Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams: 2020 Week 17 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (8-7) at Los Angeles Rams (9-6)

The Rams had a chance to clinch the division last week with a win in Seattle, but instead that game went about as bad as it could, as not only did the Rams lose, but they lost their starting quarterback Jared Goff, among other players who won’t be available for what is now a must win game against the Cardinals, as a loss and a Bears win against the Packers would lead to the Rams being out of the playoffs in a three way tie at 9-7. 

In Goff’s absence, the Rams will start 2018 undrafted free agent John Wolford, who has never thrown an NFL pass, and he’ll be without the benefit of running back Darrell Henderson, possibly running back Cam Akers, and wide receiver Cooper Kupp, on an offense that has already been without stud left tackle Andrew Whitworth for the past 6 weeks. The Rams ranked just 20th in first down rate over expected at -0.11% before their recent injuries and, while they’ve been carried by a defense that ranks 1st in first down rate allowed over expected at -5.07%, defensive performance is much more inconsistent on a week-to-week basis than offensive performance.

All of a sudden, the Rams have gone from having a chance to clinch the division in week 16 to being underdogs in a game they may need to win to stay alive. This line has shifted from Los Angeles -4 on the early line to Arizona -3 this week, but I think that is a little much, especially with the Cardinals dealing with some absent skill position players as well (Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, Chase Edmonds). The Rams still rank 22nd in my roster rankings because of their defense, while the Cardinals rank 16th without the players they are missing. My calculated line favors Arizona by just 1 point, though that’s not enough line value to get me to bet on a quarterback as unproven as Wolford. 

Arizona Cardinals 20 Los Angeles Rams 19

Pick against the spread: LA Rams +3

Confidence: Low

San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals: 2020 Week 16 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (5-9) at Arizona Cardinals (8-6)

The 49ers lost last week in upset fashion to the Cowboys and that seems to have caused the public and the oddsmakers to sour on them, with this line shifting from Arizona -3 on the early line last week to Arizona -5 this week. That might not seem like a huge line movement, but about 1 in 5 games are decided by 3-5 points, including 1 in 6 games by exactly a field goal, so it’s definitely a significant movement. It’s not surprising that line movement happened, as the public views the Cowboys as one of the worst teams in the league and the 49ers just lost to them, but I think it’s an overreaction, as significant week-to-week line movements tend to be.

Not only are the Cowboys a little underrated (the season long stats don’t show they’ve improved significantly in recent weeks), but the 49ers outplayed them for most of the game, winning the first down rate battle by 8.71% and losing primarily because of a -4 turnover margin, which tends to be highly inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. Teams with a turnover margin of -4, on average, have a turnover margin of -0.01 the following week and, as a result, cover at a 52.4% rate as underdogs.

Last week was kind of a microcosm of the 49ers season, as they actually rank 5th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at +2.93%, but are just 5-9 because of a 2-4 record in games decided by one score, a -11 turnover margin that is 2nd worst in the NFL, and a -4 return touchdown margin. First down rate differential is a much more predictable and predictive metric than the other metrics, which are largely unpredictable week-to-week, so, while the 49ers aren’t the 5th best team in the league, they’re better than their record suggests, especially when you consider they’ve faced one of the toughest schedules in the league.

This line movement can also be somewhat explained by the 49ers’ injuries, as they will be without two of their top remaining defensive players in cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Jimmie Ward this week and they also lost backup quarterback Nick Mullens, who had been starting in the absence of Jimmy Garoppolo, and starting running back Raheem Mostert, but 3rd string CJ Beathard isn’t really a downgrade from Mullens, the 49ers are deep at running back behind Mostert, and they will also welcome back a pair of key players in tight end George Kittle and cornerback Jason Verrett, the latter of whom has actually outplayed Sherman this season prior to missing last week’s game against the Cowboys. Overall, my calculated line is still at Arizona -3 at the highest, especially when taking into account that this is essentially a neutral site game, with the 49ers sharing the Cardinals stadium for the past month and neither team being allowed fans in the stadium.

On top of that, the Cardinals are in an awful spot for several reasons. For one, they’ve already beaten the 49ers once this season and might not take them as seriously the second time around, especially with the 49ers in a more diminished state right now than they were in that game and with the 49ers coming off of last week’s loss. Divisional home favorites cover at just a 42.6% rate in a same season, regular season rematch against a team they previously beat in upset fashion, including 40.5% as home favorites of 4 points or more.

