Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks: 2018 Week 17 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (3-12) at Seattle Seahawks (9-6)

Unlike other games this week, I am confident the Seahawks will play their starters the whole way in this game, unless they jump out to a huge lead, in which case covering this spread shouldn’t be a problem. The Seahawks are locked into either the 5th or 6th seed, but they’ve never rested starters in the past even when they’ve had nothing to play for and I think they’d much rather go to Dallas next week than either Chicago or Los Angeles. Winning this game assures they will face the Cowboys, easily the weakest of the four division winners.

Given that the Seahawks will be treating this as a real game, I like their chances of covering as 13-point home favorites. The Cardinals are horrible, ranking dead last in first down rate differential at -8.41%, and they’ve been even worse over the past 8 weeks at -9.49%, as injuries have piled up on both sides of the ball. The Seahawks, on the other hand, have gotten better as the season has gone on, just as they have in almost every season in the Russell Wilson era, going 37-17 ATS in the final 8 games of the regular season since 2012.

I haven’t picked them much in recent weeks because they went just 3-5 ATS in the final 8 games of last season and because they don’t have the same talent level they had from 2012-2016 when they always finished the season dominantly, but Russell Wilson is playing at an MVP level and Pete Carroll seems to have once again gotten his team playing at a high level at the end of the season. They should run over the worst team in the league.

Seattle Seahawks 27 Arizona Cardinals 10

Pick against the spread: Seattle -13

Confidence: Medium

Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals: 2018 Week 16 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (11-3) at Arizona Cardinals (3-11)

The Cardinals were blown out last week in Atlanta, losing by 26 points to a team that had previously lost 5 straight games. That was probably in part due to the Cardinals not being totally focused, with this much bigger game against the Rams on deck, but, even if they’re fully focused this week, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll cover this spread. This spread is huge, with the Cardinals being 14-point home underdogs, but it’s justifiable given the talent gap between these two teams.

The Cardinals rank dead last in first down rate differential at -7.22% and might be even worse than that suggests, given all of their injuries. They are missing their top-3 offensive linemen, DJ Humphries, Mike Iupati, and Justin Pugh, their top receiver Christian Kirk, starting defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, and every down linebacker Josh Bynes, among others. On the season, 6 of their 11 losses have come by at least two touchdowns. The Rams don’t have that many blowout wins (4 wins by 14 points or more), but that’s in part due to a tough schedule. Those blowout wins came against the Raiders, Cardinals, 49ers, and Lions, all among the worst teams in the league, so they’ve taken care of business whenever they’ve had an easy matchup like this.

The Rams should also be fully focused for this game, as their schedule gets way easier to close out the year, facing the 49ers next week after this game against the Cardinals. Favorites of 7+ are 58-36 ATS since 2014 before being favorites of 7+ again, as superior teams tend to take care of business without upcoming distractions. The Cardinals, on the other hand, have another tough game in Seattle next week and it’s proven to be very tough for inferior teams to hang with superior teams with another tough game on deck. Underdogs of 7+ are just 31-50 ATS since 2014 before being underdogs of 7+ again, including just 4-14 ATS if their opponent will next be favorites of 7+ again. I don’t want to make a bet on this game without confirmation that Todd Gurley will play for the Rams after missing practice all week, but I will revisit this if he ends up playing.

Final Update: Todd Gurley is expected to play and, while we won’t know for sure until later this afternoon, I want to lock this in now in case the line jumps from 14. The Rams have blown out every terrible team they’ve faced this season and that trend dates back to last season as well, when they went 3-0 against teams that finished 5-11 or worse, winning those 3 games by an average of 32.3 points per game. Without an upcoming distraction on the schedule for the Rams, I don’t expect this to be close.

Los Angeles Rams 34 Arizona Cardinals 13

Pick against the spread: LA Rams -14

Confidence: Medium

Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons: 2018 Week 15 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (3-10) at Atlanta Falcons (4-9)

The Falcons have had a disappointing season at 4-9, but their defense got a big boost a couple weeks ago when they got every down linebacker Deion Jones back from the foot injury that kept him out since week 1. The Falcons haven’t won either of the games since he’s been back, but he’s playing well and has resumed his old every down role. It’s obviously a small sample size, but they’ve allowed a 35.64% first down rate in the three games he’s played, as opposed to 44.23% in the 10 games he missed. The schedule gets much easier for the Falcons this week at home against the Cardinals, so I expect their improved defense to be more noticeable in this one than it was on the road in Green Bay.

