Sunday’s game between the New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals at MetLife Stadium is a good test case for whether NFL handicappers should put more emphasis on the full season or recent form.
In the big picture, the Cardinals have a better record (6-6 versus the Giants’ 5-7) and a better point differential (plus-36 to the Giants’ minus-34). If you look at the last month or so, however, the scene looks completely different.
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Arizona has lost four of its past five games, and the win was the “Hail Murray” that beat the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 15. The Cardinals are 0-5 against the spread in that time. The Giants have won four in a row, covering in three of those games, and are 5-1 ATS in their past six games. They are coming off one of the most stunning upsets of the season, a 17-12 win at Seattle behind backup QB Colt McCoy.
The thought here is that the recent form — not to be confused with “recency bias” of one or two good or bad games — is what holds sway. Victories over Washington, the Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals could be picked apart due to troubled opposition or missing quarterbacks. There’s no denying, however, what their defense did to the Russell Wilson-DK Metcalf machine.
Defense again should be the key factor on Sunday. If the Giants’ No. 4 rushing defense can play to a stalemate against Arizona’s No. 4 rushing offense (numbers that include Kyler Murray’s takeoffs), there’s not a lot else the Cardinals can do — particularly with shutdown CB James Bradberry blanketing DeAndre Hopkins. Will take the points as insurance, but figure the Giants can wrestle their way to another tight “W.”
The pick: Giants, +2.5.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (-14) over New York Jets:
Surprised this line isn’t another 3-4 points higher. Last week’s results probably tightened it, but really should serve as the impetus for a blowout as the Seahawks. Implored by Jamal Adams, they will look to leave no doubt, and don’t expect the Wilson-Metcalf combo to be stifled again. The Jets finally start to mail it in after the Gregg Williams fiasco and firing.
CHICAGO BEARS (+1.5) over Houston Texans:
Similar to Cardinals-Giants in terms of full season versus recent form. The Bears have lost their past six (1-5 ATS) after a 5-1 start, and are in such a freefall they are now home ’dogs to a team with an inferior record. Akiem Hicks is healthy, though, and the Bears’ offense has perked up, scoring a combined 45 points in the past five quarters.
CINCINNATI BENGALS (+3.5) over Dallas Cowboys:
Ultra-short week for the Cowboys after a Tuesday-nighter in which they gave up 294 rushing yards to the Ravens. The Bengals don’t usually run it well, but that huge number by Baltimore might be a sign of some quit on Dallas’ part. Andy Dalton’s return to Cincinnati doesn’t move needle much for me.
Kansas City Chiefs (-7) over MIAMI DOLPHINS:
Patrick Mahomes returns to the Sunshine State, where he threw for 462 yards a few weeks ago against the Buccaneers. If Kansas City, now able to sniff the top seed in the AFC, brings its “A” game, I don’t believe the Dolphins have enough firepower to match scores.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (-6.5) over Minnesota Vikings:
Dalvin Cook’s stats have taken a dip over the past month, and now he runs into the Bucs’ No. 1 rushing defense, rested off a bye. If Cook can’t get anywhere, that will also hinder Kirk Cousins’ play-action passing game.
CAROLINA PANTHERS (-3.5) over Denver Broncos:
Carolina benefits from a Week 13 bye. The Broncos haven’t had a break since Week 5 and traveled far off a Sunday nighter at K.C. Respect Denver, but this is a tough setup.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (+7.5) over Tennessee Titans:
The Titans are coming off a 41-35 loss to the Browns that wasn’t nearly that close. They’ll be primed for a bounce-back effort, but there are enough problems with that defense to warrant grabbing a full touchdown with a home divisional ’dog.
Indianapolis Colts (-2.5) over LAS VEGAS RAIDERS:
Josh Jacobs is still expected to be out for the Raiders, and their offense is not the same without him. Tough call, but giving a slight edge to the Colts because of Philip Rivers’ familiarity with the Raiders (18-10 SU in his career).
DETROIT LIONS (+7.5) over Green Bay Packers:
Lions put up 34 points and won their first game after Darrell Bevell took over for Matt Patricia. D’Andre Swift could be returning to help Matthew Stafford’s cause. The Packers are way ahead in the NFC North and have a Saturday game next week that might factor into their mindset.
New Orleans Saints (-7) over PHILADELPHIA EAGLES:
Philadelphia has scored 17-17-17-16 the past four games. Carson Wentz was lost, but the switch to Jalen Hurts seems more like desperation than a fix. If the Eagles’ D takes the move as surrender, Taysom Hill and company could run away.
Atlanta Falcons (-2.5) over LOS ANGELES CHARGERS:
In their past five games, the Falcons have three wins and two losses to the Saints. The Chargers have failed to cover their past six games after a 4-1-1 ATS start. How did coach Anthony Lynn not get fired after the 45-0 loss to the Patriots?
Washington Football Team (+3) over San Francisco 49ers:
Short week for both teams after Monday games. Doubt the WFT will let down after its huge win over the undefeated Steelers, as the remarkable Alex Smith faces his former team. VSiN reports heavy pro money on WFT dropped this line by 1.5 points.
BUFFALO BILLS (-1.5) over Pittsburgh Steelers:
This line has completely flipped from Steelers -2.5, a sign the sharp money came down heavily for the Bills. Pittsburgh has gotten one-dimensional (14 runs, 53 passes last week) and the Bud Dupree injury will be felt versus Josh Allen.
CLEVELAND BROWNS (+1.5) over Baltimore Ravens:
Though it’s a Monday-nighter, it’s still a short week for the Ravens, who played Tuesday, and it’s their third game in 13 days. The Browns proved their physical chops in the not-that-close 41-35 win over the Titans, and have a revenge motive for a 38-6 loss in Baltimore in Week 1.
Best bets: Seahawks, Giants, Bengals.
Lock of the week: Seahawks (Locks 3-9-1 in 2020).
Last week: 9-6 overall, 1-2 Best Bets.
Thursday pick: Patriots