NFL Picks: Cardinals Have Tough Divisional Test vs. Rams to Determine Legitimacy

Mark Lathrop

Tuesday, September 29, 2015 2:20 PM UTC

Tuesday, Sep. 29, 2015 2:20 PM UTC

The Cardinals have been dominating  the first three weeks of the season. WIth NFC West rival Rams coming to town, our NFL capper looks at the Card's chances of going 4-0.

The 1-2 St. Louis Rams visit the 3-0 Arizona Cardinals in a Week 4 NFC West matchup on Sunday, with Arizona seeking to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the division. St. Louis is coming off of a dismal offensive performance that saw them put up just 6 points against the Pittsburgh Steelers on their home turf, in route to a boring 12-6 loss. Arizona’s performance in Week 3 was just about the polar opposite as they put up 47 points against the San Francisco 49ers in a 47-7 win.

The early odds are in with Arizona listed as between a 6 and 7-point favorite depending on where you look. The O/U total can be found anywhere between 41.5 and 43 at time of writing.

We are now two weeks past the Rams sneaking by the Seattle Seahawks in Week 1 at home, and we’ve seen nothing since then to suggest they have really arrived. They are currently 28th in total offense and 13th in total defense in the NFL. Even with Big Ben knocked out of the game with a knee injury in their game last week, the Rams are still giving up an 81.6% completion percentage to opposing QB’s. That just won’t get it done against Carson Palmer while he’s running hot. The one saving grace the Rams have is their excellent front 7 pressure. They did record 5 sacks against the Steelers last week after all. Too bad the Arizona Cardinals are built to protect their statuesque QB, as Carson Palmer has been sacked only once in three games this year.

The Cardinals are coming off of a game in which they picked off Colin Kaepernick 4 times and returned two of those picks for touchdowns. The Arizona defense held the 49ers to 156 total yards, 53 of them in the air. I’m trying as hard as possible here without starting to drool over the Arizona offense, and well, it’s hard. Ok, one more thing. The Cards held the 49ers to a 33% 3rd down conversion rate and lead the league in interceptions and defensive touchdowns.

Can we finally talk about the Cardinal offense? Ok, so Carson Palmer is apparently pretty good when healthy. Palmer is 16-2 in his last 18 starts, which frankly, is a statistic that just sounds wrong. The Cardinals lead the league in PPG at 42, although they would be second if it wasn’t for those defensive TD’s mentioned above. They find themselves in the top 10 in about every other offensive category and sixth overall with that balanced attack. Things couldn’t be better in the desert right now.

On the outside looking in, this looks too easy for Arizona. This is a division matchup after all and these teams should know each other pretty well. Looking back to 2014 doesn’t help us, as the Cardinals won and covered ATS in each of those games. In 2013 these teams split their games, home and home, but the Cards covered ATS in each as well. So, not much for the argument against the grain there.

Betting Analysis
There just isn’t a reason to fade the Cardinals right now while Carson Palmer is healthy. The Cardinals have beat their opposition by an average of more than 25 points per game. This may be a case of a team peaking early, but I’m willing to ride that train until it is over. However, there is a real chance that this team is ‘for real’ and could challenge the Packers for the NFC. I’m not afraid to lay the 7 points here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a hook gets added later in the week. Take Arizona early at -7 at Bovada as one of your Week 4 NFL Picks.

NFL Pick: Cardinals -7 (-110) at Bovada

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