The Cardinals also have a tougher game on deck against the Rams and favorites cover at just a 42.4% rate at home against a sub-400 divisional opponent before going on the road and facing a divisional opponent with a record better than .600. On top of that, this is close to a must win game for the Cardinals, who currently have a loose hold on the NFC’s 3rd and final wild card spot. You might think that because this is a must win game that the Cardinals will rise to the challenge against a team with nothing real to play for, but that’s actually the opposite of what typically happens in this situation, as teams with a 51%-65% winning percentage cover at just a 42.3% rate in weeks 16 and 17 against a team with a sub-.500 record. The Cardinals could still pull out the win, but the most likely result is them winning by 1 or 3 points and I would be surprised if they were able to win this one easily, so the 49ers are worth a significant bet.

Arizona Cardinals 24 San Francisco 49ers 23

Pick against the spread: San Francisco +5

Confidence: High

Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals: 2020 Week 15 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (4-8-1) at Arizona Cardinals (7-6)

This game is a tough call. On one hand, the Eagles are coming off of a huge upset win over the Saints, which typically leads to a hangover effect, as teams cover at just a 41.1% rate after a win as home underdogs of 5 points or more. The Cardinals probably won’t be caught off guard by an unfamiliar quarterback the same way the Saints were last week, with a full NFL game of tape on him and the Cardinals not looking forward to a huge game against the Chiefs like the Saints were last week. 

On the other hand, the Eagles might be a legitimately viable team with Hurts under center. They’ve had a solid defense all season, ranking 9th in first down rate allowed over expected at +1.29%, but Carson Wentz’s quarterback play made it very difficult for the Eagles to be competitive, even with a talented defense. Hurts is raw and doesn’t have an ideal situation around him on offense, particularly on the offensive line, but it wouldn’t be hard for him to continue to be an upgrade over Wentz and that could easily lead to the Eagles continuing to be better than people think.

The Cardinals aren’t much more than a middling team, so there isn’t nearly as big of a talent gap between these two teams as this 6.5-point line would suggest if the Eagles are legitimately significantly better with Hurts under center. Without any real homefield advantage in Arizona, this line suggests the Cardinals are about 5.5-6 points better than the Eagles. My calculated line is Arizona -3.5, so we’d be getting enough line value to bet the Eagles in normal circumstances, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they were flat off such a big win last week, so I am probably going to stay away from betting this one. One thing that could get me to change my mind is Arizona’s Justin Pugh being ruled out with injury, which could easily happen after he didn’t practice all week and was slapped with a questionable tag, but, for now, this is a low confidence pick.

Update: Still no word on Pugh, but I am leaving this as a low confidence pick regardless, as the Eagles will be without their top cornerback Darius Slay.

Arizona Cardinals 27 Philadelphia Eagles 23

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +6.5

Confidence: Low

Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants: 2020 Week 14 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (6-6) at New York Giants (5-7)

Coming out of their bye week a couple weeks ago, the Giants looked like they would be a good bet going forward. They were just 3-7, but they had faced a tough schedule to start their season, including 9 out of 10 games against teams that rank in the top-10 in first down rate allowed over expected, the Steelers (2nd), the Rams (1st), Washington twice (3rd), the Eagles twice (9th), the 49ers (10th), the Bears (7th), and the Buccaneers (5th). The Giants were also healthier coming out of the bye than they’ve been most of the season. 

That lasted about a half unfortunately, as the Giants were up 13-10 with the ball in Cincinnati’s red zone early in the 3rd quarter (with the Bengals’ only touchdown coming on a return touchdown), but then quarterback Daniel Jones suffered a hamstring injury and, while they held on to win that game, backup Colt McCoy struggled mightily and nearly blew the game, as the lowly Bengals were a field goal away from winning the game on a late drive in which they ended up fumbling at midfield.

Based off McCoy’s struggles in that game, I stayed away from the Giants when they went to Seattle last week, but they shocked everyone, winning straight up as 11-point underdogs by final score of 17-12, in a game in which their defense shockingly had a dominant performance to cover for an underwhelming McCoy. Even with that game included, the Giants rank just 18th in first down rate over expected at +0.92% and defensive play is very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis anyway, but with Daniel Jones back under center this week, the Giants are a decent team, ranking 17th in my roster rankings, as Jones has performed significantly better than his production this season, when you take into account the caliber of defenses he has faced.