While the Falcons are getting healthier, the Cardinals are going in the opposite direction. They’ve put their top-3 offensive linemen, DJ Humphries, Mike Iupati, and Justin Pugh, on injured reserve, along with their top receiver Christian Kirk, starting defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, and every down linebacker Josh Bynes. They were already one of the worst teams in the league before the injuries and they rank dead last in first down rate differential at -6.98%, They’re arguably the worst team in the league right now and an underrated Falcons team could easily give them their 8th double digit loss of the season.

The Cardinals are also in a tough spot, because they could be looking forward to next week’s home game against the Rams, which they may view as their Super Bowl. Teams typically struggle before being big home underdogs, going 24-45 ATS since 2014 before being home underdogs of 7 or more (the Cardinals are currently +11.5 on the early line). On top of that, underdogs of 7+ are 31-49 ATS over that same time period before being underdogs of 7+ again, as it’s very tough for an inferior team to hang with a superior team when they have another tough game on deck serving as a distraction. The Falcons are in Carolina next week, but that’s not nearly as tough of a game, so I give them a better shot of being focused. They also have a massive talent advantage, even in a disappointing season, and should win easily.

Atlanta Falcons 23 Arizona Cardinals 10

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -9.5

Confidence: Medium

Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals: 2018 Week 14 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (4-8) at Arizona Cardinals (3-9)

I’ve picked against the Lions a lot recently, but that’s because they’ve been playing a lot of teams with winning records and they historically have not done well against teams with winning records in the Matt Stafford era. That changes this week, with the Lions facing the 3-9 Cardinals, the first team they’ve faced since week 4 with a losing record. Since 2014, they are 19-12 ATS against teams with a losing record and they went 17-4 straight up against non-playoff teams between 2016 and 2017. I like their chances of continuing that this week.

The Lions’ offense has taken a lot of hits as the season has gone on, with right guard TJ Lang, wide receiver Marvin Jones, and running back Kerryon Johnson sidelined with injuries and slot receiver Golden Tate now in Philadelphia, but their defense has gotten significantly better as the season has gone on. It hasn’t been that noticeable because of their tough schedule, but defensive end Ezekiel Ansah is back healthy and playing well, defensive tackle Damon Harrison has provided a big boost against the run since being acquiring from the Giants, and young defensive linemen A’Shawn Robinson and Da’Shawn Hand have gotten more playing time and have played well.

That should be more noticeable this week against an Arizona team that is arguably the worst in the league. They pulled the stunning upset in Green Bay last week, but those kind of upset victories tend to be flukes more than anything, as teams are just 15-30 ATS over the past 30 years after a win as 13+ point underdogs. That win also came at a cost, as starting wide receiver Christian Kirk went down for the season with a foot injury, joining left tackle DJ Humphries, right guard Justin Pugh, and top linebacker Josh Bynes as recent injury casualties. The Cardinals rank dead last in first down rate differential at -7.77% and are even worse without those four. I like the Lions a lot in a game in which they basically just need to win to cover. This is a smaller bet at -3.

Detroit Lions 20 Arizona Cardinals 13

Pick against the spread: Detroit -2.5

Confidence: High

Arizona Cardinals at Green Bay Packers: 2018 Week 13 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (2-9) at Green Bay Packers (4-6-1)

It’s week 13 and the Packers are still undefeated at home and winless on the road. That’s a rare occurrence. In fact, the Packers join the 2009 Patriots as the only teams in the past 30 years to be undefeated at home and winless on the road this late in the season. Ordinarily, home/road disparities are more random than anything and if you look at all of the instances of teams being undefeated at home and winless on the road in week 8 or later in the past 30 years, you’ll see that those teams are 6-4 in their next home game and 5-8 in their next road game, which is about an average home/road disparity.

That being said, the Packers’ home dominance under Aaron Rodgers dates back many years, as he’s 37-18 ATS in Lambeau in games he’s started and finished since 2011, so returning home should be a real boost for a team that has played 4 of it’s last 5 games on the road against playoff contenders. The Packers also get a much easier opponent this week, as the Cardinals are arguably the worst team in the league, ranking dead last in first down rate differential at -8.79% and 31st in point differential at -138.

The Cardinals also have some injuries making them even worse. Starting cornerback Budda Baker should return from a two game absence, after getting in a full practice on Friday, but left tackle DJ Humphries did not get in a full practice this week and could easily be kept out for the second straight week for precautionary reasons, with the Cardinals’ season all but over. They also put their top linebacker Josh Bynes on injured reserve this week and could be without linebacker Haason Reddick, who barely practiced this week with a neck injury.

