It's been a crazy start to the 2015 season, but there's one thing most sharps agree on: The Arizona Cardinals are the hot NFL pick for Week 4 versus the St. Louis Rams.
Jason's 2015 record as of Sept. 27: 12-7 ATS; 0-1 ML (–1.00 units); 6-9 Total
This can't possibly be the NFL. They might be wearing the same uniforms and suffering the same injuries, but the past three weeks of football have been unlike anything we've ever seen. It's the officiating. There have been more penalties called than at any other time in league history. The Week 2 game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys was insane: 26 penalties in total, including a franchise-record 18 by the Cowboys. Sheesh.
It's not uncommon for penalties to get handed out like pizza menus early in the season. But this is ridiculous – and perhaps very necessary, given what we know now about concussions and how much added money the league is going to have to pay out if things don't change on the field. From a betting perspective, this means more variance with our NFL picks. Yardage will be given, and yardage will be taken away. We'll need to focus even more on matchups with solid profit margins built-in.
With that in mind, is it any wonder the Arizona Cardinals (3-0 SU and ATS) are soaking up the early action for Week 4? They've been outstanding so far, and according to our early consensus reports, 71 percent of bettors are on the Cards as 7-point home faves (+105) for next Sunday's late-afternoon game against the St. Louis Rams. Nobody in the league has scored as many points as Arizona (126). It's a glorious start in what has become a vulnerable NFC West division.
We have to be careful with our usual assumptions about the Cardinals, though. This is no longer an overlooked West Coast team; Arizona was on top of the public money charts as we went to press, so waiting until later in the week for a good price doesn't seem like a viable option. The Cards are widely available at –6.5 on our NFL odds board as we go to press.
Also pulling in 71 percent of early bettors: the Atlanta Falcons (3-0 SU and ATS), who are quickly gaining steam at –6.5 for their Sunday matinee at the Georgia Dome versus the Houston Texans. Unlike Arizona, the Falcons have managed to stay under the radar, but their “small-market” status is in peril after a 39-28 win over the Cowboys (–1 at home).
It feels like the Falcons have been due for some positive regression for a while now. They've had two awful seasons since winning the NFC South in 2012; their 2013 fall from grace was predictable, but things were supposed to improve last year. It cost head coach Mike Smith his job when they didn't. In comes Dan Quinn, former defensive co-ordinator of the Seattle Seahawks, and voilà, “instant” success. Always take the long view when you're betting on the NFL.