Unfortunately, we’re not getting as much line value with the Giants as we would have, if they had not pulled the huge upset last week. My calculated line is even, as the Cardinals are only marginally better than the Giants, given that their defense is one of the worst in the league and that Kyler Murray has not played as well in recent weeks, likely in part due to a shoulder injury, but there isn’t enough for the Giants to be worth taking at +2.5. I may reconsider if this line moves up to a full field goal before gametime though and the money line is a good value as well at +125, as this game is close to a toss up.

Update: Some +3s briefly popped up on Sunday morning. If you were lucky enough to get one, it’s worth a play, even paying extra vig.

New York Giants 31 Arizona Cardinals 30 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +3

Confidence: Medium

Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals: 2020 Week 13 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (7-4) at Arizona Cardinals (6-5)

The Rams lead the NFL with a +4.63% schedule adjusted first down rate differential, while the Cardinals rank 9th at +2.02%, but there is reason to believe the Cardinals can be the better team going forward. While the Rams are a defensive led team, ranking 2nd in first down rate allowed over expected, but just 15th in first down rate over expected, the Cardinals are a dominant offensive team (4th) that has some issues on defense (17th). The good news for the Cardinals is that defensive play is much more inconsistent on a week-to-week than offensive play, so an offensive led team is more likely to sustain their success going forward. 

Despite that, this line favors the Rams by a field goal, swinging from an even line last week on the early line, a surprise because the Rams and Cardinals both lost close games last week. About 1 in 4 games are decided by 3 points or less, so that’s a significant swing without any legitimate reason for it. I love getting a full field goal with the team with the significantly better offense, which is especially the case with the Rams missing dominant left tackle Andrew Whitworth for the third straight week. He’s arguably their most important offensive player. My roster rankings suggest we’re getting significant value with the Cardinals as well, as the Rams have just a one point advantage in my roster rankings without Whitworth, meaning this game should be about a toss up in Arizona, where the Cardinals will have minimal homefield advantage.

On top of that, the Cardinals are in a much better spot. While the Rams have to turn around and play another game against the Patriots in four days on Thursday Night Football, the Cardinals get a trip to New York to face a Giants team that could easily be missing it’s starting quarterback, so the Cardinals should be fully focused. Favorites cover at just a 42.5% rate all-time before a short week, while home underdogs are 72-48 ATS since 2008 before being road favorites, which the Cardinals almost definitely will be against the Giants next week. I would like the Cardinals at +3 even in ordinary circumstances, but with those situational trends factored in, this is my Pick of the Week. I locked in +3 earlier this week, but there are still some available at some books. The money line is also worth a bet as well.

Arizona Cardinals 27 Los Angeles Rams 24 Upset Pick +135

Pick against the spread: Arizona +3

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Arizona Cardinals at New England Patriots: 2020 Week 12 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (6-4) at New England Patriots (4-6)

The Patriots are just 4-6, but they appear to have made the right decision to move on from Tom Brady and not guarantee him 50 million dollars for his age 43 and 44 seasons in 2020 and 2021 like the Buccaneers did. Brady is having some success in Tampa Bay, but he has a much better team around him with the Buccaneers and likely would not be having the same success in New England. In fact, there is an argument to be made that the Patriots would be worse off with Brady than with Cam Newton, even before taking into account that Newton is making next to nothing, allowing the Patriots to maintain long-term financial flexibility and shorten the length of their rebuild.

After ranking just 21st in the NFL in first down rate last season with Brady, the Patriots rank 8th in first down rate over expected this season at +1.84%. The Patriots have a better offensive line and running game this season, but they also don’t have their only consistent veteran wide receiver in Julian Edelman, who will miss his 5th straight game. The Patriots don’t have much of a passing game this season, but it’s unlikely it would have been much better with Brady throwing to these unproven receivers and Newton’s running ability at least gives this offense another dimension to make up for their lack of a downfield passing game. Overall, the Patriots’ offense hasn’t been the problem. 

The big problem is their defense, which led the league in first down rate allowed by a wide margin last season, but has fallen to 24th in first down rate allowed over expected at +1.80%. That’s understandable, given that 6 of their top-11 in snaps from last year’s defense are no longer with the team, either leaving in free agency, trade, or opting out. Even with their defensive struggles though, they’ve been better than their record suggests, as they’ve played a tough schedule and have gone just 2-4 in one score games. 

