Friday, October 19, 2012

Arizona Cardinals vs Minnesota Vikings: ARI +7 (Bodog)


What a difference a week makes?   In the offseason Cantor had this game -1.  Last week in the look-ahead line the Vikings were -4 favorites!  I'm sorry, but I think it's borderline silly to move this game all the way to the 7.  You'll need to shop around to get the full touchdown, but given the way this line has moved I won't be surprised to see it there across the board by kickoff.

NFC Dominance

I came across an amazing stat from RJ Bell and Steve Fezzik this week.  They both reported different numbers, but NFC underdogs are apparently around 35-5 so far this season.  I'm not a big trends guy and I'm even less so for in-season trends, but there's some things you just can't ignore.

Following up on this, NFC teams make up six of the top eight teams on Football Outsiders weekly efficiency rankings, while eight AFC teams make up the bottom eight!

Situationally, I'd be an idiot to ignore these stats going forward.  Of course it rarely pays to bet something blind, but NFC teams certainly deserve to be weighted a little extra for the time being.

Seeing is Believing?

Talk about two teams that have people scratching their heads after six weeks of the season!  Get this, the Cardinals are 2-0 against top tier teams, 2-0 against middle of the road teams, but 0-2 against the bottom third.  Go figure?

We all knew the Cardinals weren't about to finish 1st in the NFC after four weeks, but at the same time they can't be completely written off either - something this point spread is suggesting.  Yes the Arizona offense is bad, but they've also played some good defenses too.  Seattle, Philly, Miami, and St Louis all rank in the top 10.

Meanwhile, the Vikings offense has faced the opposite.  The only quality defense they've faced is the 49ers.

When you compare the numbers, there isn't a huge difference between the two.

Defense: Advantage Cardinals?

Conversely, when you look at the defensive stats across the board you'll find the Cardinals come out on top in all meaningful categories - run, pass, drive success, third down, red zone, and turnover differential.

Look, I'm just as scared about John Skelton and his offensive line as you are, but Christian Ponder isn't exactly tearing it up either.  Ponder has been efficient and fairly consistent this year, but how much credit should we be giving to Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson?

Harvin has been an unstoppable one-man show, but AP has kind of faded as the year has gone on.  Granted, his presence still makes defenses game-plan and account for him on every play.  These guys allow Ponder (along with a solid defense) play within his abilities and manage the game.

In this match-up, both defenses have the advantage, but Arizona's has been the more consistent this season.

Yes, Arizona has no ground game to speak of, but who cares.  Unless you're St Louis, Seattle, Houston, or San Fran, you're not going to wrap your entire game-plan around a running game in this league.  The Vikings will undoubtedly load up in coverage and focus on eliminating Fitzgerald. The Cardinals will do the same against Harvin. 

Bottom Line

I have this game graded Vikings -4.  A legitimate case could be made for -4.5 off the key number, but -7?  This is a clear inflation and I'm just not ready to pronounce the Vikings as touchdown favorites against anybody yet.  True, they did beat the 49ers at home, but they also had to scrape by for an improbable comback vs the Jaguars, too.  The Cardinals defense should be able to keep this one close - take the points.

NFL Pick: ARI +7.