: Watt is expected to be out for the Cardinals, which is their most important absence, but this line is still at 6 in some places, so I want to lock in a bigger bet.
Kansas City Chiefs 38 Arizona Cardinals 27
Pick against the spread: Kansas City -6