NFL teams heading in different directions, Saints and Cardinals
November 29, 2016 3:12 AM
by Ian Cameron
Last week, we discussed one team on the rise and one team on the decline and their trajectory played out as such this past Sunday. Tampa Bay won its third straight game; beating Seattle outright as +6 home underdogs.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati lost yet another contest both straight up and against the spread to division rival Baltimore. This week, I’ll target two more teams that should offer good “bet on” and “bet against” opportunities in the coming weeks.
The New Orleans Saints are 5-6 but still just two games back of first place Atlanta in the NFC South. And despite that losing record, the Saints have posted a profit-producing 8-3 mark against the spread.
Thanks to an 0-3 start, New Orleans has spent the better part of the season as an undervalued commodity. Quarterback Drew Brees, who had another huge game in Sunday’s blowout win against Los Angeles, is putting up MVP-type numbers. And the offense as a whole has piled up at least 20 points in all but one game. But the storyline has been the improvement of the defense.
New Orleans was historically bad last season but under the watch of defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, the unit has gone from miserable to adequate. The Saints are currently surrendering 370 ypg compared to 413 ypg last year. Dig a little bit deeper and you’ll notice that their yards per play allowed has dropped from 6.6 to 5.8 and yards per carry down a full yard from 4.9 to 3.9.
The Saints finish the regular season vs. Detroit, at Tampa Bay, at Arizona, vs. Tampa Bay and at Atlanta. All are currently playoff contenders but still manageable. New Orleans, who is 7-1 ATS in its last eight games including a 6-0 ATS mark as an underdog, is likely to remain on my betting radar the final third of the campaign.
Arizona has enjoyed a great resurgence under head coach Bruce Arians including back-to-back playoff appearances and last year’s run to the NFC Championship. This season hasn’t gone nearly as smooth as the Cardinals sit 4-6-1 SU and 3-8 ATS. Quarterback Carson Palmer has regressed in a big way. His decision making has been miserable and the offensive line has done a poor job in protection.
Last season, Arizona allowed 27 sacks. This season already 33, the third-worst mark in the league. You simply can’t ask an aging and immobile quarterback to play at a high level behind a suspect offensive line; especially when your team is constantly playing from behind.
The defense is also starting to erode with 30+ points allowed in three of their last four games including last week’s 39-18 loss at Atlanta. Off the field, Arians has had multiple hospital visits due to recurring chest pains; one of many distractions for a team desperately trying to right the ship.
And General Manager Steve Keim recently voiced his frustration to the media. Mathematically, the Cardinals are still alive for the postseason but considering all of the negativity surrounding this squad, a turnaround seems unlikely.
Over the last month, some of the worst pointspread performances have come from teams that the betting markets remain reluctant to peg as “dead.”
Yes, there’s still time but bettors should remain very pessimistic about Green Bay, Cincinnati, and the Cardinals.