We could be getting an early Super Bowl 50 preview when the Arizona Cardinals host the Cincinnati Bengals. The trends say that Cincinnati belongs in your NFL picks.
Jason's 2015 record as of Nov. 20: 39-34-2 ATS; 0-1 ML (-1.00 units); 22-29 Total
Life is pretty good if you're the Arizona Cardinals. They've got complete control over the NFC West after beating the Seattle Seahawks (–3 at home) 39-32, improving to 7-2 SU and a tasty 6-3 ATS in the process. Carson Palmer is healthy. The defense is outstanding. Bruce Arians is already one of the best head coaches in the NFL. What could possibly go wrong?
It starts with Sunday night's game (8:30 p.m. ET, NBC) against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals lost 10-6 to the Houston Texans (+10 away) last week to fall to 8-1 SU and 7-1-1 ATS. Can't win 'em all. Now the Bengals are getting five points on the road against Arizona, after opening at +3.5 on our NFL odds board. Two-thirds of early bettors were on the Cardinals from the get-go.
This just doesn't pass the smell test. Obviously the Bengals didn't do a very good job against Houston, but that's the way the prolate spheroid bounces. TE Tyler Eifert dropped three passes. WR A.J. Green coughed up the ball on the potential game-winning drive with 40 seconds to go. Mistakes were made.
Sunday is a new day, and on the season, the Bengals have performed at very close to the same level as the Cardinals. Football Outsiders has Arizona ranked No. 2 overall (No. 3 offense, No. 6 defense, No. 14 special teams) through Week 10, one spot ahead of Cincinnati at No. 3 overall (No. 2 offense, No. 8 defense, No. 10 special teams). Pro-Football Reference has the Cards up by 1.2 points on the Simple Rating System, which would suggest a spread of about 3.5 points for Sunday's matchup in Glendale. We've already steamed past that point.
The Cardinals are also going into this game with some question marks on the offensive line. Miraculously (or perhaps foolishly), LG Mike Iupati is going to play on Sunday after getting taken away by ambulance from last week's game in Seattle – turns out he “only” had a stinger and was able to pass the league's concussion protocol. However, RG Jonathan Cooper (knee) is doubtful to face the Bengals, which will make Palmer's job even tougher against Cincinnati's defensive front.
Oh, and did we mention that the Bengals are 9-6 ATS under Marvin Lewis after losing as favorites the week before? I believe we did. On the flip side, the Cardinals are in danger of letting their guard down after an emotional win in Seattle. There's a lot to like about this Arizona team, but market expectations are dumping a little too much chalk on their shoulders for us to put the Cards in our Week 11NFL picks.
Free NFL Pick: Take the Bengals +5 (-105) at Bovada