Los Angeles Rams (1-1) at Arizona Cardinals (1-1)
Going into the season, I considered the Cardinals among the most overrated teams in the league and a likely candidate to regress. 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. They’ll also be without top wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for the first six games of the season due to a suspension.
Given that, I’m surprised to be picking them against the spread in week 3, but they are a good value as 3.5-point home underdogs against the Rams. The Cardinals’ week 1 blowout loss to the Chiefs seems to have completely soured the public on them, but they were missing arguably their best defensive player JJ Watt and key offensive lineman Justin Pugh in that game, which also came against arguably the best team in the league. The Rams, meanwhile, were similarly embarrassed by another top team, the Buffalo Bills, in week 1 and, despite that, they are still favored by more than a field goal on the road in this one, even with the Cardinals pulling the upset win in Las Vegas last week with Watt and Pugh healthy.
My calculated line has the Cardinals as underdogs of just 1.5 points. The Rams may be a little overrated because they are defending Super Bowl champions, as they aren’t the same team as a year ago, with a pair of key starting offensive linemen, left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right guard Austin Corbett no longer with the team, as well as top edge defender Von Miller. The Rams did add Bobby Wagner in free agency this off-season, but he doesn’t offset all of their losses.
The Rams have significant injury concerns right now too, with starting wide receiver Van Jefferson still not making his season debut this week, starting center Brian Allen missing his second straight game, and several cornerback options unavailable. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are relatively healthy and played a much better game last week with key players back in the lineup. The Cardinals might not be able to pull the upset here, but about 1 in 4 games are decided by 3 points or less and this should be a close game, so the Cardinals are worth betting at +3.5.
Los Angeles Rams 27 Arizona Cardinals 26
Pick against the spread: Arizona +3.5