Free Expert NFL Picks: Arizona Cardinals at Denver Broncos Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 10/2/2014
With all due respect to the matchup of 3-1 teams Houston and Dallas or the Sunday night game between Cincinnati and New England, the best matchup of Week 5 is clearly Arizona at Denver. Could it be a Super Bowl preview? I would have laughed back in August about the Cardinals, but perhaps they are legit as the NFC's last unbeaten. By the way, the Super Bowl is in Glendale, Ariz., this season and no team has ever played in a Super Bowl its stadium hosted. A Cardinals-Broncos Super Bowl is currently priced at +2500 on Sportsbook.ag.
It should be a well-played game considering both teams come off the bye week. Arizona has one of the best defenses in the NFL, ranking No. 5 overall in yards allowed per game and No. 4 against the rush. What's a shocker is that Denver, which set the NFL record for points last year, is just 23rd in yards per game on offense (339.3) and 11th in points (25.0 per game).
The Cardinals were one of the teams hot and heavy after Peyton Manning when he was a free agent a couple of years ago.
Cardinals at Broncos Betting Story Lines
Arizona has yet to allow more than 17 points in a game, which came in Week 1 against San Diego. That win looks very impressive now with the Chargers at 3-1. So does the Week 2 victory at the New York Giants as they have bounced back in a big way. Ditto the Week 3 victory against San Francisco, which resembled a Super Bowl contender in last week's statistical domination of previously unbeaten Philadelphia. The Cardinals have outscored teams an amazing 30-0 in the fourth quarter this season. Bovada offers a special prop on that this week with Arizona's "over/under" points allowed at 7.
The big news here is that Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer is expected to miss a third straight game with some nerve damage in his shoulder. He hasn't practiced as of Thursday after suffering a setback late last week, and he went to see a specialist on Wednesday. If Palmer doesn't practice Friday, he won't start but could be available as Arizona's backup, according to Coach Bruce Arians. Thus, Drew Stanton is in line for the start again. The veteran backup has completed 32-of-62 for 411 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers. Running back Andre Ellington has been battling a foot injury but is expected to play.
The Cardinals like to throw the ball downfield under Arians, who was Manning's QBs coach early in his career with the Colts. The Cardinals have had 13 pass plays of at least 20 yards already (compared to eight for Denver). Michael Floyd leads the league at 22.3 yards per catch.
Meanwhile, Manning will no doubt make history Sunday as his first touchdown pass will be No. 500 career. Only Brett Favre with 508 is in the 500 club. Favre recorded his 500th career touchdown pass in his 293rd game on his 9,924th pass attempt. Manning has 8,563 attempts and Sunday will be his 244th regular-season game. Manning has 100 TD passes in only 35 games as a Bronco. Bovada also offers a prop on which Bronco will catch that historic pass, with tight end Julius Thomas the 2/1 favorite. He is tied for the NFL lead with five touchdown catches.
Teams rarely blitz Manning because he gets rid of the ball so fast, so it will be interesting to see what Arizona does because the Cards love to blitz under defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. According to ESPN, the Cardinals have blitzed on 49 percent of opposing teams' dropbacks since the start of 2013. That's easily the most in the league. Blitzing his high-risk, high-reward. Arizona has the most interceptions in the NFL with 13 off the blitz in that time frame and also has allowed the most touchdowns (22). Manning has attempted only 28 passes against the blitz this season. Since arriving in Denver, there have been 12 games that Manning has been blitzed at least a third of the time. Denver is 12-0.
The Denver defense will get a key piece back in linebacker Danny Trevathan. The team's leading tackler last season is expected to make his season debut. He suffered a left tibial impaction fracture Aug. 12. I don't know what that means (broken leg, I guess), but it sounds painful. Brandon Marshall has played well in his spot but is likely to return to a nickel linebacker role.
The Broncos remain the AFC favorites, but they look much more vulnerable than last season. They beat the Colts and Chiefs each by a touchdown at home, and it took a last-minute goal-line stand to keep Kansas City from tying the game at the end of regulation. Denver was dominated for three quarters in Seattle in Week 3 before tying it late -- only to lose in overtime when the Broncos never got the ball.
Arizona Cardinals at Denver Broncos NFL Week 5 Betting Odds and Trends
At WagerWeb , the Broncos are 7.5-point favorites with a total of 47.5. This was at 7 for a while, but I believe the Palmer news Thursday is pushing it upward. The total has dropped as many as two points from its opening. Arizona is 2-1 against the spread (1-0 on road) and 0-3 O/U (0-1 on road). Denver is 0-3 ATS (0-2 at home) and 1-2 O/U (1-1 at home).
Arizona is 5-0 ATS in its past five on the road. The Cards are 7-1 ATS in their past eight following a win. Denver is 6-0 ATS in its past six after a loss. The Broncos are 1-5 ATS in their past six at home. The over is 14-3 in Denver's past 17 in October. The over is 9-2 in the team's past 11 at home against clubs with a winning road record.
Arizona Cardinals at Denver Broncos Expert Picks and NFL Betting Predictions
I'm not buying Arizona yet. I don't even think the Cardinals make the playoffs even though about 75 percent of the time teams that start 3-0 do since the field postseason expanded to 12 teams. I may have taken the points here if Palmer played but not with Stanton. I'd still shop around and see if you can get it at 7 or perhaps buy it down to 6.5. However, at the current number I still lean Broncos and the over.
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