Free Expert NFL Picks: Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 11/13/2014
If it seems like Week 11 has some unusually good matchups for this late in the year, you would be correct. In fact, Sunday will feature four games between teams with winning percentages of .667 or better, the first time this has happened this late in a season in NFL history. You have Seattle-Kansas City, Philadelphia-Green Bay and New England-Indianapolis. I could easily have chosen to look in-depth at any of those.
However, I'm going with Lions-Cardinals as it's huge in the NFC and really a matchup that came out of nowhere. I certainly wouldn't have expected to care about this game back when the season began.
I am not surprised the Lions are good -- they were great Super Bowl betting value back in the summer, as I wrote. I knew the Lions had as much overall talent as anyone but wasn't quite sure whether they would make stupid mistakes under new coach Jim Caldwell as the team has been doing for the past decade-plus (if not longer). So far the answer is "no" on the mistakes as Detroit (7-2) is atop the NFC North. Despite holding a game lead over Green Bay and an early-season win over the Packers, the Lions are +140 second-favorites on Sportsbook.ag to win the North -- which they never have -- and Green Bay at -180. Those two finish the regular season against one another.
I flat out expected a major step back from Arizona this year off last season's 10 wins. Proves what I know as the Cardinals (8-1) are the only one-loss team in the NFL and lead what is considered the NFL's best division, the NFC West, by two games over Seattle. Yet the Cards are only +120 co-favorites with Seattle to win the division. They play next week in the Pacific Northwest.
The winner here has a legitimate shot at becoming the top seed in the NFC playoffs, although certainly Philly and Green Bay will have a say in that and perhaps Seattle and Dallas as well. I wouldn't bet against Detroit reaching its first Super Bowl if it doesn't have to leave Ford Field. Arizona is +700 to win the NFC and Detroit +900.
Lions at Cardinals Betting Story Lines
Arizona won its fifth straight game last week, 31-14 over the Rams (fourth win in that stretch by double digits), but it came at a high cost. Everyone knows by now that starting quarterback Carson Palmer, just two days after signing a $50 million extension, tore his ACL for the second time in his career. He's done for the season. Palmer left with 11:28 to play and the Cardinals trailing 14-10. Backup Drew Stanton relieved Palmer and hit rookie John Brown on a 48-yard touchdown pass soon after to give the Cards a 17-14 lead they would never relinquish.
Stanton, a former Lions backup, started three games earlier this year for Palmer and was 2-1. Stanton isn't a bad player, but he's not going to win games for you. Coach Bruce Arians, the Bovada betting favorite for Coach of the Year, says his team can win the Super Bowl with Stanton. I disagree. Stanton is completing an ugly 49.5 percent of his throws this season, although he hasn't had a pick yet. Before this year he hadn't played a regular-season down since 2010 with Detroit. By the way, Brown has been a revelation as an unknown third-round pick out of little Pittsburg State. The guy is a burner and is tied for third among rookies with five touchdown receptions. Four of those are game-winning touchdown catches. He is the first rookie in NFL history to record come-from-behind TD catches in a single season. He also did so vs. the Chargers, 49ers and Eagles.
So while the Cards got bad news with Palmer, they did get good news in extending defensive coordinator Todd Bowles for three years (doesn't mean he won't leave for a head coaching job but now can be picky about it). The deal makes Bowles one of the five highest-paid assistant coaches in the NFL. It's highly deserved as he has taken a unit that has been heavily depleted with injuries and suspensions into the No. 3 rush defense and No. 4 scoring unit. Few teams blitz more than Bowles' Cardinals as he's not afraid to leave his secondary in man-to-man because it's one of the best in the NFL. The Cardinals are blitzing at a 41.1 percent rate this season. That's crazy high.
Detroit has won four straight, three of those in ridiculous comeback fashion in the final minute: 24-23 vs. New Orleans, 22-21 vs. Atlanta and last week 20-16 against Miami when Matthew Stafford hit Theo Riddick on an 11-yard score with 29 seconds left as the Lions equaled their best start since 1993. Calvin Johnson had seven catches for 113 yards and a touchdown in his first game back from an ankle injury.
We all knew the Detroit offense would be good, but the defense has been off the charts. The Lions are No. 1 in total defense (283.4 ypg), No. 1 in scoring (15.8 ppg), No. 2 vs. the rush (71.3 ypg) and No. 3 vs. the pass (212.1 ypg). Led by Ndamukong Suh, Detroit may have the best front four in the NFL. This probably is Suh's final season with Detroit, however.
Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals NFL Week 11 Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Arizona is a 1-point favorite (-120) with alternate lines of 1.5 (-115), 2 (-110) and 2.5 (-105). The Cards are -128 on the moneyline and the Lions +108. The total is 41.5. Detroit is 5-4 against the spread (2-2 on road) and 2-7 "over/under" (0-4 on road). Arizona is 7-2 ATS (4-1 at home) and 3-5-1 O/U (2-3 at home).
The Lions are 2-5 ATS in their past seven on the road against teams with a winning record. The Cardinals are 5-2 ATS in their past seven vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 7-1 in Detroit's past eight overall. The under is 7-1 in Arizona's past eight after allowing less than 90 yards rushing in its previous game. The Lions have failed to cover their past six in Arizona, although that's obviously over the span of several years.
Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals Expert Picks and Betting Predictions
One matchup I can't wait to see: excellent Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson matched up against the unguardable Johnson of the Lions. If Peterson can take Megatron away, it obviously increases Arizona's chances to win. Peterson, a two-time All-Pro, is the reigning NFC Defensive Player of the Week after his two-interception performance against St. Louis.
In 2012, Johnson caught 10 passes for 121 yards and had one target intercepted by Peterson. Last season, Johnson had six catches for 116 yards and two scores in the Lions' Week 2 25-21 loss in the desert. Arizona won despite going 1-for-11 on third down. Detroit led 21-13 midway through the third quarter. Stanton didn't play in that game, and Cards star receiver Larry Fitzgerald was out injured.
I don't expect either team to be able to run the ball, so which quarterback do I trust more, Stafford or Stanton? Clearly the former. Then again, I like the Arizona secondary much better than Detroit's. It's just a great matchup. Go under for sure. That the Cardinals are giving less than a field goal at home, I have to lean them. I still don't 100 percent trust the Lions on the road. They looked bad at Carolina in Week 2 and pretty bad much of Week 8 in London against Atlanta. I do think Detroit is the better team overall.
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