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July 28, 2014

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Week 12 NFL picks against the spread for the Sun’s handicapping contest

Giving Colts vs. Cardinals a closer look from a betting perspective

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, left, calls out to the team during the second half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013.

Bill Belichick. Pete Carroll. John Fox. Jim Harbaugh.

Sun's NFL betting game of week 12

What’s the bet in Colts at Cardinals?
Cardinals -2.5 — 50.5%
Colts +2.5 — 49.5%

This poll is closed, see Full Results »

Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Ask a casual NFL bettor or fan which coach owns the league’s best record against the spread over the past two years and that’s a foursome of the most popular guesses. None are correct.

Here’s a sharper bet: No one would be able to label the most profitable coach to gamble on since 2012 without looking it up. It’s the Arizona Cardinals’ Bruce Arians, who’s gone 15-7 versus the Las Vegas number.

Arians looks to improve on the mark when his current team, which has gone 6-4 both straight-up and against the spread this season, welcomes his past team to University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday in a game kicking off at 1:05 local time. Acting as interim coach after Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia last season, Arians led the Indianapolis Colts to a 9-3 straight-up and against the spread record.

Oddsmakers favor the Cardinals by 2.5 points over the Colts in the Arians Bowl, which is the matchup the Las Vegas Sun’s sports writers zoned in on as part of their handicapping contest. All three contestants used one of their weekly six selections, available at the bottom of the page, on the game.

It’s one of the most evenly matched meetings possible in the entire NFL according to oddsmakers’ power ratings and advanced metrics. Mere percentage points separate the Colts and Cardinals in Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings, as the teams rank 13th and 14th respectively.

The similarities, however, end there. Arizona and Indianapolis have found success with considerably contrasting styles.

The Colts have cruised to a 7-3 straight-up, 6-4 against-the-spread record under a now-healthy Pagano by riding their offense. The Cardinals have been all defense.

Arians’ best decision since getting hired by Arizona might have come within the first few weeks when he announced it would stick with a 3-4 defensive alignment. Despite finishing 5-11 straight-up last season, the Cardinals boasted one of the best stop units in the league.

And it’s been better this year, rating as the NFL’s stingiest according to DVOA. The front seven provides the likes of Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell and John Abraham rushing the passer with Darryl Washington and Karlos Dansby stuffing the run.

Constant pressure helps Arizona’s secondary, which doesn’t require assistance in the first place. Patrick Peterson has developed into one of the league’s best cornerbacks, while Tyrann Mathieu won Defensive Rookie of the Month in October.

They could have their hands full with Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck, who’s claimed a spot in the Most Valuable Player conversation in his second season. Traditional statistics underscore Luck’s importance, as he’s just 17th in passing yards per game and 13th in passing touchdowns.

Click to enlarge photo

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck throws before a preseason NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns in Indianapolis, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013.

But Luck is seventh in quarterback rating and 10th in Football Outsiders’ quarterback DYAR, the measure of a player’s value over replacement. And he’s done all of it without a strong cast around him.

No. 1 receiver Reggie Wayne remains the team’s second-leading receiver despite tearing his ACL more than a month ago. Much-ballyhooed trade acquisition Trent Richardson is bordering on a bust, as he’s averaging less than three yards per carry.

Yet Luck still has his team in position as the seventh most-likely Super Bowl champions, according to the odds. The LVH Superbook lists the Colts at 18-to-1 in its futures. The Cardinals are all the way back at 100-to-1 because of a confluence of factors.

Indianapolis has better than a 99 percent chance of making the postseason, according to Football Outsiders' playoff odds, while the Cardinals are at less than 23 percent. The Colts have the luxury of playing in the NFL’s weakest division, which features two teams — the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans — that the Cardinals feasted upon in the past two weeks.

From here on out, Football Outsiders places Indianapolis’ strength of schedule at 28th in the NFL. Arizona’s ranks 14th.

Gamblers have learned something Cardinals fans should keep in mind, though. Arians is money.

Look below to find all of this week’s picks. Games are listed in order of their sports book rotation number.

 

Taylor Bern

Record: 31-34-1 (0-5-1 last week)

Vikings plus-4.5 at Packers

Steelers plus-2 at Browns

Bears plus-1 at Rams

Chiefs minus-5 vs. Chargers

Colts plus-2.5 at Cardinals

Giants minus-2.5 vs. Cowboys

 

Ray Brewer

Record: 30-34-2 (1-5 last week)

Buccaneers vs. Lions over 48.5

Dolphins plus-4 vs. Panthers

Steelers plus-2 at Browns

Bears plus-1 at Rams

Raiders minus-1 vs. Titans

Colts plus-2.5 at Cardinals

 

Case Keefer (2012 champion)

Record: 30-35-1 (2-3-1 last week)

Chargers plus-5.5 at Chiefs

Ravens minus-3.5 vs. Jets

Titans plus-1 at Raiders

Cardinals minus-2.5 vs. Colts

Cowboys plus-2.5 at Giants

Patriots plus-2.5 vs. Broncos

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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