Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks (-3, 45 o/u)
Last season, the Arizona Cardinals held a three-game lead in the NFC West entering a Week 12 affair at CenturyLink Field. The Cards stumbled to a 19-3 loss, which set the tone for a 2-4 finish to the year. Meanwhile, Seattle rattled off six straight to retain their division crown.
All the talk surrounding their meeting this week is how this game is a must win for the Seahawks. But Arizona knows that if they give Seattle an inch, they’ll take 79 yards. So look for Arizona (6-2, 3-1 Away) to bring their all when they visit the Seahawks (4-4, 2-1 Home) at the “Clink” on Sunday Night Football (8:30 PM Eastern).
The biggest thing the Cardinals were missing during last year’s late-season slump was Carson Palmer. With the 35-year-old back under center, the offense has reached a level unmatched in the franchise’s history. The Cards rank second in the league scoring 32.9 points a game and are on pace to shatter the previous franchise record for points in a season by almost 100.
Arizona also boasts a top-five defense and the balanced roster has the team sitting first in the NFC in point differential. Despite looking like the better team on paper, the Cards enter this game as the underdog. Perhaps it’s because this Seahawks team played in a Super Bowl last year, and the expectation is that they’ll kick start another big second half – with a majority of games coming at home – to make the postseason.
But this is not the same Seattle team as last year. The run game isn’t as effective; Russel Wilson is getting sacked at a phenomenal rate; and the defense melts down late in games. Perhaps the most telling way to examine the Seahawks is to look at their schedule. They’re a .500 team, but none of their wins have come against quality opponents. In fact, in three of their four wins, they lost the turnover battle, but they were playing offenses so inept that it didn’t matter.
Arizona, on the other hand, is a very good team that has vastly outgained opponents even in its losses. If the Legion of Boom can’t generate some takeaways, it will be a long, long night in Seattle.
But with a chance of rain in the forecast, the passing games could be slowed and each team could be forced to rely heavily on the ground game. This time around, the Cards have a capable running back, thanks to Comeback Player of the Year candidate Chris Johnson. But both defenses are capable of shutting down the run: Arizona ranks fourth in rush yards allowed per game and Seattle ranks ninth.
When it comes down to it, there’s not much of a case to be made for betting the Seahawks side, other than “a gut feeling.” They’re 1-2 ATS at home this year, while Arizona is 11-0 when underdogs of three points or fewer under Bruce Arians. The last time Carson Palmer was under center in Seattle, the Cards won 17-10. Expect more of the same this weekend.
Pick: Cardinals (+3).
(Photo Credit: JSSWA Washington National Guard (Originally uploaded to Flickr. Photo may appear cropped.)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/])
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