In terms of schedule adjusted first down rate differential, the Patriots rank a middling 19th at +0.04% and they could easily be better than that going forward, because they’re healthier now than they’ve been and because offense is much more predictable and consistent on a week-to-week basis than defense. If their defense can even be middling going forward, this won’t be an easy team to face. My roster rankings are even more generous, ranking them 12th. The Patriots have had a couple stinker performances in recent weeks, nearly losing to the Jets and losing to the Texans, but they were in a bad spot in both of these games, before and after a big upset victory over the Ravens. Coming off of last week’s loss, I would expect much better focus from New England this week.

Instead, it could be New England’s opponents who aren’t totally focused, with the Cardinals potentially looking ahead to a key divisional matchup with the Rams next week in Arizona. The Cardinals are a very similar team to the Patriots, with their defense significantly lagging behind their offense, and these two teams rank about even in my roster rankings. We’re only getting a point and a half with the Patriots as home underdogs, so there isn’t enough here for the Patriots’ money line to be worth betting without any fans in the stands, but these two teams are about even except for the spot and with the Patriots in the better spot, I would expect them to sneak out a close victory, so the Patriots should be the better side for pick ‘em purposes. The money line at +110 is worth a small bet, as the Patriots should be considered no worse than 50/50 to win this game straight up and my calculated line is New England -1.5.

New England Patriots 33 Arizona Cardinals 31 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: New England +1.5

Confidence: Low

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks: 2020 Week 11 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (6-3) at Seattle Seahawks (6-3)

The Seahawks started 5-0 before their bye, but it wasn’t a very convincing 5-0, as four of their wins came by one score. It was very similar to last season when they went just 1-3 in games decided by more than one score, but made the playoffs because a 10-2 record in games decided by one score pushed them to 11 wins on the season. In total, the Seahawks went 14-2 in one score games over a 16-game stretch of one score games, which was highly improbable and not something that was likely to continue. Even elite quarterbacks like Russell Wilson struggle to win more than half of their one score games on a consistent basis and before that 14-2 stretch Wilson actually went just 30-34 to start his career in one score games.

Sure enough, since their week 6 bye, the Seahawks have dropped 3 of the past 4 games, including an 0-2 record in one score games. Once seemingly the favorite for the #1 seed in the NFC, the Seahawks are suddenly in a 3-way tie for the NFC West lead, ahead of a crucial Thursday Night Football matchup with the Cardinals, who currently hold the tiebreaker by virtue of a 37-34 victory in Arizona back in week 7. On top of that, of the three teams tied for the NFC West lead, the Seahawks have statistically been the worst, as they have just a +24 point differential and rank just 15th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at +0.48%.

There is some good news for the Seahawks though. For one, they typically finish seasons better than they start. They lost last week in the first game of the second half, but since Russell Wilson arrived in 2012, the Seahawks are 42-21-2 ATS in games 9-16, as opposed to 34-34-4 ATS in games 1-8. On top of that, the Seahawks are an offensive led team, which is a good thing because offensive performance tends to be much more consistent week-to-week than defensive performance. The Seahawks rank 3rd in first down rate over expected, so if their defense, which has ranked 25th in first down rate allowed over expected, can be even a middling defense the rest of the way, this team is going to be tough to beat.

This is also a great spot for the Seahawks, off of back-to-back losses. Not only does it give us a better line, with the Seahawks shifting from being 5.5-point favorites on the early line last week to being 3-point favorites this week, but they’ve typically done well off of a loss in the Russell Wilson era at 27-12-3 ATS and have been even better off of back-to-back losses, going 7-1 ATS with no 3-game losing streaks in Wilson’s 137-game career. The Seahawks figure to be fully locked in for this game, especially having lost to the Cardinals earlier this season, while the Cardinals could be a little flatter, having already beaten the Seahawks once and coming off an insane last second win against the Bills last week.

All that being said, I was hoping for a better injury report for the Seahawks, as their defense may need to get at least mostly healthy to be a middling unit. They got safety Jamal Adams back a couple weeks ago and have added veterans Damon Harrison and Carlos Dunlap to give them a much needed boost on the defensive line, but they’re still missing both of their cornerbacks, Shaq Griffin and Quinton Dunbar, who will miss their fourth and second game respectively this week. 

