Bet 3.5 Units on Cardinals +7.5 vs. Broncos for NFL Picks

Jason Lake

Friday, October 3, 2014 12:39 PM UTC

Friday, Oct. 3, 2014 12:39 PM UTC

The Arizona Cardinals are the hottest thing in NFL betting since sliced bread, and they’re getting 7.5 points against a Denver Broncos team that has yet to cover a game this season. What in the wide world of sports is going on?

Jason’s record after Week 4: 12-14 ATS, 5-4-1 Totals

Profit: minus-5.6 units


Arizona isn’t exactly the center of the sports betting universe. It’s where other franchises go to die, like the Phoenix Coyotes (born in Winnipeg) and the Arizona Cardinals (born in Chicago). Well, the Cardinals might be 116 years old, but they’re alive and kicking in the desert. Arizona is 13-6 SU and ATS since Bruce Arians took over as head coach last year.

So where is the love? As we go to press, the Cardinals are 7.5-point road dogs for their Sunday afternoon matchup (4:05 p.m. ET, FOX) with the Denver Broncos, who have started their AFC title defense at 2-1 SU and 0-3 ATS. Sure, they’re on the road, but still: 7.5 points. You’d better believe the sharps were on that one early. Arizona had 62 percent consensus at the open, but now the two sides are roughly equal with barely any movement in the NFL odds page.


Our Chief Weapon Is Surprise
This is about as ideal a situation as you’ll find in football betting. The Cardinals are easy to miss, underappreciated out in the desert, and hiding behind the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West. Except Arizona beat the eventual Super Bowl champions twice last year. The Cards also beat San Francisco home and away. They missed the postseason at 10-6; the 8-7-1 Green Bay Packers got to play after winning the NFC North.

The Broncos are in many ways the opposite. They’re incredibly high-profile, with 13-time Pro Bowler and five-time league MVP Peyton Manning at quarterback. They’ve been to the playoffs in each of Manning’s two seasons wearing the Orange and Blue. Even after starting at 0-3 ATS, Denver is still pulling in far much more public money that Arizona. However, there is one area that these two teams aren’t so different in: quality. The Broncos are No. 2 on the Elo Ratings at FiveThirtyEight (1624), while the Cardinals are No. 6 (1596). That difference is the rough equivalent of one point on neutral ground.

Not a fan of Elo Ratings? Let’s turn to Football Outsiders, where Denver ranks No. 3 in overall efficiency (No. 4 offense, No. 4 defense, No. 18 special teams), while Arizona is still in the top quartile at No. 8 overall (No. 21 offense, No. 3 defense, No. 4 special teams). Or we can look at the Simple Rating System over at Pro Football Reference, where the Cards (plus-13.8 SRS) are actually ahead of the Broncos (plus-10.8 SRS). They’re suggesting Arizona “should” be about a pick ‘em on the NFL lines at Mile High.


Stanton in the Dark
There’s one big problem with all that: Drew Stanton. He’s Arizona’s starting quarterback now after Carson Palmer suffered what’s being called an axillary nerve contusion in his right shoulder. Stanton had a 63.1 passer rating in parts of four seasons with the Detroit Lions, but go figure, he’s held his own so far with an 83.5 rating in two starts for the Cardinals. And yes, Stanton helped Arizona beat the 49ers again, 23-14 in Week 3 as a 3-point home dog.

With Stanton giving the Cardinals a Palmer-like performance, we’re more than happy to take them and the 7.5 points for our NFL picks – love that half-point above the magic number. Also, we’re probably being generous to the Broncos when we rate their coaching as equal to Arizona’s. But we’re crediting John Fox for his sample size. So to speak.


The Five Stars
Injuries/Suspensions/Travel/Rest: DEN
Defense/Special Teams: ARZ
Coaching: EVEN
Market Bias: ARZ
Betting Line Value: ARZ

Betting Verdict: 2-star pick on ARZ

Free NFL Pick: Bet 3.5 units on the Cardinals +7.5 (–108) at Pinnacle

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