The Packers are also in a good spot too, with only another home game against the Falcons on deck, a game in which they are 7.5 point favorites on the early line. Teams are 90-56 ATS since 2014 as favorites of 6+ before being favorites of 6+ again, as superior teams tend to take care of business against inferior teams when they don’t have any upcoming distractions. I expect a strong effort from a Packers team that needs to win out to even have a chance at qualifying for the post-season.

Unfortunately, we’re not getting much line value with the Packers, as this line is pretty high at -14. It was at -11.5 a week ago on the early line, but the Cardinals getting blown out by the Chargers 45-10 shifted this line all the way up to 14, even with the Packers losing in Minnesota. Teams are 57-36 ATS since 2002 after a loss by 35+ points, as teams tend to be underrated, undervalued, and embarrassed in that spot, all three of which could be the case this week.

The Packers are better than their record, but they are too banged up coming into this game to bet them confidently as two touchdown favorites. Stud defensive lineman Mike Daniels remains out with an injury and left tackle David Bakhtiari, arguably the best left tackle in the game when healthy, could join him on the sidelines, after being limited in practice all week. The Packers could also once again be without defensive backs Bashaud Breeland, Kevin King, Kentrell Brice, and Raven Greene, leaving them very thin in the secondary. The Packers are the pick for pick ‘em purposes, but this is a no confidence pick.

Green Bay Packers 31 Arizona Cardinals 16

Pick against the spread: Green Bay -14

Confidence: None

Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Chargers: 2018 Week 12 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (2-8) at Los Angeles Chargers (7-3)

The Chargers lost at home to the Broncos last week, but they won the first down rate battle (-2.35%) and could have won the game if they made all their extra points. The Broncos are also an underrated team that has played the Texans, Chiefs (twice), and Rams close, so that loss isn’t as bad as it looks. Even with that loss, the Chargers are still 7-3 and rank 7th in point differential at +53 and 4th in first down rate differential at +4.86%. The Chargers should also be better this week with stud defensive end Joey Bosa going into his 2nd game and likely to see close to his full snaps.

The Cardinals, on the other hand, are one of the worst teams in the league, ranking 31st in first down rate differential (-6.78%) and 30th in point differential (-103) and they are going in the wrong direction injury wise, with left tackle DJ Humphries joining right guard Justin Pugh on the sidelines this week, meaning the Cardinals will be without their best two offensive linemen from an offensive line that was pretty underwhelming to begin with.

Normally when one of the better teams in the league hosts one of the worst teams in the league the line should be at least two touchdowns and this line is a little short of that at -13, but I wouldn’t bet on the Chargers for a couple reasons. For one, they don’t have a typical homefield advantage, as they have serious trouble attracting fans in Los Angeles, even as well as they’ve played this season. The Chargers also aren’t in a great spot this week with a trip to Pittsburgh on deck. Double digit favorites are just 61-80 ATS before being underdogs, which the Steelers will be this week. With a weak opponent coming to town, they might not be completely focused with that game on deck.

The Cardinals aren’t in a good spot either with another tough game in Green Bay on deck, a game in which they are expected to be double digit underdogs again. Double digit underdogs are just 26-51 ATS since 2002 before being double digit underdogs again, as it’s very tough for a significantly inferior team to hang with a superior team when they have another tough game on deck. There’s not enough here to bet the Chargers, but they should be the right pick. I’ll probably downgrade this to a no confidence pick if running back Melvin Gordon is ruled out for the Chargers, but the fact that he was able to get some practice in on Friday suggests he at least has a good shot to play, even if he’s officially being called a gametime decision after tweaking his knee in practice this week.

Los Angeles Chargers 31 Arizona Cardinals 16

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -13

Confidence: Low

Oakland Raiders at Arizona Cardinals: 2018 Week 11 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (1-8) at Arizona Cardinals (2-7)

Both of these teams have had horrendous seasons, as the Raiders rank 30th in first down rate differential at -5.54%, while the Cardinals rank dead last at -7.51%. The Cardinals are trending up a little bit, as their offense has been improved since switching to Byron Leftwich as offensive coordinator, while the Raiders are trending down, due to all of their personnel losses (especially at wide receiver) and locker room problems, but this line still seems a little high at Arizona -5.5, as I have these two teams about even.

The Raiders are also in a much better spot, as favorites rarely play well before being big underdogs, which the Cardinals will be in Los Angeles against the Chargers next week. Favorites are just 24-42 ATS since 2008 before being double digit underdogs. The Raiders have serious locker room issues and might not give much effort in this meaningless non-conference game, so I wouldn’t recommend betting them, but the Cardinals should not be favored by this many points against anyone and they too may not give their best effort with a much tougher game on deck.

Arizona Cardinals 20 Oakland Raiders 17

Pick against the spread: Oakland +5.5

Confidence: Low