On offense, the Seahawks get #2 running back Carlos Hyde back from a 3-game absence, but will be without lead running back Chris Carson for the 4th straight game and, with center Ethan Pocic out, this is their 6th straight game missing at least one starting offensive lineman. Injury problems have been part of the reason for the Seahawks regression in recent weeks, so I was hoping that at least one of the aforementioned absent players would return. 

Without them, it’s hard to justify placing a bet on the Seahawks as field goal favorites, given that they’ll have no real homefield advantage without fans in the stands. This line suggests the Seahawks are about 2.5 points better than the Cardinals, giving them a half point for homefield advantage. I would say 2.5 points is about right, as the Cardinals are in many ways a slightly lesser version of the Cardinals, with a strong offense and a defense that has struggled. I still think the Seahawks should be the right side because I don’t envision them losing three straight games, especially on a short week when the more veteran, better coached team usually wins, but a 1-3 point win wouldn’t really surprise me, so I wouldn’t recommend placing money on the Seahawks.

I am locking in TEN +6 @ BAL and JAX +10.5 vs. PIT now before the lines shift. I will have a full write-ups as usual with the rest of my picks this weekend.

Seattle Seahawks 29 Arizona Cardinals 24

Pick against the spread: Seattle -3

Confidence: Low

Buffalo Bills at Arizona Cardinals: 2020 Week 10 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (7-2) at Arizona Cardinals (5-4)

These two teams have been pretty similar this year. Both have had dominant offenses, with the Cardinals ranking 1st in schedule adjusted first down rate at +3.55% and the Bills ranking 3rd at +3.09%, but both defenses have struggled mightily, ranking 25th and 28th respectively in schedule adjusted first down rate allowed. Typically, teams with dominant offenses and weak defenses are smart bets going forward because offensive play tends to be much more static week-to-week, while defensive play is more inconsistent.

The Bills have a much better chance of being improved defensively going forward than the Cardinals though, as they have more talent on that side of the ball. These two teams are about the same offensively, but the Bills’ defensive edge gives them a 2.5 point edge in my roster rankings overall. Given that the Cardinals will have minimal fans for this home game, I have this line calculated at Buffalo -1.5, so we’re getting some line value at Buffalo +2.5. 

The Cardinals are also in a look ahead spot, playing the Seahawks on a short week in Seattle on Thursday Night Football. Favorites cover at just a 44.0% rate all-time before Thursday Night Football and, making matters worse for the Cardinals, the Bills should be fully focused ahead of their bye. Favorites are just 13-24 ATS over the past thirty seasons before a short week when their opponent will next have an extended rest, which isn’t a big sample size, but it makes sense. I’d like the Bills more if this line creeps up to +3, but the Bills are still worth a bet at +2.5 and the money line is a smart bet as well.

Update: The Bills had two of their top-3 cornerbacks ruled out on Saturday because of COVID. I probably would not have bet them Friday night if I hadn’t known that was going to happen, but that’s the nature of predicting games in 2020. I do still have the Bills as slightly favored to pull the upset though.

Buffalo Bills 34 Arizona Cardinals 33 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: Buffalo +2.5

Confidence: Medium

Miami Dolphins at Arizona Cardinals: 2020 Week 9 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (4-3) at Arizona Cardinals (5-2)

The Dolphins made the surprising decision during their week 7 bye to bench veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick for rookie Tua Tagovailoa. Tua is the obvious long-term franchise quarterback for this team, but there was speculation he wouldn’t play at all as a rookie, working his way back from a serious leg injury that ended his collegiate career, and, with Fitzpatrick playing well in the first 6 games of the season, including back-to-back 24+ point wins in weeks 5 and 6, it seemed like Tua would be stuck with mop up duty for the foreseeable future. Instead, those two starts ended up being Fitzpatrick’s last as, seemingly sticking to a plan decided in the off-season, the Dolphins installed Tua as the starter during their bye and he made his season debut last week at home against the Rams.

I had a lot of concern that this offense would take a step back in the short-term with Tua under center, because Fitzpatrick was playing well and doing a great job of being successful despite poor offensive line play in front of him, something I didn’t expect Tua to be able to do as well right away. That concern was legitimized against the Rams, as Tua finished as PFF’s 2nd worst ranked quarterback for the week and led the Dolphins to just 8 first downs/touchdowns on 48 snaps, but that’s largely been ignored because the Dolphins won the game 28-17 on the strength of a +2 turnover margin and a whopping three return touchdowns, something they definitely won’t be able to count on every week. I would expect this offense to continue to struggle and for the Dolphins to not be able to compensate for that nearly as well going forward.

The Dolphins have the edge on defense in this matchup in Arizona against the Cardinals, as they rank 18th in first down rate allowed over expected at -0.92%, while the Cardinals rank 22nd at -1.64% and have some significant absences on that side of the ball as well, but offense is a much more consistent, predictable side of the ball and the Cardinals have an enormous offensive edge, ranking 2nd in first down rate over expected at +3.36%, while the Dolphins rank 23rd at -1.04% and will likely be even worse than that going forward because of their quarterback switch. This also could be a tough spot for the Dolphins because they are coming off of a big home upset win and now have to travel cross country to face a team coming off of a bye. Teams only cover at about a 42% rate all-time after a win by 11+ points as home underdogs of 3.5+ points.

Despite that, the Cardinals are just 4.5-point favorites because the general public sees the Dolphins being 4-3 and coming off of a big week and ignores that they’ve likely downgraded their quarterback, that they’re in a tough spot, and that they’ve faced a relatively easy schedule thus far this season, with two of their wins coming against the two worst teams in the league in the Jets and Jaguars and a third win coming against a banged up 49ers team that had to bench a hobbling Jimmy Garoppolo for CJ Beathard (and the fourth win being last week’s fluky game). Arizona should be favored by at least a touchdown (my calculated line is Arizona -7.5), so we’re getting good line value at Arizona -4.5. This is a high confidence pick for now, but it’s one I am considering for Pick of the Week. If I decide to upgrade this game, I will do so on Saturday.

Arizona Cardinals 31 Miami Dolphins 23

Pick against the spread: Arizona -4.5

Confidence: High

Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals: 2020 Week 7 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (5-0) at Arizona Cardinals (4-2)

The Seahawks are 5-0, but four of their five wins have come by one score. That isn’t anything new for the Seahawks, who have 14 wins by one score or less over the past two seasons, as opposed to 2 losses in one score games. In fact, in games decided by more than one score, the Seahawks are just 2-3 over the past two seasons. A team’s record in close games tends to even out in the long run and, while it might make sense that an elite quarterback like Russell Wilson could consistently pull out close victories, even elite quarterbacks don’t consistently win close games and, before the start of last season, Wilson was just 30-34 in his career in one score games.

Wilson is arguably playing as well as he ever has in his career right now, but even still, the Seahawks aren’t winning easily. Wilson probably won’t play quite this well all season, so the Seahawks will need their defense to play better to compensate or they could very easily start losing some of these games. They’re capable of playing better defensively, but it probably won’t be until they get stud safety Jamal Adams back from injury, which won’t be this week. That’s a problem for the Seahawks, who will be on the road for a key divisional game against the Cardinals, who sit just a game and a half back in the standings right now.

The Cardinals haven’t played a tough schedule, but they’ve won the first down rate battle in 5 of their 6 games, including a 3-point loss to the Lions in which they won the first down rate battle by 10.50%, but lost the turnover margin by 3. The Cardinals rank 2nd in the NFL in first down rate differential at +6.10% and, even adjusted for schedule, they rank 6th at +3.61%. They’re probably overachieving right now, particularly on defense, and could regress, but even still, they’re certainly the kind of team that can give the Seahawks a competitive game and even pull the upset as home underdogs.

I have this line calculated at Seattle -1.5, so we’re getting good value with the Cardinals as 3.5-point home underdogs. The Seahawks are in a good spot coming off of a bye and road favorites of 3 or more are 75-40 ATS off of a bye since 1989, but I don’t know if that should apply, given that this line is too high. It’s enough to deter me from making a bigger play, because good teams often come out of their bye improved, but the Cardinals are still worth a bet, especially since they’re in their own good spot off of a blowout Monday Night Football win, as teams are 64-42 ATS since 1989 off of a MNF win by 21 or more points.

Seattle Seahawks 34 Arizona Cardinals 33

Pick against the spread: Arizona +3.5

Confidence: Medium